One-third of all food grown for human consumption is wasted. Whether you live alone or with a house full of others, you’re probably no stranger to tossing it out. Fruit and veggies have a limited shelf life, and bread only stays fresh for so long. Throwing it away can be wasteful, though — not to mention a drain on hard-earned money.
If you want to reduce waste in your kitchen and save money, consider the seven organizational tips below.
1. Keep a Menu
The first step to eliminating unnecessary food waste is to avoid buying items you don’t need. Before you step foot in the grocery store, do a little meal planning, create a menu for the entire week and make a list of all the ingredients required. Keep in mind the day-to-day essentials like coffee, bread and milk. Track your shopping list with a magnetic whiteboard or notepad in the kitchen where you can quickly grab a pen and add something when needed.
2. Organize Your Food
It’s easy for food to get lost in the refrigerator or pantry. It’s usually piled in, pushing things back on shelves and out of sight. This lack of food organization often leads to goods spoiling before you’ve even remembered they’re there. To get organized, check the expiration dates of everything in your fridge and pantry, then toss out anything that’s expired. You should also wipe down shelves from previous spills, which can attract bugs if left unattended.
3. Store Perishables Properly
To maintain the freshness of perishables, for as long as possible, learn the correct way to store food in and outside the refrigerator. Most fruits and vegetables give off gases as they ripen, which can spoil nearby produce faster. To prevent this, store your foods in separate areas and containers. As things begin to age, consider freezing to preserve them longer. You can also turn uneaten fruit into a jam or preserve. Food storage is key to eliminating food waste.
4. Re-purpose Leftovers
There are plenty of ways you can re-purpose leftovers that don’t involve popping a plastic container in the microwave. Re-purpose your food by turning it into something new. For example, use extra ground beef to make a Mexican-inspired cheesy casserole, layered with tortilla chips. De-bone and shred leftover chicken to make zesty barbecue sandwiches. Take a leftover ham bone to make a delicious soup.
5. Keep Fruit Out
After your fruit has completely ripened, take it out of the refrigerator and set it on the kitchen counter or table. When fruit is stowed away, it can be easy to forget it’s there — out of sight, out of mind. By setting fruit out where it’s easy to see, there’s a better chance it will get eaten before it spoils. Some perishables should not be refrigerated at all, including melons, berries, tomatoes, apples and avocados.
6. Use Dated Labels
One way to avoid food waste is to organize your food with labels. Each time you fill a food container with dinner’s leftovers, place a tag on top with the day’s date. Then, organize your fridge with the oldest foods in front and the freshest in back. This makes it easy to know how old your food is and when it needs to be disposed of. When you reuse a container, you can use white out on the old label or replace it with a new one.
7. Plan Leftover Night
Set aside one night per week to heat up and enjoy leftovers. Not only is it a great way to prevent food waste, but it also gives the family a break from cooking. Some foods, such as soups and pasta, will need to be taken out of storage containers and heated on the stove. Leftovers are also a quick option for lunch, easy to grab when rushing out the door in the morning.
Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen
By organizing your kitchen, you can reduce the amount of food you waste and save money. From organizing your pantry to using labels with dates, there are plenty of easy steps you can take to get organized today. You can even make it a family affair by asking everyone to commit to more sustainable practices in the kitchen.