First Person: How We Avoid Wasting Food

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According to a recent MSN Money article:

"The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, based in England, recently released a report that contained a chilling statistic estimating that 30 to 50 percent of the food produced on the planet every year, about 1.2 billion to 2 billion tons, is thrown out before it reaches a human stomach. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in New York City, food waste costs the country $165 billion a year and takes up 25 percent of our fresh-water supply to grow that food."

As a person who doesn't like waste and who works hard to eliminate waste in our family's personal and financial lives, these statistics hit home with me. However, I'm proud to know that we waste very little of the food we buy. In fact, other than the occasional handful of grapes, mushy strawberry, sprouted potato, or forgotten onion, we do pretty darn well at not throwing out food. The following are a few of the ways we keep our food waste to a minimum.

Clearing Fridge before Trips and Vacations

Having a bunch of food in the refrigerator before a long-weekend trip or vacation can leave food there to spoil and potentially lead to this spoilage spilling over into and contaminating other items, leading to further food waste. This is why when I know we're going to be away for an extended period of time -- or even just a few days when we have leftovers or other soon-to-spoil items around -- I make a meal plan in advance in an effort to finish up any such items. This way I can create meals around things like eggs, cheeses, fruits, veggies, meats, and other items that need to be finished up.

There is seldom a time when we head out on vacation that we come back to anything spoiled, even when that vacation is two weeks long. As soon as we get home, we can repurchase all these items fresh for the week ahead, saving both money and food waste.

Constant and Consistent Lists

Lists can be a huge aspect of avoiding food waste. Our family utilizes several lists to help us in this area.

First off, we utilize a weekly shopping list to keep us on track when it comes to what we buy. This helps us keep our impulse buys to a minimum. Often times this list begins the same day we get home from shopping since we already have standard items that make our list regularly each week.

Our second list is used to make our weekly menu. By outlining the week's menu in advance, we can plan out what we want to eat based also upon what we need to eat in terms of keeping things from going bad. This is especially helpful when it comes to using fresh fruits and vegetables.

Creative Options for Leftovers and Short Shelf-life Foods

As I mentioned, it's not always about what we want to eat but what we need to eat in an effort to finish things up. It's then up to us to come up with creative, yet attractive meal options that incorporate items that are nearing the end of their fresh cycle or coming close to their expiration date.

This plan covers not only fresher foods, but also pulls in some of our emergency stockpile foods, allowing us to rotate those items into our meal plans as they near their expiration dates so that we can replace them with freshly purchased items.

Giving Food Away

Giving food away might not seem like much of a money saver when it comes to food waste, and I'll admit, it's not. However, it's still a great way to avoid food waste and feel good about ourselves in the process. There are two main ways we accomplish this aspect of our avoidance of food waste. First off, if we've purchased something in bulk -- like a large bag of potatoes, onions, container of eggs, or whatever -- that we eventually know we aren't going to us, we might give a portion of it to family members.

However, sometimes there are things we either know they won't eat or don't like and that may be nearing their expiration dates. Such foods are often canned or pre-packaged and might be in our emergency supplies. Therefore, the second way we give food away to avoid waste is through food drives. When local schools or other organizations are collecting food, we find that this is a good way for us to avoid food waste and contribute to worthy causes.

By using these techniques to combat food waste, we're almost able to eliminate it completely. Besides an occasional bad onion or forgotten green pepper we're able to keep our food waste to about 1 percent of the food we consume, which allows us to maximize our food dollar.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial, health or food professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial, health or food advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.

Sources:

Williams, Geoff. MSN Money. "5 ways to stop wasting food". April 12, 2013. http://finances.msn.com/saving-money-advice/251070320. April 17, 2013.

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