14 Easy Ways To Combat Food Waste That You Can Start Doing Right Now

Whether you're working on revamping your budget or your eating habits, I'm willing to bet that the amount of food you waste (or, ideally, don't waste) is an important factor in your plans. Minimizing food wastage is good for your wallet because it frees you from paying for groceries you don't actually need, and it also reinforces healthy snacking by helping you keep fresh foods available for longer periods of time so you're not always defaulting to the cookie stash. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with the cookie stash, of course. Cookie stashes are important.) To that end, I hope that you'll find these easy ways to combat food waste helpful. Hey, if nothing else, trying a few of these will make your grandmother proud that you can better stick to her "waste not, want not!" philosophy.

Some of these suggestions will help improve your overall strategy for keeping food in good, usable shape longer, and others will allow you to get more mileage out of specific groceries that tend to go to waste often. With a little extra time and thought, I think you'll find that you're throwing less food — and money — in the trash, and enjoying your meals more in the process.

When In Doubt, Freeze It

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The freezer is a great place to store almost anything that you don't want to throw away. According to a handy chart from Foodsafety.gov, everything from bacon to soup to pizza can be safely frozen for up to a few months. Epicurious also offers tips for freezing nuts, bread, coffee, and more.

Make A Plan

Meal planning might seem like an unnecessary chore to add to your list of weekend to-dos, but it will go a long way toward cutting back on the amount of food that you waste over the course of the week. Taking a few minutes to consider how you might be able to repurpose leftovers or use a single ingredient in multiple recipes over a short period of time will ensure that you're not buying more groceries than you need or setting yourself up to throw food away.

Swap Leftovers

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If you feel like you're wasting a lot of food, chances are that you have friends, neighbors, or co-workers that feel the same. Set up a regular leftover swap with someone else who is trying to conserve food. You'll cut back on wastage without being stuck with your own leftovers for multiple nights in a row.

Preserve Avocado With Onion

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Store leftover avocado halves with a fresh red onion in order to keep them from turning brown for an extra day or two. According to Lifehacker, this approach will prevent the oxidation process more effectively than storing the avocado with lemon juice, plastic wrap, or water. You'll never throw out the second half of an avocado again!

Get Creative With Leftover Herbs

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The tricky thing about shaking up your food routine and trying new recipes is that you often find yourself stuck with lots of leftover fresh herbs. Don't let this discourage you from expanding your culinary horizons! Instead, look for ways to repurpose the herbs, parsley, mint, basil, and thyme that you're left with. USA Today suggests freezing them into ice cubes or using them in fresh veggie or chip dips. Extend the life of these herbs by washing them, wrapping them in paper towels, covering them with a plastic bag, and placing them upright in a glass of water in your refrigerator.

Clean Your Fridge Regularly

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When you approach your perishables with baby steps by doing small purges of past-due items every few days, you'll be less likely to go into full rampage mode simply because you're overwhelmed by all the food staring you down. You'll waste less by having fewer items to sort through.

Stop Stressing About Use-By And Sell-By Dates

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No one's suggesting that you make a habit of eating food that's long past its expiration date, but the truth is that the sell-by dates indicated on a lot of packaged food are really just an indication of the last day that a store can display the food, while use-by dates are often meant to indicate the last day of peak quality. According to the USDA, products can still be safe and wholesome if they're handled properly after those dates — unless, of course, they develop a spoiled smell or texture.

Wrap Cheese Loosely

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It's so wrong to waste cheese — especially the fancy kind — and to prevent this, Serious Eats recommends wrapping it loosely so that the plastic wrap doesn't actually touch the cheese itself. Tight wrapping promotes bacteria growth and prevents the dissipation of the odors that will tell you when the cheese has actually gone bad.

Repurpose Stale Bread

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Stop tossing stale bread. According to Skillet, bread that's a little on the chewy side actually makes the best croutons! All you have to do is cut or tear the bread into cubes, toss the cubes in olive oil and seasoning, then bake them for about 15 minutes in a 375-degree oven.

Have "Clean Out The Refrigerator Night"

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If your fridge is already full of perfectly respectable leftovers and other delicious perishables, resist the urge to call for take-out or break out a new recipe. Instead, set out a full buffet of options straight from the refrigerator. You'll save tons of wastage and give yourself a totally legit excuse to go on a grocery spree later on.

Add Shelf Life To Your Greens

Per Reboot With Joe, you can make your spinach, kale, lettuce, and other greens last longer if you rinse the leaves, let them dry slightly, then store them in a container with paper towels in the fridge.

Test Eggs Before Tossing

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Not sure if you can trust the sell- or use-by date on the carton of eggs sitting in your kitchen? According to Food-Hacks, you can find out if an egg is expired once and for all by testing it in a bowl of cold water. Fill a bowl and place your eggs inside. If they sink fully to the bottom of the water, they're fresh. If they're a few weeks old but still safe to eat, they'll stand on one end at the bottom of the bowl. If the eggs float, toss them! Tests like this will make you a smarter consumer and limit your food waste, since you won't constantly be replacing perfectly good food.

Wrap Produce

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That extra plastic wrapping they give you for produce at the supermarket isn't just destined for the trash. Per USA Today, industry experts now tell us that plastic wrap can keep certain produce from ripening too quickly "by slowing the intake of oxygen and the release of ethylene gas." Leave wrapped food in its plastic packaging until you need it, or wrap fruits and veggies yourself to extend their life in your kitchen. You can even keep bananas fresher longer by separating and wrapping their stems only in plastic wrap, according to Lifehacker.

Refresh Chips And Crackers

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Stale chips and crackers can come back to life if you put them in the microwave at full-power for ten seconds, per LIVESTRONG.