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4 Tips to Avoid Food Waste


Guest post from Abigail of They’re Not Our Goats

I thought I was pretty good at avoiding food waste, until I cleaned out my fridge a couple weeks ago.

Ugh. Do I really have a science experiment growing on the back of the bottom shelf?, I thought to myself. Why yes, yes I did. I found myself disgusted with the amount of food I had let slide past my attention.

While it was a disheartening cleaning session, I finished with renewed vigor to cut back my waste — and hey, maybe save a few bucks at the same time!

Is food waste a problem in your house too? Here’s how you and I can put less food in the garbage and more in our bellies.

1. Keep stock of what you’ve got.

Knowing what you have on hand is half the battle. Consider the following:

  • Keep leftovers dated and visible so you always use the oldest food first.
  • Make an inventory of your freezer/pantry.
  • Shop your inventory regularly so you don’t let usable food go by the wayside.

2. Use & re-purpose leftovers.

Don’t dispose of perfectly edible food. An untouched kid’s plate should be saved rather than tossed, and the bottom of the pot can be given new life.

  • Eat leftovers for lunch instead of eating out or buying sandwich fixings.
  • Try your hand at “planned-over” meals — ones in which you purposefully use the leftovers from your first meal to serve as the base for the second.
  • Turn leftover veggies and meat into soups, stews, casseroles, omelettes, and stir fries. A half cup of steamed broccoli is a welcome addition to the breakfast frittata, and taco meat can easily be thrown into a pot of chili. Be creative!

3. Preserve the extras.

  • Use ready-to-expire fruit for smoothies, breads, muffins, popsicles, and juice.
  • Freeze extra meat, veggies, and fruit before they reaches their life expectancy.
  • Learn how to preserve extra produce while it’s in season (and on sale) by water bath canning, pressure canning, or dehydrating.

4. Put your scraps to work.

  • Throw your coffee grounds, apple cores, washed eggshells, and fruit and vegetable scraps into the compost bin to become great food for your plants and flowers.
  • Use your chicken bones for homemade stock, pan drippings for gravy, and vegetable cooking water in place of regular water in soups. You’ll get lots of flavor and nutrition out of a minimal labor.

With a little planning and extra effort, we can save a lot of food from the garbage, keep more money in our pockets, and hopefully keep our fridges a little cleaner too!

What are your creative ways to avoid food waste?

Abigail is an aspiring homesteader, homeschooler, music-maker, and birth doula. She lives with her husband and soon-to-be-three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.

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  • Nancy says:

    I sometimes wonder if I buy food with the sole purpose of throwing it out. As a single girl in a career that takes me out to eat more often than I eat in, there is so much food that can be wasted.

    I try to freeze as much food as possible before it goes bad, I only bring leftovers home if I know for sure I’ll eat them and I shop at stores that have smaller pack sizes- like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, that has really cut down on waste and has saved me money, even if buying larger amounts would be cheaper- it’s not for me when I end up throwing a percentage of it out every time.

    • dac says:

      These are great and practical points that we all should keep in mind. There are too many people in this world who exist on very little food each day. Keep a quart container in the freezer for leftover vegetables and any liquid that may be on them, even if there is only a teaspoon left, and add to them each evening after dinner. Once a week can be used for homemade soup. A little frozen stock, a bit of chopped onion, and some home canned
      tomatoes or tomato juice can be added. If you like meat in your soup, it doesn’t take much. For those of us who are cooking for one or two people, most soups freeze really well. Quart and/or pint containers of it make for a quick supper later in the week.

    • Lisa says:

      Just wanted to add that this is a great point for people cooking for just one or two, Nancy!! It’s just myself and my husband, and I’ve found that we drastically cut down on waste when I buy things in smaller portions/individual packaging. It seems counter-intuitive, but it allows us to make the food last longer, so I have to buy it less often, and end up spending less in the long run. I never would have guessed that until I tried it.

  • Jessica says:

    My main issue with food waste is the three kids who live in my house! They will request, say, cheese and crackers for lunch. I will dole out an appropriate serving for each child’s age. Then one child will take one bit out of each cracker. Another kid will lick all the cheese and not eat it. Someone will request a yogurt, stick their tongue into it and decide they don’t like it. This all has to get thrown away due to the bacteria in saliva.

    • Andrea says:

      Food our kids request and then don’t eat is put on their plate in the fridge and served up the next time they say they’re hungry. They learn pretty quickly not to ask for food they don’t really want.

  • Kylie says:

    When freezing my beef bone broth a layer of the fat forms on top. When a recipe requires any sort of frying (schnitzel etc) I use this instead of oil. Much tastier and less money spent on oils! I also meal plan to make sure ingredients I may only use half of that the leftovers cannot be frozen I use for another meal that week, for example this weeks lazy night dinner was nachos so I made a stroganoff with the left over sour cream. It would have otherwise been tossed the next week!

  • WilliamB says:

    You have the basics covered. I would add one thing to #3: label your containers! If you don’t know what’s in that frozen container, you won’t be able to eat it and it’ll go to waste.

    The fourth tip, to go with #1-3, is meal planning. But even if you don’t do that, these three will take you a long way.

  • Amanda says:

    I try to keep a black crayon for dating reusable containers (rub off with a paper towel) and a sharpie for everything else. Otherwise, there’s no way we’ll do it.

  • Wendy Cathcart says:

    In addition to all of the above, I have found it very helpful to use up leftovers/throw out spoiled food the evening before our trash pick-up, which for us, is Wednesday evening. That way, if I *do* have to throw anything out, it doesn’t sit in my garbage can–either indoors or outdoors–for any longer than an evening, which can get pretty stinky in the summer if it is longer than that.

  • Wow, I definitely needed this post! I throw so much food away for our little family, and can’t stand the wasted food and money! Thank you for these practical tips!

  • i love to save the bacon grease for using in flavoring beans.

  • Leah says:

    The most important one you missed is MEAL PLANNING. When you have a meal plan and only shop for the items you really need, you waste much less. I work 2 leftover days in per week (we call them the “week in review” days). Our fridge is pretty bare at the end of the week, it feels great!

  • Kelly Cox says:

    These are great tips. I save all my veggie scraps in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Then when I have several of them, I make veggie stock or make chicken s
    stock with scraps from that too. The nice thing is that I waste less and every so often, I’m able to frugally make stock for our family! The freezer is great to help preserve the life of food longer!

  • kariane says:

    Food waste is a huge issue! I just wrote an article on 34 Ways to Reduce Food Waste here:

  • Thanks all for the other helpful suggestions and ideas! I’m sure there’s even more that we could add to the list too. Every little bit to reduce waste is helpful! And thank you for the opportunity to guest post, Crystal. 🙂

  • Essentials tips when fighting food waste! I let my children help me with the food! If they are part of the process, it is more likely they will eat everything they’ve made themselves! Well, sometimes there are leftovers – I just put them in the freezer for later usage.

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