Picture of Save Money by Throwing Out Less Food

Have you ever felt like you just bought some lettuce and it’s already gone bad, turning soggy and gross? Or what about that milk — how can it already be past its expiration date? Buying food and then throwing it out before you eat it because it’s gone bad is a common problem for people — in the United States, it’s estimated that people throw out up to 40% of the food they get. What a waste, literally! Not only is that food filling up landfills, accounting for some 31 million tons of waste each year, but it costs people a lot of money too. Each month, it’s about $33 per person wasted, adding up to about $400 for a person in a year.

For this Instructable, I decided to answer the following question: Which foods are thrown out most frequently in my household, and how much money is it costing me? In other words, if I bought those foods in smaller amounts (because I’m not eating them before they go bad), how much money would I save? My hypothesis was that the foods we’re throwing out the most are vegetables (especially lettuce) because I feel like I throw them out a lot, but I don’t think it adds up to that much money — maybe $10 for our household in a month.

A little background about my household: It includes two adults who compost, have chickens, and have a vegetable garden. This basically means that none of our food is actually ever thrown in the trash — any bits that are still good go to the chickens, and everything else goes into the compost. Additionally, we get some food from our vegetable garden (although when I did this investigation in the early spring, the garden wasn’t producing much yet), and doing this Instructable is good to help you know what you should plant in the garden (i.e., what you’ll be able to eat before it goes bad), and what you shouldn’t plant or should plant less of in the future.

chipper3510 months ago

Cool graphic!!

Teisha (author)  chipper3510 months ago

Thanks, chipper35! And thanks for checking out my 'ible!

bifaerie791 year ago

WOW! That's a lot of time and calculations you did for us! Just thinking about it makes my head spin. I've been wanting to keep better track of what our family throws away (mostly perishables, like you) too, and you've very kindly taken all of the hard work out of it for me! Thanks for the spread sheets as well. Fantastic instructable!

Teisha (author)  bifaerie791 year ago

Thanks so much for your positive comments, bifaerie79! I really appreciate it. It was a bit of work, but I think it was worth it.

Since we often just weren't eating food before it expired, I think we'll keep a simplified version on the refrigerator at all times that just shows what's in there, and its expiration date (based on our experience, as shown in this Instructable). It's easier to eat the food before it goes back if you can quickly see that information and are just more aware of it, I think -- better for planning meals.

PDXHICKS1 year ago

Great job on this. We rarely toss food in our two person household unless I get sick and cannot prepare the fresh produce I purchased to use that week. We had to live on little for a few years and discovered as you have that things last longer than we think sometimes.

I had never heard of the butter trick either so thanks to Rick for the great tip!

rickharris1 year ago

1 don't buy more perishables than you need for the next few days.

2. Ignore use by dates - If it looks Ok - Smells Ok then more then likely it is OK.

3. Use basic preservation techniques. Fridge 4 deg C 39 deg F

Freezer -18 deg C 0 F

Food that has been cooked can be refrozen to use later

Store salad and fresh veg in plastic ware containers to minimise water loss.

Coat foods that brown - eg avacado with lemon juice this will stop the browning.

Don't keep bananas with other fruit - they give off ethylene gas which ripens fruit quickly.

Coat cheese with a layer of butter or spread to stop it growing mould. Just wipe it all over with your finger.

Things that are pickled or very high in sugar will not go bad as bacteria cannot grow - HOWEVER modern products often have reduced sugar and other preservatives which don't work as well. Answer pickle, can your own food when it is cheap and plenty full.

Teisha (author)  rickharris1 year ago

Thanks for the tips, rickharris -- I agree (though I'd never heard of the cheese and butter trick -- I'll have to try that!). We also do a lot of our own pickling/preserving/canning from our garden -- we've still got tons of cans of pickles, pickled beets, and apple butter from a year ago. For tip #1 though, I think it can be hard for people to accurately estimate just how many perishables they need in, for example, a given week -- that's why doing something like this Instructable can be useful because it gives you an idea of what you're actually eating before it goes bad. Thanks for checking out the Instructable!

cupquake1 year ago
What's mahi mahi
Teisha (author)  cupquake1 year ago

It's a type of fish. Although it was cooked, I don't like to keep fish longer than three days. Thanks for checking out my Instructable!