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  • Beth Sanders

Cutting Down on Food Waste

full shelves in grocery store

Did you know the average American family wastes between 30 and 40% of their food? That means, if you spend $100 a week on food, in one month you will throw away between $130 and $173 worth of food. And that doesn’t include the amount spent eating out.

According to, Americans eat on average 18.2 meals per month outside the home. If we use an average price of $15 per meal, that’s $273/month spent eating out.

Between food waste and eating out, Americans are losing as much as $443 a month in preventable food-related expenses. And usually more.

Are you like me and end up throwing out half your produce because it goes bad before you can eat it?

Are you interested in saving money on your grocery bill?

The secret? Meal planning and prep!

full refrigerator

I know, you may be thinking, “Oh, Lord. Here we go again!” If you’re like me, you’ve tried meal planning, which was usually a list of complicated recipes that I bought a bunch of specialty items for—items that were used in only one recipe and then (a few weeks later) ended up in the garbage with the rest of my food waste. When I first moved out on my own, I remember planning recipes that I found in Woman’s Day magazine—one had cherry tomatoes—and then throwing out every single thing I bought (including moldy tomatoes) because I never got around to using them.

It took me a few years, but I’ve finally learned that, in order for my meal planning to be successful, it’s got to be simple, and it’s got to be easy. And I need to use items for multiple recipes, so it cuts down on waste and saves money.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like cooking. It’s annoying to try and cook meals for one person. Recently I’ve learned some tips and tricks to help. So, while I still don’t enjoy cooking, I can at least reduce some of the pain points I experienced in the past.

screenshot of Recipe Book in Plan to Eat app
Plan to Eat Recipe Book

First, I created a list of all the meals I cook. I use to keep a list in a note on my phone, but now mine are in an online meal planning app called Plan to Eat (not sponsored). You can manually add recipes or use their recipe clipper to save recipes from other websites. It also has a calendar where you can plan out your meals and then create a shopping list from the plan.

It’s a fantastic app and I’ve used it in the past for meal planning, but I also like to write things down, so I fluctuate between using the app and my meal planning sheet—which is what I’m using now and will show in this video. I may do a demo of “Plan to Eat” in the future, if anyone’s interested. Let me know in the comments below.

Ok, so I have my list of meals that I cook. Next, I take a look in my freezer and pantry to see what items I have. Occasionally, when I’m really on the ball, I keep a list on my phone of freezer inventory, because otherwise I end up with 3 bags of frozen pre-cooked diced chicken (true story).

In this instance, I didn’t have an updated written inventory, so I quickly went through the items to see what was there and to make sure I didn’t buy something I already own.

After that, I printed out my Weekly Meal Planner sheet (click on the link for the free downloadable) that I created in Canva. This page has a line for the dates covered, followed by a section for each day of the week, and finally a place for the shopping list.

Under each day of the week, there are lines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a space for 3 snacks. I’m doing a diabetes prevention program through my state department of health and I’m following their guidelines for 3 small meals plus 3 nutritious snacks per day, which is why my planner is laid out this way.

Now that I have everything I need, I can start planning out my week. I also use old planners to help me come up with ideas.

Finally, I’ll go through each meal and write down on my shopping list the ingredients that I need to buy. I also add other things like cat litter—Loki’s diabetic and drinks a lot of water, so we go through a box a week—personal care items, and the occasional treat.

All that’s left is for me to place my order online and then pick-up my groceries.

Once I get everything home and put away, I’ve found it’s really important to prep my snacks and then portion it out correctly. Otherwise, one—they’ll either go bad because I’m too lazy to wash some strawberries when I’m really hungry or—and this is the more likely scenario—I’ll eat 3 servings of grapes because I’m not always mindful of my portion size.

I bought my boxes at Walmart (a 5-pk. for $3.46; I bought 3 packs). They aren’t leak proof, but for storing washed fruit or vegetable portions, they work great. When I was planning this post, I couldn’t find the exact boxes, but I linked to the closest ones I could find (1 compartment instead of 2).

Now that I have my meals planned and prepped, it’s up to me to be disciplined enough to stick to my plan. Like I mentioned before, prepping my ingredients and snack boxes makes a huge difference in reducing the amount of food I throw away each week. And maybe not everything will work the same for you. You may find that your food waste comes from something else. Let me know in the comments below what you struggle with when it comes to meal planning and prepping. The point is to identify the areas for improvement and figure out ways to try and get better.

Well, that’s all I have for this post. If you liked it, please let me know in the comments below, so I know I’m on the right track. If there’s something you’d love to see me cover, also let me know in the comments below.

I appreciate you reading and I hope you have a wonderful week. Bye!

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