6 Food Waste Rules to Save Money

Help your wallet, your waistline, and the planet, all by being a little more savvy about what food you’re throwing out.


Imagine the 90,000-seat Rose Bowl stadium filled to the brim with food—that’s about the amount that goes to waste every day in the U.S. And while food is often squandered by restaurants and grocery stores, most of us are equally responsible for discarding too much grub, letting leftovers linger, or allowing fresh vegetables to go bad. And considering that clean foods are often the priciest, wasting food is almost like giving money away. Plus, it places a big burden on the environment.

You may pitch food because you want to eat only the freshest and safest items, and that’s understandable. But surprisingly, dates on many foods have nothing to do with safety. Here are simple ways to keep food appetizing, curb food costs, and help protect the planet.

SEE ALSO: The Eat Clean, Get Lean Meal Plan


Cook what you already have on hand before buying more. If you aren’t planning on eating it all in the next few days, freeze what you have for later. Just label containers with the date and the name of the food so you know what you have waiting for you. “Shop” your kitchen before heading to the store so you don’t buy extra food, and plan out your meals for the days ahead. Having the right amount of food on hand can not only help prevent food waste, it’ll also help keep you from overeating. When you do shop, eat the most perishable items first (like berries and baby lettuce).


Set your refrigerator between 35 ̊F and 40 ̊F, and your freezer at 0 ̊F or below, to keep food fresher for longer. Resist the urge to buy too many at once, since stuffing the refrigerator hinders the airflow around food, reducing efficiency so perishables may go bad faster.

After grocery shopping, get perishables into the fridge or freezer ASAP. If you’re making stops before heading home from the super­ market, bring a cooler bag with you in the car for dairy, meat, and produce.

At home, avoid resealing fresh fruits and vegetables in airtight plastic storage bags or containers; they trap moisture that promotes faster decay. Purchase perforated plastic bags for produce or make your own by poking tiny holes in resealable plastic bags. Store fruits and veggies in separate crisper drawers, and don’t refrigerate bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, or onions, since they generally don’t like the humidity.