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My Unfrugal Confession: I Am A Food Waster (Occasionally)

October 11, 2011 · 44 comments

in Home & Garden, Personal Finance

I am so mad at myself.

I just finished cleaning out my refrigerator, and I am embarrassed to say that I threw out a LOT of food.

Why My Family Ends Up Wasting Food

  1. Life gets busy and meal planning becomes haphazard
  2. My refrigerator is not organized
  3. I am buying things that I forget about and do not use before expiration
  4. Some leftovers are just being forgotten, especially from restaurants
What is wrong with me?  I have been an adult a long time, why am I not better at managing my refrigerator and grocery shopping?

I think the answer is that I have just been too busy.  Well, too busy watching baseball playoffs and not busy enough taking care of other things that I should.

To top things off, after I spent all this time cleaning my refrigerator and writing this post, I stopped by the website Little House In the Valley who had just written about how we can Save Money By Eating More.  It is like Little House was sitting on my shoulder while I put expired sour cream into a garbage bag today.  (I hope you weren’t tallying all the money I wasted Little House!)

How I Am Going To Prevent Wasting Food In the Future

So, my husband and I are in our forties and my kids are all teenagers.  Therefore, we are all old enough to understand  basic rules on food storage and consumption.  The following is my plan of action to ensure that my family throws away as little food as possible:
  1. Host An Organization Lesson.  I will be hosting a seminar in my kitchen that all family members must attend.  I will point out which shelf each type of food should reside on.  I may even resort to labeling.  I love that the kids all help me put away the groceries, but it can lead to haphazard product placement.
  2. Enact Thoughtful Snack Creation.  Instead of just reaching for the most convenient item for a snack, I am going to look in the refrigerator and see what may be reaching expiration.  I will also require the kids do the same, even if it means they have to cut up some cheese instead of  just reaching for crackers in the pantry.  Should lead to healthier eating too.
  3. Review What We Have Before Shopping.  Quite often when life is really busy, I stop at the store on a whim and just guess what we are running low on.   This leads to buying items we don’t actually need, and not buying what we do need.  I will also place a list on the refrigerator so that I can easily record what we have run out of.  (Something I should have been doing all along.)
  4. Buy More Storage Containers (on sale).  Sometimes leftovers get put in little bags that get buried in the back of the fridge, never to be seen again until fridge-cleaning day.  I dream of one day having one of those nicely organized refrigerators with nicely stacked Tupperware containers inside.
  5. Reorganized the Shelves In The Refrigerator.  I did this when I cleaned out the refrigerator already, but I set up items in the refrigerator so that everything is easier to see.  Before, the shelf  settings were not quite right to see all the food being stored on a couple of the shelves.  Now, just about everything can be seen.
Hopefully, my new plan will just about put an end to my family throwing away food that was once good.  Wasting anything is a terrible thing, but wasting food drives me especially crazy.  I know we spent good money on all that food I threw out today, and that I also spent time preparing some of the food that was tossed.  With there being so many people in the world that have so little, I just feel awful when I throw so much food out, and for no good reason.

 

 

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone October 11, 2011 at 8:02 am

I am equally guilty! Especially with perishables – once in the refrigerator, it is promptly forgotten only to be thrown away later.

Your plan is a good start!

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I think my biggest item that I forget about is cucumbers. My crisper seems to be an abyss where food sometimes goes to, never to be seen again until trash day.

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The Biz of Life October 11, 2011 at 8:21 am

My wife has the same problem. If you figure something out that works, let your readers know.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I will Biz. I need a plan that sticks too, and not just for a week. It needs to last through busy times and slow times, and maybe even a holiday!

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Darla October 11, 2011 at 8:42 am

I read Little House’s post right before this one and had the same feeling of shame. While normally quite frugal – I’ve noticed the waste has become more frequent. =( If I ‘save’ $2 with a coupon on an item and throw 50% of it out…did I really save? I have to come up with a plan to get my arms around this wasteful habit. Like Biz said – if you figure out something tht works then let us know. I am considering an inventory list!

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I know, sometimes the deals seem to good to be passed up, and then you forgot you bought the item, and it just ends up being a big waste. I will keep track of my strategies and see what helps the most and provide an update!

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Denise @ The Single Saver October 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

“The Frugal Girl” (thefrugalgirl.com) chronically her food waste every Friday and encourages her readers to do the same and link up. I typically do this, though haven’t for the last month or two due to being busy, and the public shame helps motivate me to avoid food waste as much as possible.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Denise, that is really interesting. I am going to have to stop by that site on Friday for reinforcement.

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Little House October 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

My husband wrote that post after going through our fridge and realizing we had a lot of food that had spoiled because it was “hiding” in the back. When we threw out our 3 uneaten eggs the other day, we noticed we really did throw away about 30% of our food. And that’s just too much! I think your plan sounds great. I’m trying to get better at foraging through the fridge for things I’ve forgotten about and eat them up. We’ll see how that goes. 😉 Thanks for including my link!

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Well, I threw out four times the amount of eggs you did! Actually, I think I tossed about 30 percent too, and it broke my heart.

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Money Beagle October 11, 2011 at 10:46 am

One tip that I heard that stuck with me is to make sure your storage/leftover containers are see-through. If you’re looking around the fridge at any point in time, your mind will not register a covered up dish whereas if it’s in a clear container, you’ll ‘see’ it and will be more apt to do something with it.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm

That is very true Beagle. I know if I throw something in an old Cool Whip container, it definitely gets forgotten. Sometimes it is good to reuse (the cool whip container), but in this case, I would probably be better off just recycling it.

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Kellen @ Accountant by Day October 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

I’ll tell you what the issue is – refridgerators need to not extend so deep! We should have fridges that are twice as wide, and half as deep, so all of our food is at the front!

I deal with this problem by only having enough food in the fridge for the next two days or so… not always ideal though. I imagine meal plans help too.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I totally agree that deep refrigerators make it so much harder. The space in my kitchen is only so wide though, so I would have to chop down a wall for my new, wider fridge!

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GiMan October 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

I think that all of us are guilty of this in a degree or another. The first step in solving the issue is realizing there is a problem, this is what most of us refuse to admit.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I have a lot of problems to admit… 🙂 I was so happy to see my nice clean, organized fridge this morning!

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Krantcents October 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Good ideas. I would add to make less so you have less leftovers. If you buy less, make less and have less leftovers, you should have less waste.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Good ideas Krantcents. I usually cook in huge amounts so we have purposeful leftovers. But quite often, that last little bit gets thrown out at the end.

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First Gen American October 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Things that have helped me…the stupidest thing I do by far is I shop for a week of groceries whether or not we are home for a week or not. If you have games at night or are going away or your husband is travelling, you need a different amount of food than if everyone is home..duh I know, seems so obvious but I always tend to buy the same amount of food whether we are all home or not.

Clear storage containers are great too. If you can’t see what’s in the container, you won’t always remember what’s in it. You can be like babci and use glass jars. They are great for soups and hardboiled eggs and such.

Lastly, I try not to buy things just because they are on sale. Something that doesn’t need prep work is fine, like fruit, but if it requires extra work to prepare, alot of times, it gets uneaten.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Great tips First Gen. I also think I need to replace the light in my fridge. Sounds dumb, but I think it makes it extra hard to see some of the items.

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Squirrelers October 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

It’s ok…don’t be mad at yourself. We all waste money on one thing or another, even if we are PF bloggers who might even micromanage pennies 🙂

Wasting food and actually apending too much on food are both areas of waste for me. I’m able to succeed in other areas, but that’s one that I have issues cutting to the bone. That’s ok, as we’re all different and have different priorities. It’s just the wasting that I need to work on, probably like you. The idea of planning ahead with lists is one that probably helps a lot, as well as keeping quick lists of what’s expiring soon. Maybe posting that on the fridge might keep it top of mind.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Isn’t it funny how we all know what we SHOULD do in life, but lack of time or whatever gets in the way and we just do what we can to get by. Human nature I guess.

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager October 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm

My roommate is a big food waster too! Drives me up the wall, he goes out and buys tons of groceries then I struggling to make a good meal with stuff and usually a lot gets thrown away. Hopefully this process will get better over time.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm

You should eat all his extras when he isn’t looking!

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Money Reasons October 11, 2011 at 10:05 pm

My problem is I keep buying a eggs to boil for a diet that I never go on. I’m about to try it again, buying yet another package of eggs, hopefully I’ll stick to it this time 🙂

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I throw out eggs sometimes too (including this time around) and I hate it. I do boil a lot of eggs, but I often make egg salad which is probably not very diet friendly!

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Travis @debtchronicles October 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm

My goal is to have a virtually empty refrigerator when it’s grocery shopping day (except basics and condiments). I aim to buy exactly what I need for the next week. I hardly ever throw anything away!

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Wow that is quite a goal. I bet it is really easy for you to clean the refrigerator too!

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Doctor Stock October 11, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I definitely have been there… it is so easy to forget. I find the best way for me is to eat for lunch what was left over from the night before… not a lot of variety, but definitely less prep time and keeps the food from spoiling.

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Kris October 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch too,and so do the kids. However, some things do somehow get forgotten still, as I saw yesterday.

Aren’t leftovers great- and they are usually better for you than fast food too.

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funancials October 12, 2011 at 9:13 am

I’m terrible with this. In an attempt to be healthy, I’ll often buy fruit. 50% of the time it goes bad before I touch it.

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Kris October 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I do that sometimes Funancials, especially berries since they get moldy so fast. Just keep looking at your produce drawer each day and vow to eat something out of it!

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retirebyforty@retireby40.org October 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Good luck! We have one of the shallow cabinet debt fridge and it makes a huge difference. It’s quite a bit smaller than the usual fridge and we can see everything without digging around. We buy less food because it’s smaller and I think we are doing pretty well in general. Yes, we throw out food sometime, but not a lot.

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Kris October 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

The shallow fridge seems to be key. I am still loving seeing my cleaned out fridge. However, it looks like I haven’t gone shopping in a month.

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martin October 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

really interesting post i never have alot of waste ,Before we go shopping we plan the meals for the week buy what i needed and towards the end if the week see what is left and just have a mix of a meal what is there.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 8:08 am

I know meal planning is a great thing and I do try to plan as much as possible. Sports are settling down for us in the next couple weeks, and planning will be much easier for me soon. It is the best when you can plan you meals along with what is on sale too.

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Christa October 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I also hate wasting food. I grew up in a poor household, so my mom mourned wasted food like it was a death in the family. Especially wasted meat. We were trained to eat all of the meat on our plate unless my mom had plans for soup from the leftovers. To this day, I work hard to eat leftovers within a few days, and I’ve even trained my husband to eat leftovers too — and he hates them!

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 8:04 am

Nice analogy Christa!

I actually like leftovers, but with my unorganized refrigerator, they kept slipping to the back, never to be found again until cleaning day.

I am a nut about food safety, so meat is gone after 3 days of storage…

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Jen October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

I am procrastinating cleaning my own frig and came across your blog…ha! One thing I use is a wipe board on my frig, where I write down leftovers and things that need to be used up. My husband is a late-nigh snacker and he loves knowing what to grab and eat. It also helps me think up what to make for dinner or put out for kid snacks. On AllRecipes.com I search by “Ingredients” and come up with ideas with foods that I have in the frig and pantry, using up things (especially veggies) that need to be eaten! I always remember something Grandma told me, though. You can WASTE it or WAIST it, so sometimes it is okay to toss it rather than eat it, especially if it is something fattening like expiring sour cream!

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 7:58 am

Does you love Allrecipes???

I like your waist/waste comment. However, I just can serve ‘Mexican night’ without sour cream. 🙂

Enjoy cleaning the fridge. It took me a loooong time, but it was so rewarding!

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Evan October 18, 2011 at 9:44 pm

The Wife is the WORST! It kills me whens he wastes food. I do the fridge cleaning (only cleaning I do lol) it kills me when I throat out old food or forgotten leftovers.

Your tips are FANTASTIC – I’ll be forwarding this post to her lol

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Thanks Evan. Make sure you don’t send this comment along to her though. 🙂

My fridge is still sparkling and full of only fresh food!

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