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Reduce Food Waste

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and forgotten what you bought before you even got home? Or maybe you just put a new bag of arugula in the fridge only to find there was already one in the crisper? If this sounds familiar, you may need to learn how to organize food in the kitchen in order to reduce waste.

Here is how to reduce food waste at home with the help of a little planning and organization.

Conduct a Regular Inventory

Before you make your meal plan or shopping list for the upcoming week, go through your refrigerator to see what needs to be used before it spoils. You can attach a magnetized dry erase board on the fridge door and keep a running list of these items to make sure everyone in the house is aware of the foods that need to be eaten first. Cross the items off once they’ve been used up. Another benefit of keeping a list is that doing so can help you identify whether you’re purchasing too much of a certain food, like avocados or yogurt, so that you can scale back on future shopping trips.

Plan a Weekly Menu

After you’ve completed your inventory of the fridge, make a weekly meal plan using as many of those must-go ingredients as possible. It’s a good idea to only plan two or three dinners in advance, as busy weeks can often lead to an impromptu pizza or grilled cheese night.

Another good idea when deciding upon the week’s menu is to create meals that use the same ingredients. For example, if you’re roasting sweet potatoes for your Meatless Monday Buddha bowl, go ahead and cook a few extra to use as a side dish for Tuesday’s dinner. And, as a last resort, you can always make a clean-out-the-fridge frittata, omelets or soup on weekends or busy nights.

Keep Your Fridge Orderly

Believe it or not, there is a right way to store food in your refrigerator. Make sure you know which foods go where, as this can help keep them fresh much longer. When possible, keep items that you need to eat sooner than later towards the front of the fridge or even at eye level so that you don’t lose track of them. Additionally, label leftovers with both the contents and date the food was prepared. And if you don’t think you’ll get to leftovers before they go bad, freeze them and work these items into your next week’s meal planning.

Keep Smoothie and Broth Containers in the Freezer

Know you won’t eat those strawberries before you go out of town for the weekend? Or maybe the fresh cilantro in your fridge is looking like it will go bad if you turn your back for even a minute? Fulfill their dreams of becoming future smoothies and vegetable broths by freezing them in designated plasticware containers or gallon-sized storage bags. Even less-than-pristine produce can be used in smoothies or broths; just make sure items aren’t rotting or moldy.

Berries and leafy greens are great for smoothie ingredients, as are bruised apples and grapes or carrots that have lost their crisp. Carrots also make a great addition to broth bins, along with celery, the ends of onions, those teeny cloves of garlic, savory herb stems and squash rinds. You can even use cheese rinds in some broths, but save those leafy greens for the smoothie bin.

It’s well worth it to take the time to learn how to reduce food waste at home through organization…literally. After all, when food items expire, you don’t get your money back just because you didn’t use them. And organic food is especially expensive, so if that’s your preference, you might as well be lighting piles of money on fire if you don’t take the time to store food properly. Once you figure out how to organize food in your kitchen — and get into a solid rhythm — you may very well start to see the amount of food you throw away go down, while your bank account balance goes up.