10 tips to stop your family from wasting food!

One of my husband’s greatest pet peeves is wasting food, and he feels that we do it a lot.

The honest truth is we do waste some, but I have been trying to do better.

I’m not a big fan of leftovers so I procrastinate about using them and then they get too old and you really can’t use them. Also I like to have different meals each night so then the leftovers don’t get used up quickly. I did try a method during last school year, where I cooked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then we had leftovers on Thursday (church night) and Friday night (mom’s just tired.) I thought that method worked pretty well.

One of my foodie friends from high school posted this list from Slate.com on tips to not waste food.

Here’s the full list from Slate.com with an explanation of how each tip works.

Here’s my boiled down version for discussion. I have divided Slate’s list into three categories:

Things I already do, Things I should do, and Things I don’t think will actually work:

Things I already do

  • Shopping list: I am very good about making a list and pretty well sticking to it.
  • Buy with cash: We started only using cash last year and I do truly believe it helps me buy less and save money.
  • Limit the exotics at the farmer’s market – I need to do this more. I do get excited about buying mango, papaya, kiwi, pears, oranges, apples, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and there’s no way these children can eat that many different fruits in a week.
  • Schedule your leftovers – The article talks about a couple that schedules Thursday and Friday as smorgasbord nights – which is nice way of saying leftover nights. I mentioned above I tried that same method last year and I did really like it.

That same section on Slate.com had great tips about how to use up those leftovers.

“To do this, bone up on a handful of what reader Venkatesh Rao calls “meta recipes”—flexible dishes like quiches, stir-fries, stews, and dals that can easily accommodate a wide variety of ingredients. The Lantern loves using Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook for just this purpose. Several of you also recommended allrecipes.com, where you can search for dishes that incorporate up to four different ingredients.”

Things I don’t think actually work or are worth the effort

  • Shop several times a week – This seems counterintuitive. Every time I walk in a grocery store I’m going to drop extra money. So the less I am in there the less I will spend. I think the Europeans can do it because in general they are going to small specialty stores to pick up a meat or veggie.
  • Do one cuisine a week: While I recognize the logic of using up all your Asian perishable ingredients before making something Mediterranean, I think my kids would revolt if I served Asian five nights in one week. I know I would. I’ll have to try it and see what they think. Maybe you could do three night of Asian and two nights of a frozen or pantry meal that won’t go bad like pasta or pizza.
  • Keep list of what’s in your fridge and pantry — I know it would be good to do this but it just seems way too time consuming. They suggest using a white board to make a list in red of non-perishables and green of perishables. I have in the past kept a list on the refrigerator of my meats and their expiration dates so I knew which meat I needed to use first. But it was a very short, quick list. Not an inventory of everything in the fridge. I think the simpler version of this is to buy less so you can actually see what you have.

Things I should do

  • Wash and prep your veggies right away – I have a high school friend who is a doctor. And she writes on Facebook all the time how she preps all her veggies for the week on Sunday. I admire her organization. The story does point out that the vegetables deteriorate much faster when they are cut. So maybe you prep twice a week instead of just once?
  • Use my freezer more effectively – I tend to forget about things frozen or thaw them poorly. I definitely could do a better job making two of a dish and freezing the second part for a later meal. That would involve being more organized too.

I will add to the tips shopping at the farmer’s market or a more health-focused grocery store cuts my bills because I’m not buying a bunch of processed stuff. I’m buying fresh. I’m buying less, and we have to use it immediately.

Michael wanted to weigh in on this topic. He says these are his two golden rules for not wasting food:

No 1. Especially if you have kids, stick to the basics – things you know they will eat. Michael thinks we end up with too much leftover food that goes to waste when I experiment with new recipes or cuisines. I would argue if you never expose them to new  things they won’t expand their palettes. Maybe the compromise rule there is make less of a new food until you know if they like it.

No. 2 – While you have leftovers in the refrigerator don’t make a new meal. Michael says I don’t care what they want. Here’s what I’ve got. When you’ve got a lot of leftovers, the priority should be eating them, not variation in meals.

As stated earlier, I like to have meal variation. I would rather eat Monday’s leftover later in the week than again on Tuesday.

So lots of food for thought here! (Heehe) What do you think: Does your family waste a lot of food? Are you good about serving leftovers? What do you think of Slate.com’s list of tips? Which tips are you already doing? Which ones would you like to try? Which ones do you not think are practical or would make an impact?

Give me your freezer tips and vegetable prep tips. Which veggies prep best ahead of time and how do you store them?

48 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJCMOMania, Jan Hayes, Thomas Burnstein, Jawad Ashraf, Goven Bestafarda and others. Goven Bestafarda said: 10 tips to stop your family from wasting food! http://tinyurl.com/332hl5v [...]

new mom

July 27th, 2010
7:01 am

Morning! Theresa, I’m on your side on the wasting food vs. not exposing your kids to varying foods and flavors. If you don’t want a picky eater, you have to continue to not just ‘offer’ different foods to your kids, but you must ’serve’ them to them. If you only give your child a bite or two, you aren’t sending them the message that the food is important. And if you wait till they decide they like it to start making it lot, you could be waiting a while. ‘They’ say that it takes kids up to 10 times of being exposed to new foods for them to like them. That’s true with us, we never offer our almost three year old anything that we’re not having for dinner, she just gets smaller portions of our meal. She eats all kinds of foods, and what she doesn’t eat, we don’t stress if we have to toss it. (another rule I remember reading–moms need to not nibble off the kids’ leftovers or uneaten plates, in the name of ‘not wasting food’, to keep from gaining weight!)

One other thought is trying to make something new from your leftovers. You can make a stir fry from some things, or panini sandwiches from leftover bbq chicken, etc. If can turn in into something that doesn’t resemble leftovers, there’s a greater chance that everyone will enjoy it! :)

One more thought…I try to make big batches of foods that freeze well, like spaghetti and chili, and freeze them in amounts that are just enough for one dinner, so it’s easy but also no leftovers.

OK, just one more: Can Michael take leftovers for lunch? I send my hubby our leftover dinner for lunch a lot, depending on if he will be somewhere that he can eat it (no lunch meetings, etc.)
Sorry this was so long! :)

usually lurking

July 27th, 2010
7:55 am

My husband and I eat leftovers for lunch – even on days when we work at home. We not only have saved a lot of money by not eating out, we both lost weight. On Saturday or Sunday we make a menu for the upcoming week, with the kids input, and shop based on the menu.

Lady Strange

July 27th, 2010
7:58 am

I don’t usually have leftovers. I try to cook only what will be eaten per meal. My problem seems to be things get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten then when I find them they have gone bad.


July 27th, 2010
7:58 am

I agree with using leftovers for lunch. I invested (not splurged – LOL) in a pricey thermos type container for my daughter. It was $22 but I can send hot food in her lunchbox and the food is still hot when she goes to lunch at school. She really likes it. School lunches can leave alot to be desired and this way she can get a hot lunch with something she likes. My teenage son balked at the thermos type container but the leftovers do come in handy for his after school meal (not snack).

I do prep my meals for the week. I do the veggies twice a week since I really try to use more fresh vegetables. As for the meats, I mostly buy in bulk and I marinate some of it before I freeze it. That way, I can just prepare some sides to go with the meat. I have found that limits my trips to the store. I have found it less expensive to buy fresh fruits and veggies more often as opposed to buying larger quantities. We waste alot less this way.

Growing up in the country where we grew our own veggies, I can remember watching my mom and my grandmothers prep and freeze veggies. We didn’t have choices for dinner – we ate what mom cooked or went hungry. So I thought that was just normal and what you were to do. Once I got out on my own, and had so many choices of food, I did waste alot of food. Having a family now, I must admit I do mimic alot of what my mom did when I was growing up. I don’t serve multiple dinners a day, there is only one. Your choice if you eat it.

I have found that doing versatile meats during the week helps too. I will prep chicken dishes for maybe 2 or 3 nights out of the week and then prep a beef or fish dish for the other nights and we did start doing a vegan dish at least once per week. At first my son revolted, but he did come around.


July 27th, 2010
8:14 am

I like the “smorgasboard” idea, we do the same thing. We pull out everything left over from Mon./Tues. and put it together in different ways. Wednesday is sandwich night-sometimes it will be a panini or something else different, but sometimes my boys just want simple like PGJ or ham and cheese. Add some fruit or raw veggies and eat it on paper plates. It’s a nice way to recharge in the middle of the week to not have to worry about cooking and cleaning a lot. It usually turns into a family movie night or game night too. Bonus!

About introducing foods to children, my youngest will eat just about anything you put in front of him. My oldest was served salad many times growing up and would pick at it. Now that he is older and dating, he eats salads because it wouldn’t be cool to have your date eat theirs and you just sit there. Now, he likes salad. Go figure!


July 27th, 2010
8:15 am

oops-PBJ. Forgot to proofread!


July 27th, 2010
8:29 am

Hi newmom!

My friend’s husband calls leftovers recycled food…as in “oh, we are eating recycles tonight?”

I love it!

I’m raising my hand in guilt for this topic! I always find things in the fridge that were completely forgotten about. I also find whole bags of salad that we did not use and they are now a mess.
Due to traveling, I shop a BIG shop about once a month and then dash in maybe once a week for produce, milk or bread. We have 2 side by sides…our old one is in the garage. I buy lots of things in bulk for the freezers. I utilize the BOGO free at Publix and my pantry is always packed with dry goods.

My family has never been keen on leftovers. I tried to package them in a small container and send them in for my husband for work but he forgets 4 out of 5 times. He would eat them but at 4:30 in the morning, he is doing good to get showered, get coffee and get in the car before 5:00. I do NOT get up at this hour…unless I am being paid…LOL.

Our lab loved leftovers! He ate nearly everything we ate and lived to be 14…old for a big dog. Now that he is gone, the schnauzer cannot eat all the same things and thus we have extra stuff. I swear, it costs more to buy the bitty special dog food than giving the leftovers to the dog!

My solution: it will be just us in a few weeks..no kids! We will eat OUT using coupons buy one get one. If we can both eat for less than $15…that is a bargain to me…no cooking, no dishes, less shopping, and no leftovers. All time wasters. I know this is not going to work for most of the rest of you but I am looking forward to it. I bought a Bulldog Bucks card from North Gwinnett HS with discounts and just ordered my third Atlanta Entertainment book…they are $5 now on clearance.
I also keep the coupons from the mail in a large zip loc so we can take it along in the car.

We were in Snellville a few weeks ago and since we usually do not eat there, I looked and found a Shane’s BBQ. We had 2 combo dinners ( veggies included) with drinks and tip for $15! HOORAH!

Re: Micheal’s rules ( to me) …Number One is a NO. Kids need to learn to eat different foods. Number Two is a YES …too many Moms are short order cooks and scramble around trying to please the kids. If they are hungry, they will eat and if you coddle them…they will whine and say they are not hungry…when they are but they are waiting for something they prefer to eat. They will get used to this and ( to me) this is why some kids will not eat school lunch ( too picky or waiting for lunchables LOL) . I have been in a lot of schools and TRUST me…the lunches in Gwinnett GA are outstanding compared to what I ate as a kid and what millions of other kids are eating every week in America.

T..thanks for sharing my topic idea yesterday…there were so many good tips…some I had not even thought about. To me, this is why we hang out here…we can learn things from each other.

JATL thanks for affirming my points both on those who do not work and use our tax money to enjoy the things they want but not enough to work for themselves and also the ideas on yesterday’s blog. If I am ever in your neck of the woods…perhaps we could meet for lunch.

@joann July 26th, 2010 12:39 pm
ok motherjanegoose———-Let Someone Else Talk.

Here is something novel for you…THIS IS A BLOG…..anyone can post as many times as they care to ( unless there are some new rules I missed) and it is not like you are interrupting someone else or not allowing others to post. A beautiful thing. Those who post a lot may have more information or some ideas about the subject. I did not post at all on Saturday’s topic. I posted 9 times when you got testy with me ( if I can count) and Tiger posted 11 times on the next topic. To me … and my daughter :)…. he always has neat things to say.

Yes, I love to talk and most anyone who knows me can tell you this is absolutely true. I have had 2 hour lunches with DB, Kathy and also Michelle. Would have with newmom :) but she had her darling child in tow.


July 27th, 2010
8:32 am

Your “things that I don’t think work” actually do work. Shop several times a week is a great one if you can discipline yourself to buy only what you need. Also– shop like the Europeans! Go to the bodega instead of the Safeway. Also making a list of what’s in the fridge is great. Doesn’t have to be comprehensive, just “we have food for the following meals: —,—.—” You cross it off as you make it, or write “leftovers” next to it. That way, you’re not shopping when you don’t need to, and no one is saying “there’s nothing in the fridge” because the list don’t lie!


July 27th, 2010
8:39 am

I really wish people would stop picking on MJG. Enough already.


July 27th, 2010
9:08 am

I use a crock pot a lot, since I work full time outside the home. I buy pork loin when it is on sale for 1.79 a pound, and cook the whole thing with a recipe I have that uses cola, barbeque sauce, chopped onion and garlic. We then have a vegetable and salad the first meal, and we reheat the left over pork the next night and have barbecue sandwitches over toasted bread and chips. Makes two easy meals, different, and it doesn’t heat up my kitchen on these hot days. Clean up is a breeze when you use the crock pot liners as well.

Pork loins also make a great tail gate meal in the crock pot as well, you make barbeque out of it, and serve over buns!


July 27th, 2010
9:14 am

We eat leftovers quiet a bit..I’m also guilty of what others said, finding “things” in the back of the fridge that I’m not sure how long they have been there..

My two aren’t picky eaters, they will try anything once..In fact,we went to Savannah this past weekend..She got to pick out a place to eat dinner one night, the boy the next night..She chose Sticky Fingers (ribs), he chose The Oyster Bar..When the waitress came to take his order, he told her that wanted shark..Needless to say, he didn’t get that, but he did try osyters (baked) and sea scallops..He didn’t really like eithere one, but the girl loved the scallops..

@Andrea..There is usually someone on here everyday being snarky to MJG, we’ve all just kinda learned to overlook them..As I have said before, I usually learn something from her and I enjoy reading her “rants” as some call them..So good luck with trying to get people to stop picking on her..

@newblogger..Welcome to our family..


July 27th, 2010
9:48 am

Thanks friends.

@ pws…years ago, the marquee ( sp?) at the Ingle’s grocery story near here read:


Now THAT would be a ROARING GOOD MEAL! I go nuts when public signs have words spelled incorrectly…someone should check these things.


July 27th, 2010
10:16 am

Some other ideas:
Keep masking tape and marker handy and label all containers of leftovers as they go into the fridge with contents and date entered. Easy to spot check for “past freshness/safety” dates that way. Makes it easier to combine ingredients from different meals into a leftover medley meal.

Make a little extra of something you plan to use again. Make extra rice for a fried rice dish the day after you eat rice as side to a meat dish.

Make only as much vegetable and/or fruit as you think you family will eat at one time. Few cooked vegetables withstand reheating, so minimize leftovers in this group. Best use for leftover cooked veggies is probably a pureed soup, where the limp leftover texture doesn’t matter. Also, if your recipe calls for a sauce on the vegs, put it on the side because sauced cooked veggies are really the worst to try to reuse in other recipes.

About anything can make a sandwich filling. Mix and match meats, vegs, fruits (especially chopped apples and dried fruits), salads, grains, cheeses and sauces. You can cut back on meat and cheese ingredients if salads and vegs are the star of the sandwich. Use pita bread or tortillas for ingredients that are “sloppy” to reduce drips.

Use seasonings. The idea is to start with a large batch of some basic item cooked without sauces – meat, vegetable – that can be dressed up throughout the week. If you make a “plain” vegetable one night, you can completely change it’s look and taste the next night with seasonings. Sweet potatoes are great for this – baked one night, with assortment of finely chopped cooked vegs or dried fruit/raw nut mix for topping; the next night, sliced and oven fried with olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, dried orange peel, and orange juice (splash); the next night, mashed with a bit of maple syrup or sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon. Pasta and rice are other good “mixers.” Keep a list of seasonings that work for the preferred flavor profiles (savory, sweet, Thai, cowboy, etc.) and devote cabinet space to your seasonings stash.


July 27th, 2010
10:18 am

We don’t eat out much at all since it would get rather pricey with the 6 of us. The thing that works for us the best is a menu for the month. It usually takes me about 1 or 2 hours to do but then I’m all set for the rest of the month and don’t have to wonder what I’m going to make when. I don’t put anything down for breakfast since it’s always cereal or oatmeal. Maybe once in a while I’ll do something else for breakfast but it isn’t worth scheduling it.

The monthly menu eliminates the “what’s for dinner?” question and lets me plan my grocery list much more easily. And I do plan for leftovers at least once for lunch & once for dinner during the week. I usually eat for lunch whatever we had for dinner the night before anyway.


July 27th, 2010
10:50 am

I buy my meat from the meat market, in big family packages. Come home, separate it into two to three servings, wrap in foil, stick in a freezer bag and it’s labeled.

We do all fresh (sometimes frozen, but mostly fresh) fruit and veggies, canned fruits and veggies are NOT ALLOWED in my home. I hit the Suwanee Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, stock up for a few days. Then I hit Publix for “filler” fruits and veggies for the rest of the week. I like to go on Thursday for their Mystery Coupon.

My daughter is going back to school in three weeks and the roommate will be moving out the end of September. Then it will just be me, and I can cut WAY back on the grocery bill. And the power bill, and the water bill…..etc…LOL


July 27th, 2010
11:06 am

I am with JJ on buying meat in bulk and then dividing it into meal friendly portins and freezing it. In my freezer I have gallon bags labeled pork, hamburger, steak, etc. Then each foiled wrapped package inside of that bag has the date on which it was frozen. I also go to the grocery about 3 times a week, getting only fillers and never spending more than $20. This is to get only the ingredients I need to finish the meals which I bought “foundations” for in bulk on my once a month Sam’s trip. Also about once a week we have frittata dinner or Saturday breakfast, heat any left over meat and veggies in a skillet, add a couple of eggs throw some cheese on top on finish in the oven. It is delicious, quick and easy. The best one yet was pepperoni and sausage (leftover from pizza night) with red peppers and zucchini! Probably came out to be about $1 a person!

Sorry but I can’t help but tell this story: We helped my sister in law move this weekend and some how I rolled the dice for the ungodly task of cleaning out the fridge. I kid you not that in the far back corner there was a lunchable so molded it was stuck to the fridge. I had to get a case knife to pry it out…the only way I was able to laugh was remembering how frisky everyone got with the lunchable discussion the other week…seeing that sight was enough to make me never buy them!


July 27th, 2010
11:51 am

Luckily my husband is a leftover fan and usually will take leftovers for lunch. I work from home and have gotten used to leftover more and more over the years. The problem is that I don’t want leftover for dinner, lunch, dinner, lunch again, etc. Once maybe, but more than that and I’d rather skip the meal. I’ve had to learn to make smaller meals though especially in the past year when my husband was working out of town Mon-Fri. Tuition at the boy’s school covers his lunch so there’s no talking him into leftovers for lunch either.

Fresh fruit and veggies going bad are probably our biggest spoiler food. I usually buy the bigger packs of meat and split into single meal sizes as well though even a pound of chicken will last us a couple of meals when it’s only 2 of us. Chicken is easy to cook for multiple meals though. So if I grill chicken one night and we only eat half of it, I’ll cut up the remainder and put it in a Ziploc bag for quesadillas another night. I’ve learned with lasagna to use two smaller casserole dishes and just cut the noodles so I can make one to freeze. Or if I’m making spaghetti, I’ll freeze the remaining sauce to put on top of stuffed shells or ravioli the next week so that we’re not eating Italian back-to-back.

I too like variety and think you have to expose your kids to it. I also agree that making multiple meals for picky kids just creates pickier kids. There are dishes I honestly never liked that my mom made (curry chicken comes to mind!) and after a few years my mom finally did give in on those couple of things and let me make a sandwich. But for the most part, you either ate what was cooked or you didn’t eat.


July 27th, 2010
11:52 am

We love leftovers. Most of the meals we prepare lend themselves well to reheating and it makes life sooo much easier. Most of our leftovers are used for lunches – at school, work, and home. My kids hate school lunch and taking leftovers means they are not eating a pb&j every day :). Plus, it saves money.

The key to liking leftovers more, TWG, may be in concentrating on meals that re-heat well (at least some of the time). Pasta sauces, casseroles, soups, etc. often taste better the second day.

We also always get “doggie bags” when we eat out. We can often stretch our restaurant meal into a couple of more lunches for the kids.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael A. Giarrusso, AJCHealthcare. AJCHealthcare said: Stop wasting food in your household, get creative w/cooking healthy for the family: http://bit.ly/aKQgJU #health #kids [...]


July 27th, 2010
12:13 pm

Hi, to all,

My mother usually only cooked enough for the evening meal, hence no leftovers. We rarely had a full “icebox.” The only exception would be major holidays – even then, leftovers would be gone in a couple of days. No food was ever wasted in our house.

I currently live in an area where I can shop at a Kroger or Publix within 1 mile of my house, an IGA within 2 miles, and Aldi within 3. That being the case, I’m often at the store 3-4 times a week since I’m an “early” (downsized) retiree. I try to buy only what I need for food that day, except for purchasing pantry staples.

I label anything that goes in the freezer with the date I placed it there, be it prepared food like chili or spaghetti sauce, or bulk meat purchases from Costco (divided into smaller portions.)

Good topic today, Teresa. Ciao.


July 27th, 2010
12:42 pm

I use e-mealz. Every week, I get a menu and a grocery list based on what’s on sale at Publix (that’s the plan I chose. They also have Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Aldi.). The meals serve 6, and we only have 4 (and a 2 yo who I count as a half), so I either cut the meal down or take it the next day for lunch. Doing that (and using southern savers to match coupons and sales) has cut my weekly grocery bill down to about $75 for the 5 of us.


July 27th, 2010
12:46 pm

@Valstake..We never had leftovers either..LOL. With 10 children, not much could be left..

I do have something that I was wondering about though..I have 2 nephews that their wives won’t cook something if they don’t like it..Therefore, the kids are not getting to try a lot of foods..Do any of you do that? Even if I don’t like it and my husband does, I will cook it for him..


July 27th, 2010
1:04 pm

Now that all the chicks have flown the coop, I don’t cook as often or as much. I’d love to eat out but it is too far from town (30 mile round trip to even a fast food restaurant) and too expensive. So I just dabble.

Luckily for me I have a big garden so about 2:00 in the summer I say, “Hmm, what looks good?” and that’s what I have. I did that when the kids were small, too. In fact, I would send them out to “hunt for supper:” I also can a lot (I have been to the county cannery 7 times already this month, including this morning.)

I was a very simple cook. Just fresh stuff 9 months of the year from the garden, plus food I have canned. I also occasionally buy meat. I will cook a double dose of chicken and some hamburger and use it all week. I am trying to do fish more.

On the kids thing, when they were toddlers I did not offer my kids any food we were eating. If they wanted some because they saw the rest of us eating it, I would give them a tiny spoonful, reluctantly. Of course, then they wanted more (human nature) but I would promise them that “next time” I would cook enough for them to have more. My kids, as a result, eat anything. In fact, due to having sitters that cooked even more widely that I did, they also like stuff I won’t touch, like squirrel, rabbit, and liver. They taught ME to eat beets! I have found that I like almost everything grown fresh (well, except eggplant and brussell sprouts :P )

Whatever I put on the table, they could have as much or as little as they wanted. My job was to put the healthy food out there, and they determined how much to eat. 5 servings of beans today? fine. No meat? No problem. Some things are within my box (what) and some within theirs (how much.)

However, if they did not eat an adequate amount (my standards on this), there were no between meal snacks. It’s now or never! And snacks were fruit, cheese, or yogurt. No chips, no candy, no junk. No power struggle.

Gotta go get some tomatoes and lettuce and beans for supper!


July 27th, 2010
1:50 pm

@Peachy: My parents do the same thing when it comes to meat. They will buy it in bulk when it’s on sale at Ingles, and divide it up into meal-sized portions. With the three of us it’d be three chicken breasts, a pound of beef, or three pork loins.

One thing my parents do from time to time is there might be a sale on chuck roast at Ingles, 99 or 88 cents a pound. They’ll buy up a few of the 5-pound roasts, remove most of the fat, the bone, and grind some of it up into ground chuck using the meat grinder attachment on their Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, and reserve some for stew beef or other beef dishes (stir-fry, fajitas, etc.).

Another way to stop wasting food, when trying out new dishes: If the recipe says it feeds less than the number of people in your family, like if it feeds 4 and you have 6, don’t try to adjust the recipe to feed all 6 members. Make it as prescribed. Everyone will get a smaller-than-normal portion, but you can compensate by having a couple of side items you know everyone likes, such as a couple of veggies everyone loves, or some starch with some dairy or fat (mashed potatoes with gravy; mac and cheese), so that even if they don’t like the new item, they will still have something to eat you know they’ll love, and no one will go hungry. Also, not as much food will go to waste, and you’ll know not to make that dish again.

Sometimes my parents and I have a “scrounge” night, where it’s basically “eat whatever you want, but it has to be what we have”. There might be some leftover stew, spaghetti, stir-fry, or you could make a sandwich.


July 27th, 2010
3:43 pm

I have been cooking lots of vegetables this summer. I have been trying to serve our kids and ourselves only organic food. Note the word trying. So at the end of the week (Sunday), whatever leftover veggies or whole grains (barley, kamut or brown rice) goes into a pot and I make soup by adding stock and canned tomatoes. We eat the soup for a meal and the rest gets frozen for the winter. Over ripe or on the edge of going bad fruit gets chopped up and frozen and used in my protein drinks. Sometimes I puree them in the blender and make popsicles for the kids.

I am a big fan of the prepping your food for the week. I have been doing it on Sunday after I shop for the week. I love coming home and throwing everything in pots and having a home cooked meal in 45 minutes to and hour.


July 27th, 2010
4:26 pm

i too buy big packages of meat, divide and bag it and label it….i make things like lasagna and put serving size containers in the freezer..i always make 2 pans of it so i have the leftovers…we love leftovers. i eat leftovers for breakfast even :)…i have a hard time with the salad thing, especially since i only have 1 child left at home and she is not here a lot….i love salad….but no matter how i buy the ingrediants some of it always goes bad,…i cant eat THAT much salad alone! i try to eat more salad when i eat out (rarely)…fruits i buy every few days…enough to last 3 or 4 days…ive been trying to up my fruit intake and this is working well. i also cook a big cut of mat in the crockpot or oven and make different dishes throughout the week…or freeze portion sizes and always have it ready for some fast soup, stew or bbq. i would love to only buy frozen veggies…they are expensive! i do buy the less sodium veggies and fresh ones in season…the frozen ones are so much better but they really cost more. i so miss the days of have a huge garden and canning all my veggies!! those were the days.


July 27th, 2010
7:08 pm

MJG – Dogs eat dog food. People eat people food. Please ask your vet about this. Your dog is bound to gain too much weight, which causes serious health problems that your dog cannot communicate to you. Please ask your vet about this. A dog’s nutritional requirements are far different than a human’s. An occasional piece of baked potato or leftover rice are fine. But not as a standard diet.


July 27th, 2010
8:26 pm

@ connie…I just mentioned this to my husband at dinner tonight…that no one had yet ragged on me for the comment ( guess I underestimated the comments today) . We laughed together and reminded ourselves what our vet told us when our dog was 11:

The Vet:
“Now that Yellar is getting older, we need to discuss his dietary needs. Let’s talk about what you feed him.”


“Do you want the truth or what I think you want to hear? He eats most any meat, eggs, vegetables, rice, noodles, salad with ranch dressing, spaghetti, lasagne etc. We give him an Oreo once in a while too!”

The Vet:

“Well, he is healthy as a horse ( weighed 75-80 pounds) and seems to be doing just fine…I guess it suits him and you should just stick with what works”

BTW he lived until he had kidney failure at 14…quite a long life for a large dog. Here is an interesting link and it looks just like our dear Yellie:


If you need check in with our Vet and straighten him out…I can put you in touch :0. He has been in practice a long time. I trust that he would know much more about animals than I would know. I was very forthright with our vet and had our dog in for regular check ups. He saw our vet his entire life.

Now, our Schnauzer cannot tolerate the same diet. She just had 1/3 cup of mashed potatoes and carrots for dinner but usually eats dog food. No red meat for her and no Oreos either. Yes, it is important to discuss things with your vet and I absolutely did…thanks for the reminder!


July 27th, 2010
8:56 pm

I LOVE having leftovers because it means I don’t have to think of what to cook. My father-in-law likes to call them “planned-overs”. I do think we waste more food than we should. My daughter (in college, at home) loves to grocery shop with me and is good to help cut the grocery bill with sales and coupons. But sometimes we try new things and end up throwing out the remainder of an ingredient.

I like to pre-prep some things and freeze them for later. I also keep a list on the fridge of what is in the big freezer in the garage.

And Theresa, for the leftovers that you don’t want to eat until later, put them straight in the freezer, in a labeled container. Lots of things freeze well.


July 27th, 2010
9:28 pm

I hate leftovers. My mom did “planned overs” about 5 mights a week, usually from whatever special meat she prepared for Sunday dinner. As a result, I can’t stand to eat leftovers, and my husband constantly rags on me for wasting food.

In my defense, however, I buy and serve what is good for them, and they eat what they want, which is absolutely not what is good for them. I buy and serve the good stuff; they buy and eat the nasty stuff. My fresh fruit and veggies and whole grain stuff goes bad, and their chips and pizza and you-name-it are what get eaten……


July 27th, 2010
9:29 pm

That’s Nights a week, not mights a week.


July 27th, 2010
9:36 pm

I have a teenage son at home. There are NEVER leftovers! Wasting food is not a problem…


July 27th, 2010
10:12 pm

MJG – it worked for your dog, and that is great!


July 27th, 2010
10:29 pm

This is kind of interesting and creepy too:

What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.


July 27th, 2010
10:34 pm

When i was growing up, we had leftovers, and we ate them. End of story. Either you eat whats in there or you go spend your own money- wait, six to ten year olds do not or should not have a really large stash under their control. Also, kids learn what they dont like to eat based on what we feed them and what we allow them not to eat. Fix it another way, season it differently, but there is no excuse to waste the HUGE amounts we waste in this country. I wont even talk about going to the restaurant….

Tech man

July 27th, 2010
11:52 pm


July 27th, 2010
9:36 pm

10-4 on that. Please write a column on how to guarantee there is at least two bites of ice cream left for dad when he gets home. Buy it in the morning…GONE…by 6 pm

Tech man

July 27th, 2010
11:55 pm


July 27th, 2010
8:26 pm

Our 16 year old poodle prefers grilled steak over grilled chicken. He likes ice cream, oreos and sometimes a sip of coffee. I guess he thinks he is me.

Senior Citizen

July 28th, 2010
12:32 am

Enter your comments here

Senior Citizen

July 28th, 2010
12:36 am

I bought a new refrig last month; French doors, slide out freezer. All left overs and advance cooking goes on the top shelf. I updated to clear plastic bowl covers–3 sets at Publix and cover a prepared plate with that cover. Once school starts, food on the top shelf will become breakfast and lunch.

Cook less–and there is less food left over. Might be a good thing and certainly better than wasting food.

This refrig has all kinds of bins and special areas; crisper at eye level. No wasted food. I used to keep a list on the refrig of what needed to be used; especially produce.

I have 2 wild kittens–now grown that I fed all winter; no food waste and no squirrels in my garden.


July 28th, 2010
4:05 am

I always buy my meats in family packs and split up for individual meals. As a single mother of three, I had to save money where I could. When my kids were small I made big meals and froze part of it. We had a three bite rule at my house, even if you didn’t like it last time, you still had to try three bites. Now my children eat anything thats not nailed down to the floor. I usually shop once a month for the basics then once a week for fresh. Its too far to drive to go several times a week. If on the off chance their are left-overs I use them on fend for yourself night It also helps cut down on left-overs if you let your children cook dinner. My kids are grown now; but, both my boys and my daughter can cook a balanced meal. Now, there are some things they can cook that taste better than my own.


July 28th, 2010
8:06 am

@ Techman…nice to hear from you…I really think some dogfood consists of things much worse than what may be passed from the dinner table AND sometimes it costs more too!

@ Regina, my daughter is often a better cook than me and I have cooked for YEARS! I made bread from scratch and blackberry pies on the farm…we picked our own blackberries.

She is very open to trying NEW things and it is fun to see what she comes up with!


July 28th, 2010
8:48 am

My sister feeds her dog table food all of the time..The vet has never given her a hard time about it and her dog is very healthy..My other sister was always told by her vet that when the dog was over weight to feed him nothing but green beans for a week or so..

@Tech man..LOL..I think as long as there is a teenager in the house, that’s never going to happen..When my teenage niece was living with us, there never seemed to be enough food in the house for her to eat..

Colleen Newvine Tebeau

July 28th, 2010
1:11 pm

When we moved into our current apartment about a year ago, I was nervous about the small-ish fridge. It’s not dorm size but it’s definitely smaller than what I’m used to.
It’s turned out to be good for cutting down on food waste. We can’t let things curl up in a corner and rot because they’re taking up space.
By necessity we’ve had to take a more European approach to shopping more often. It works for us because we aren’t laying in a month’s worth of provisions and forgetting about them. We’re buying just a few things at a time, so we’re more mindful of what we have. And we can’t go get more until we’ve used up what we already have.
We also try to be smart about our leftovers: we label everything with a date and if it’s still sitting there a few days later, try to to freeze it if we can.
My husband, like Michael, hates to waste food so he gives me grief about the amount I’ll sometimes make for dinner or about my enthusiasm at farmers market.
I’ve been eating the same pasta salad pretty much every day since Saturday. Almost gone …

Erin @ CouponCravings.com

July 28th, 2010
4:27 pm

Theresa – I’m gald to see you’re a big shopping list user! One to check out is ZipList.com. It’s free and sorts by category and store. You can also share lists which is nice. I use their iPhone app with the barcode scanner. I did a review post of this app fairly recently as part of a series on money-saving iPhone apps: http://couponcravings.com/2010/06/money-saving-iphone-app-14-ziplist.html.



August 1st, 2010
11:10 pm

The comments are interesting but disappointing in that no one mentioned the marketing practice of the grocery chains in packaging perishables in minimum sized packages. Rather than being able to buy just what is needed for a recipe or for a meal, you have to purchase what is pre-packaged, and that is normally for a family of four or five people.
Until the Krogers and Publixes (or whatever the plural of Publix is) understand that they may be the most significant contributer to food waste in the entire food chain, there will always be the household dilemmas shared in this blog.


August 1st, 2010
11:38 pm

Just want to add that I enjoyed reading all the tips. I agree with other posters about feeding your children a variety of foods. My 5 year old will knock you down for a Greek Salad or some grilled shrimp and will pass on candy for a slice of Pumpernickel toast with a dab of Nutella. I was a very picky eater my whole life and I was determined that he wouldn’t be. It’s all about continuing to give them exposure to a variety of things and never becoming a short-order cook at meal time. We didn’t push it either, if he doesn’t want to eat that’s fine but he has to sit quietly at the table and no dessert. Worked great for us because 9 times out of 10 he begins to try the new food and we never have a battle.

My MIL also gave me two special tips she used with her 5 children (who are all adventurous eaters). First is that each shopping trip, one child got to pick out a new item (must be a fresh item – no processed food) for the family to try. They would research a recipe and prepare it together. Created a buy-in for trying new items, a cooking lesson and gave some one-on-one quality time all at once. The second tip was to get the adults and older kids to eat a particular item but not give any to the younger kids. They would all swoon over how yummy that item was but swear to the younger kids that “you have to be a grown-up to enjoy this”. By the end of the meal, the younger kids were begging for (and received) a taste. Positive peer pressure! LOL!

Also wanted to add that there’s no need to use tape/pen to mark use-by dates on leftovers or on items you purchased. A crayon is great to mark containers with, it washes off in the dishwasher and won’t harm glass or plastic containers.


August 2nd, 2010
4:42 am

My leftovers go to the pooch.