How to Eliminate Food Waste from Your Fridge

Organic Vegetable Boxes

Did you know that I used to spend $800 per month on groceries? It’s true. Back when I was in school and living in the city, my fiance and I bought most of our food from the farmer’s market, and together we easily dropped $200 a week on groceries.

I wasn’t really tracking my expenses at that time. I only paid enough attention to my finances to make sure I didn’t run out of money at the end of the month. Other than that, I spent everything I had, and most of that went to food.

Since then, I’ve cleaned up my grocery budget significantly. I now spend about $400 per month for two people. We implemented a lot of changes in our grocery shopping habit to save this kind of money, but one of the biggest things we did was go to war on food waste. The biggest battleground was easily our refrigerator.

I Was a Fresh Vegetable Hoarder

When I used to go to the farmer’s market in the heat of summer when vegetables were in season, I couldn’t help myself. I’d get a head of lettuce, spinach, celery, some zucchini, maybe some broccoli. I’d then spend the next couple of days making healthy meals with a few of those ingredients. I’d always make too much, thinking I’d have the leftovers for lunch.

This led, every week, to half of the vegetables I’d bought going bad, and the other half sitting as leftovers in the fridge and eventually expiring. I’d then toss the whole lot out at the end of the week and start over.

It was a bad system, I realize that now.

I Buy One Veggie At a Time

Nowadays, I’ve kicked my veggie hoarding habit. I still visit the farmer’s market regularly, but I’m more sparing with my purchases. I’ll still buy staples like potatoes, onions and apples as necessary, since they’ll all keep for awhile. With other, more perishable fresh vegetables, I’m careful not to buy too much. Where I used to buy three or four different types of fresh vegetables, I’ll buy one. Usually it’s a bag of spinach and a single type harder veggie, like celery, broccoli, zucchini or leeks. Then I’ll make it my priority to use that one veggie completely before it turns. When it’s gone, I’ll get more, but not before.

Leftovers Are Your Friend

I used to make meals that had a ton of leftovers. That was why I was a leftover failure. Too many leftovers means that after two or three meals of the same thing, it gets old, I’d get sick of it, and into the trash it would go. Not good! Now, if there are multiple servings left over, they get frozen. Mostly though, I try to make only one serving of leftovers, and I always take that with me to work for lunch. I invested in some decent tupperware and mason jars to make this easier.

Organize Your Refrigerator

We’re visual beings. If something gets shoved to the back of the fridge, we are likely to forget about it. I know this has happened to you: You open the opaque crisper only to discover a mouldy something left there from weeks ago. All because you forgot it was in there.

When I put my groceries away, I put the things that are going to go bad first, at the forefront. This includes leftovers, veggies, unfrozen meat, etc. I don’t use my crispers at all, because I’m terrible at remembering what’s in them. This way, I can see the stuff that I need to use up first, and it’s that much easier to stay organized.

Stick to Your Food Plan

I used to be a victim of “not being in the mood” to cook a certain meal. I would often buy groceries with grand plans to make something great, and then at the end of the day, I’d end up making something quick and easy, that didn’t include any of the ingredients that I’d shelled out my cash for. These days, I suck it up and stick to the plan, since I know that if I end up throwing something away due to my own laziness, I’m practically throwing dollars in the garbage can.

Because of these tactics, among others, I’ve drastically reduced my grocery budget. The funny thing is, I eat just as well as I did when I was spending $800 per month. I’m absolutely certain that my diet is healthier than it was when I was spending so much, and my grocery spending is so much more efficient now. I definitely don’t feel deprived or starved for decent meals in any way, and part of that is because I’ve eliminated the money I was throwing into the garbage can in the form of spoiled food.

Do you waste food? I want to know!



  1. says

    oh, yes I waste food.. but not as much as I did before. I´ve learned more about portions, and I usually know just the amount of food we`ll be eating. I used to be just as you, hoarding fresh vegetables and fruit. and a couple of days later, most of it had to be thrown out! Nowadays, I buy a lot of frozen vegetables, as that`s just as good, and supposed to be more healthy as more nutrients are preserved! Of course, you can`t buy frozen tomatoes or salads, but you know, broccoli, asparugus, etc.
    My recent post Double Trouble Chocolate Cupcakes

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    We used to waste food fairly bad, especially veggies but changed that when we cut down our trips to the store from once a week to once every 10-11 days. We rarely throw food anyway anymore, which is good because I always hated opening the fridge and just throwing food into the trash can.

  3. plantingourpennies says

    I'm getting better about not wasting food. One of the big helps is when fruits or veggies start to get a little past peak, I wash them, chop them up, and freeze them. Fruit goes into smoothies, and veggies get tossed into pasta sauce or whatever the next time I'm cooking. It makes cooking later easier because they're all precut, too!
    My recent post What’s An Appropriate Level of Stockpiling?

  4. says

    One really big cost saver, although not necessarily time saver, is to have a garden. I"m looking forward to when I can get my garden going but that will be a few years still due to work. I have a bad habit of buying way too much produce that I can't go through it all before it goes bad.

  5. missamanda101 says

    As much as it sucked to have my fridge die on me right before Christmas, it has helped me reduce the amount of food I waste (after the initial tossing off most things, mind you). I've only replaced items as needed, and because my fridge isn't overflowing with stuff I never use, it's easy for me to see what I do have – so I use that first, don't go out and re-buy by mistake, etc.

    I can't wait until I'm out of a basement apartment and can grow my own garden!
    My recent post So, I Guess I’m Doing This Thing!

  6. mycanuckbuck says

    I'm afraid I do -but not too much. Just the odd veggie here and there or leftover sauce from ordering in!
    My recent post Telling your needs apart from your wants

  7. Budget & the Beach says

    You sound so much like me. I've gotten better with my grocery budget because I do the opposite of what most PF bloggers do, in that I shop more often, but buy a little at a time (kind of like you with the veggies), and I never meal plan. Yes it means more frequent trips to the grocery store, but it also means lest waste on my part. And it's not like I don't live by a 100 grocery stores. It's always on my way home from something.
    My recent post Link Love/Week in Review 3/7/13

  8. Brian says

    We aren't as bad as we used to, but we still waste food. If I don't take my leftover to work the next day for lunch there is a really good chance I am throwing them out come garbage day… It's sad and I have been working on that habit, but change is slow.

  9. therandompath says

    You are so right about organizing your fridge! If I can't see what we have, it won't get eaten. I hate putting anything in the bottom drawers because I forget that anything is in there, so I try not to do that.
    My recent post Link Love: TGIF Edition!

  10. says

    Yes organizing the fridge! I have a top shelf just for leftovers, so I can grab lunch or dinner quickly. After a couple of days I know what I am not eating and freeze it for next week. As for buying fresh, I only buy one fruit or veggie at a time, and freeze others to be cooked for the week. Like for instance I buy a big bag of spinach eat some raw, and freeze half to be put in chili or stews or whatever. I need to get back to this system, because with school I got lazy with leftovers and wasted some. boo.
    My recent post Update: Losing Money Edition

  11. Justin@Thfmlyfinancs says

    One of our goals for 2013 was to reduce our food waste. I think we've been doing a good job. We've instituted two "leftover nights" every week where we eat a hodgepodge of assorted leftovers for dinner, and I'm brown bagging leftovers for lunch most days. Aside from that, it's just a matter of adopting the FIFO method of eating. First-in, first-out, so that you're always eating the oldest things before they can go bad.
    My recent post Simple Household Tips to Save Money on Water and Electricity

  12. says

    I'm very bad about over-doing the vegetables. In fact, I am afraid to open the fridge right now, as there is an old bag of brussel sprouts I know are smelling pretty bad right now.

    I do love apples and oranges as they don't rot so fast. I have learned to buy frozen vegetables in place of the ones that go bad quickly. I know frozen might now be as a good, but it's better than letting them rot.

  13. CrazyTragicAlmostMagic says

    Use the crispers for beer/wine/ It saves you space in the fridge and isn't displacing anything else.

    My only real food waste is cucumbers. They're usually 3 for $1.99 so of course I buy three… and end up using maybe 1 and a half. I now only allow myself to buy one large one or 2 smaller ones so I know I'll use them.

  14. alwayshungry4 says

    I was spending about as much as you before, and trying to reach the $400/month target for two – it can be challenging! I do agree about leftovers, though – now I just take it to work, so it saves on costs I would've paid to go out to lunch.

  15. says

    I've been planning to move out and have sort of been trying to figure out what my expenses will be. One of the things I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea how much to budget for is grocery shopping, I've never really done much of the grocery shopping in the house. I guess I'll get a better idea of how much to spend a month and if I should be changing my eating habits with time.
    My recent post The Ironic Story of’s Founder

  16. Ayla says

    We buy food weekly which really helps in preventing wasteful food. I try to buy what we need in terms of fresh foods so we don't waste although sometimes we still do a bit. We cut our food budge way back and it's roughly 500 a month for us including food for lunch. This also includes meals when we eat out.

  17. Canadianbudgetbinder says

    Nothing gets wasted in our house if we can help it. We even store the peeling from most veg in a freezer bag and once a week make a big pot of vegetable stock from it. We grate the peel from limes, lemons and oranges and use them up even mixed with vinegar and water to make a fragrant cleaning solution. Food waste is one of the top reasons food budgets are out of control next to buying more than we need or can consume before we toss it in the garbage. Careful planning, meal plans, and thinking outside the box all helps. Great post Jordann.. shared on FB to see what the fans have to say!
    My recent post PF Weekly Reading List #10-Can I See Some Stolen ID Please?

  18. studentdebtsurvivor says

    I'm the worst food waster. Bf and I are trying really hard to only go out to eat on the weekends and to eat at home Mon-Friday. I know most people probably already do that, but for us it's definitely new. Because we're trying to eat at home more we're ending up with more food waste. Tonight I ate leftover chicken and veggies and was so proud of myself (baby steps right ;-))
    My recent post A Letter to My Alumni Association AKA the Bloodsuckers

  19. says

    We used to throw away shameful amounts of food. Then started buying for meals rather than buying and creating meals – had to face the fact that we are cooks not chefs. Now waste is minimal and food budget is almost halved (without loss of quality).

  20. janesavers says

    Guilty as charged but changing my ways to stop it.

    I have had to move to frozen vegetables to reduce waste but potaoes still get wasted around here. I could buy a few potatoes from the loose vegetable are but they are so much more money than the bag. I wonder if anyone freezes potatoes?
    My recent post My Family’s Money History

  21. says

    I hate wasting food and throwing it out. Sometimes I get super excited about recipes, etc. and buy too much. It's an ongoing process. Summer is the easiest time of year for me to save money on groceries because I don't eat as much.

  22. says

    One way I used to waste food was with a freezer we kept in the garage. We would tend to forget what we had in there and continue to buy food we already had! I no longer have the big freezer so I am forced to "manage" the freezer better!

  23. Saved Penny says

    Oh. My. God. This post really hits home. We live abroad, where groceries tend to be a tad higher than where we came from in the U.S., but our grocery bill is still amazingly high. During the first two months of the year, we averaged $1000/mo in groceries for our family of 3. Sure, part of that is where we live. The same standard of living is probably 10-15% higher than most major cities in the states. But still . . . My goal is to get it down to $600/mo. We'll see!
    My recent post Roth or Traditional

  24. says

    I used to do that too; buy a lot of vegetables and then forget about it. It’s a total waste. So in order for us to save money and stay healthy at the same time, we buy fruits and vegetables that we can consume for the two to three days only. Organizing you fridge is a good idea too. It makes you see what foods are about to expire and it helps the circulation of cool air inside your ref too. It the air can circulate well, your refrigerator won’t have to overwork, thus saving you electricity.
    My recent post Signs You May Be A Shopaholic And 6 Things You Can Do To Change It

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