The obvious answer is to only buy what you need. Duh! But that requires a plan. And using up what you have takes some creativity.
1. Make a meal plan. Just understanding how many meals you’ll be making in a week helps you limit your volume. If you know exactly what you’re cooking you’ll buy only the ingredients you need, instead of walking around and tossing stuff into the cart because it looks good.
2. Plan to use your leftovers (or don’t have any). Leftovers are great for quick snacks and for lunch the next day. And planning on using leftovers in a second meal cuts down on prep time. A single roast chicken can go a long way. If you hate leftovers, cook smaller meals.
3. Don’t buy highly perishable items until you plan to use them. Onions can last for weeks in the fridge. Mushrooms, not so much. Get them just when you need them so they aren’t yucky by the time you want to use them.
4. Have a clean-out cook-up. You can always throw less than perfect veggies into a stew or a pot of soup. Ditto with leftover chicken or beef. Hey, that’s what your grandma used to do with leftovers!
5. Buy larger cuts of meat or bulk packages to save money. Then cut it to the size you use or separate it into serving portions and freeze them. Make sure to do it as soon as you get home. Sticking it in the fridge and promising to get to it later is a recipe for waste. Keep a list of what goes into the freezer (stick it to the freezer door) by date so you remember what’s there and can bring it out and use it while it’s still edible.
6. Batch cook to save time. A meal that makes eight servings will feed your family of four tonight and again next week. Divide up the goodness and freeze the extra for those nights when you’re on the run and have no time to cook.
7. Wrap your food properly to make it last. No, you don’t have to go out and buy those fancy (and ridiculously expensive) bags. A little wax paper and a few plastic bags will go a long way. Did you know you should wrap cheese in wax paper to make it last longer in the fridge? Never wash fruit before you put it in the fridge because it encourages mould. If you put your potatoes in the fridge the moisture will encourage sprouting, so don’t. And store your tomatoes upside down on the counter.
Do some research on how best to store your food so it doesn’t spoil prematurely and you don’t end up throwing your money into the garbage can.