13 Frugal Food Habits For Wasting Less And Saving More

stop wasting food

One of my biggest pet peeves is food waste, and I’m sure many of you can relate! Not only do I hate wasting food, but it feels like I’m literally throwing money away when I have to toss out something that has gone bad or passed its expiration date.

According to the USDA, the average household throws away around $900 worth of food every year. That’s a LOT of money we’re tossing out, and I’m sure we could all find much better uses for that money!

But just by making a few simple changes to our shopping, cooking, and eating habits, we can cut down considerably on the amount of food waste we produce. Here are some simple tips that will help you use more of the food you buy and keep more money in your pocket!

13 Ways To Stop Wasting Food

wasting food

1. Shop For Produce Once A Week

Buy smaller amounts of the fresh ingredients you use, so you’re more likely to use them up before they have a chance to go bad.

wasting food

2. Utilize Frozen Fruits And Veggies

Utilize frozen fruits and vegetables, especially if you have a busy schedule and can’t find the time to shop for fresh produce every week. You can buy these in larger quantities and pull them out of the freezer as needed. This tasty quick pasta salad can be made in a hurry using frozen veggies!

wasting food

3.  Make The Most Of Your Freezer

Speaking of your freezer, you should be using it—and not just for frozen burritos. ;-) Learn about all the different things you can freeze for later in my post 31 Things You Can Freeze To Save Time And Money.

wasting food

4.  Get Creative With The Food You Have

You don’t need to run to the store for one missing ingredient from a recipe! Try substituting something else in instead (such as lemon juice for vinegar, or yogurt for mayo) or leaving it out entirely if possible. You can find more ways to use things up in my post 9 Easy Ways to Stop Food Waste from Destroying Your Budget.

wasting food

5.  Use Every Part Of Your Produce

There are plenty of ways to use the parts of produce you don’t normally use. While the beet root is the most commonly used part of the plant, the leafy greens on top of beets are delicious too! Throw them into a salad, or sauté them as a side.

wasting food

6.  Refrigerate Food Properly 

This ensures that your food will stay fresh for the longest time possible. Get all the details from my post on 37 Tips for Keeping Food Fresh Longer.

wasting food

7.  Understand The Dates On Your Food

A “sell-by” date indicates that after the printed date, you have a few more days to consume that food. A “best-if-used-by” date signals when a food has passed its prime flavor and quality (it is not an indication of food safety!) And a “use-by” date is the last day of recommended use for that food, and is determined by the manufacturer.

Always inspect your food for unusual appearance or odor, which would indicate spoilage. My post on Food Expiration Dates will give you even more information.

wasting food

8.  Use Produce That’s Less-Than-Fresh

Over-ripened fruit can be used in a fruit salad or jam, mixed into a crumble, or baked into muffins. Your veggies can be tossed into soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, or omelets!

wasting food

9.  Get Creative With Your Leftovers

You can use leftover vegetables to make a stir-fry, or use leftover mashed potatoes to make a soup.

wasting food

10.  Keep Track Of What You Throw Away

Keep a notepad somewhere near your garbage can, and start making a note of all of the food that gets thrown away. After a while, you can start identifying which things get thrown away most, and you’ll be able to start shopping smarter by adjusting what you buy or the quantities you buy it in.

wasting food

11.  Stick To Your List

When you do make a trip to the grocery store, resist those impulse purchases by making and sticking to a list! Lists also save money by helping avoid unnecessary trips to the store (because you forgot something) and making using coupons easier.

wasting food

12.  Buy In Bulk And Preserve 

If you come across a great deal on produce, you can get a lot of use out of it by buying it in bulk and preserving it. Canning and pickling are two of the most popular methods of preserving produce. I love making up a big batch of quick pickled red onions!

wasting food

13.  Compost It

If all else fails, and your produce does end up going bad, turn that waste into something useful by composting it! The resulting “black gold” will go a long way towards a bountiful harvest of MORE food! If you are new to composting, be sure to read my post about How to Start Composting.

How do you avoid wasting food?

Read This Next

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • I’m a weekly meal planner and routinely plan my meals for the coming week around what I have on hand that needs to get used up. It’s rare that I ever have to throw away spoiled food. Just this week, I made a delicious homemade spaghetti sauce from some tomatoes that were still good but a tad bit mushy (which I hate when eating them raw). We routinely make banana muffins with our overripe bananas and purée and then freeze other fruit, carrots, zucchini and yogurt for use in my kids’ favorite Fruit and Veggie Muffins. I even toss the crushed up chips at the bottom of the bag into the freezer to use as a crunchy topping on casseroles.

  • Read an article in Pinterest a couple of years ago that suggested using veggie peeling and cut off ends to make your own veggie broth. I put a ziploc bag in the freezer and add to it as I use veggies, when it gets full I pour them all in water and bring to a boil. Strain out the veggies. We use this as a base for soups, etc.

  • I date my left over containers with a sharpie. I write directly on the lids. The old dates wipe off easily with rubbing alcohol even after being there for a few weeks! That way I’m not left guessing if something is still good and therefore tossing it when it might be ok.

    I also plan to make a list of foods to use up, both cooked food leftovers and leftover ingredients I havent used up but bought for a recipe, and keep it on the fridge so I can plan to use them up.

  • Put a facial tissue in the top of the container of blueberries and they will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

    To keep mushrooms fresh in the fridge for a week or so, put them in a brown paper bag, fold down the top & clip shut.

  • I take all the bits and scraps of veggies and freeze them. I make vegetable soup when the bag is full. I almost always take dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. There may not be enough for another family meal but perfect for a small lunch portin.

  • All food past it’s prime goes to the chickens except potatoes. Potatoes are not good for chickens! We even feed them our leftover pinto beans.

  • Fruit too ripe can be frozen for smoothies especially grapes, bananas, kiwi, etc. Left over veggies are frozen and used later for veggie soup, even a tablespoon of broth. When in doubt about leftovers for another meal, freeze!

  • I tend to purchase non gmo freeze dried fruits and veggies to prevent waste. There are just some ingredients that I don’t use a lot of and this insures that I don’t have any to go bad. (My favorite brand is Thrive)
    It’s a super budget stretcher as well.

  • Since I started juicing, so much of the fruit in my crisper that is almost gone goes into my smoothie. Ditto for those small bits of carrots, broccoli, cukes, etc.
    I’ve taken to freezing bags of kale. Once frozen, I open the bag and use my palm to crush the bag – the kale breaks in small pieces. This allows for a no-waste usage. Simply pour your kale bits into the blender. Also,I save my fresh broccoli stalks for soup. Thanks for all the great tips Jill!

  • Love your blog! Great content, tested advice, excellent photos. I followed your advice to wash my feather pillows, and they came out beautifully clean! Also used the same super-cleaning formula for some yellowed sheets I thought were a lost cause, and they are dazzling white again. Thank you!

    All the best to you and your team.

  • If you have food in your cupboard that is going to expire within a couple of weeks – consider giving it to a local food shelf. There are plenty of people out that would can use before it expires.

  • I have a big container (lock & lock) in my freezer where i keep my spices. I didnt want to pay $5.00 for a small spice use it once (pumpkin pie spice for example) and throw it out next year. I buy good spices-leave them in original container then stack them in the large container. I hope this helps someone.

  • We don’t go through a lot of bread, so we end up with waste. I now place a new loaf of sliced bread in the freezer. When I need a slice or two, I take out a few frozen slices and place them in the toaster that is set a notch higher than for fresh bread. Perfect toast.

  • Keep two bag in the freezer: one for left-over vegies, one for left-over bones, meat, etc. When you have enough put them in the soup pot. You’d be surprised at how good it will all taste, plus you haven’t thrown anything out.
    It doesn’t matter what the vegies are as they will be going into the pot, eg: tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc they can all go in the freezer because you will be making soup so they don’t have to look pretty, just taste good.

    I learned that from my Mom who did it for years.

  • Get a “food saver.” There is an initial cost, however once you can “suck the air” out of everything ( or as I affectionately call it “suck the life” out of everything – ha ha ha) it seals it for freshness. The bags are fairly expensive but if you use Kerr or Bell canning jars, as I do frequently, it is less expensive, reuses blew until you break it, and just as effective. Things stay fresh in my refrigerator for weeks, including fruits and vegetables and I can freeze for a year or more. I am in LOVE!

    • Oh my goodness, Heather C, I have never heard of such a device but I am heading over to google right away. NOW, do you suppose it works on bags under the eyes as well?!

    • Hi Heather, just wanted to let you know that I get off brand food saver bags from eBay. They work just as good and are a whole lot cheaper!!

      • Thanks for telling about the bags from Ebay. I did not know and I have a food saver but don’t use it because the bags are so expensive. I love my food saver and have kept many a foods from going bad when I was using it. I’ll be checking out ebay.

    • To save on the bags do what one of my friends does (I am assuming your using the type that has like a roll of plastic and you seal each side kinda making your own perfectly sized bag). Once whatever was in it is gone she turns them inside out, washes them, let’s them dry completely, turns it back trims the edge so she knows she’ll get a good seal and reuses them. I do the same thing with regular Ziploc type bags. Of course neither one of us does this if they’ve had raw meat in them.

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