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7 Ways You Can Stop Wasting Food in Your Kitchen

By Heidi Baldwin, MS, Holistic Health Coach

Can you recall when you last gave your fridge a good deep cleaning? There's something so freeing about a sparkling clean refrigerator, and the New Year is the perfect time to tackle this task. I won’t lie, I often wait until something spills in the fridge or something smells funky to tackle this, but I love a clean fridge, so I have been committing to regular cleanings, and the purging of condiments that have seen better days.

As you're sifting through your old condiments and leftovers to toss them out, you may be realizing how much waste is going in the trash. We all deal with this, but I've found some helpful tips to lower waste in the kitchen that I'd love to share with you.

What better way to make a change than by changing your habits to stop wasting food? As a wonderful side bonus, you'll save money too. Here's how I am changing my focus in my own kitchen to stay on track with my goals:

1. Only buy what's needed.

Always arm yourself with a list before going grocery shopping. Don't just wing it, or you'll wind up impulsively buying far more than necessary, or you purchase items you don’t need because you couldn’t resist the sale price. (And honestly, I have found that many things are on sale because they are set to EXPIRE soon and they are trying to sell it before they have to toss it. Please check expiration dates when you purchase, or you will likely find that these are the first items to go when you do your next refrigerator purge). If it's impractical to buy only a few things for your large family, then properly store bulk items, so they last. It might take some extra time initially, but it will save you money and keep you from wasting quality food.

2. Choose recipes that use what you have

When planning meals, plan them around the ingredients you have. It's far more economical and less wasteful to make meals out of what you have on hand rather than running to the store every time you need just one thing (which will inevitably sit in the back of the fridge to rot). It is really simple to take a look at the items you have that need to get used and search for an online recipe featuring those items.

3. Get creative with leftovers

Even the most frugal of people don't want to keep eating the same meal every day of the week. Find ways to repurpose your leftovers into new meals with minimal effort. Roasted chicken or tofu can be made into chicken or tofu salad sandwiches, added to sauteed or roasted veggies, or used to top your favorite salad. You can also jazz it up with salsa and turn it into a Mexican feast. And if it's something that can't be turned into something else, wrap it well and freeze it, so you'll have it ready for a busy night.

4. Give yourself a cooking challenge

Pretend you're on a cooking show, and you've got to make a dish to impress with the things in your fridge that have to be used up. Brown bananas that the kids refuse can be made into a flambé or banana bread, while wilting spinach can be used to create a spinach pasta dish.

5. Start organizing your food spaces

It's a new year and a great time to start being more organized in the kitchen. Put the older foods in the front of your pantry and fridge with more recent purchases in the back. This way, you won't forget about them. Just make sure you use them!

6. Make use of your freezer

Invest in quality freezer containers and label everything with the type of food and date to stay organized here. Once you have your system in place, you'll quickly see what you have and use it before it goes to waste.

7. Consider donating

Still winding up with an overabundance of food that you don't want to go to waste? Use your bounty to help someone in need. Look in your area for organizations that help pair donated food with those that need it. You'll be avoiding waste and helping a neighbor at the same time.

Do you have other tips on ways to avoid food waste? I would love to hear them!

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