10 Steps to Prevent Food Waste

organized food storage

organized food storage

Modern refrigerators are a wonderful thing.  They have many more features compared to models used by our grandparents: automatic ice makers, water dispensers, water filters, slide-out drawers, and side-by-side refrigerator/freezer convenience.  One other feature that may not be immediately noticeable is the size.  Refrigerators are so much larger compared to those made 50 years ago.  But this feature (in my opinion) has given rise to something I am guilty of… and perhaps you may nod in guilty agreement… refrigerator blindness, otherwise known as wasting food.

Yes, I confess to being refrigerator blind (wasting food) at times.  What I mean by this is that with all of the ample storage space, I find myself storing lots of food in it, covering almost every square inch of horizontal surfaces generously provided by the manufacturer.  With various containers and food packages filling the shelves, the items towards the back aren’t as visible and tend to be passed over for items more readily visible in the front.   And unfortunately, this can result in food that spoils before it is eaten.  Unsuspecting snackers may stumble across these innocent looking containers, but when the lid is removed, “Voila….science project!”

But before we wrongly lay blame on our beloved refrigerators, lets take a look at modifying our behavior, in an attempt to prevent future food loss.

Steps to Eliminate Refrigerator Blindness

  1. Don’t store fresh products in bulk:  Ask yourself, will you be able to eat it all before it goes bad in the refrigerator?   If the answer is no, consider freezing meats, mincing fresh herbs into olive oil and freezing, and blanching vegetables and freezing for later use.
  2. Use transparent storage containers:    If you can more readily see what is in the container, you may be more likely to remember to eat it.
  3. Organize containers by height:  By placing taller containers towards the back and shorter ones in the front, you can more easily see what you have on hand.
  4. Eat your leftovers:  This sounds simple enough, but when it comes to meal planning, do you plan in meals that take advantage of your leftovers?
  5. Use your fresh ingredients first:  fresh produce, meats, and dairy does not last for weeks on end in the refrigerator.  Make your meals using fresh ingredients first.  A bad habit is buying fresh and later that day, preparing a meal from commercially produced boxed and canned projects (these items have chemical shelf stabilizers so they can last for months in a pantry).
  6. Check fresh items every day:  if you make this a daily practice, it becomes habit, and you will readily see the state of all of your fresh food.
  7. Buy only what you immediately need: Europeans have been doing this for ages.  Traditionally, their refrigerators are much smaller and so this naturally limits the amount of fresh food purchased.  Buy purchasing just enough for a few meals, you are more likely to prepare what you have on hand.
  8. Plan your daily meals:  by planning your meals, you can shop for specific items rather than being motivated by what is on sale.
  9. Avoid impulse purchases:  stick to your shopping list!  This means that you are buying items for your planned meals.  Just how will you incorporate impulse purchases into your meals?  Will you expect everyone to eat an avocado  for dinner every night?  Or add slices of that artisan cheese to every meal?
  10. Freeze leftovers:  if you prepare a large meals and there are only a few of you, take half of what you made and freeze it for future meals.  As a bonus, if you package your leftovers into single servings destined for the freezer, you have now created your own convenience ‘frozen dinner’ minus the high cost of these boxed meals purchased from the grocery store.  Just remember to label and date the package so you don’t accidentally mistake a package of blanched tomatoes for a hearty chili.

While refrigerator blindness may afflict us all at some point, it does not have to become a way of life.  These 10 simple steps can be incorporated into your daily routine… just take them on one at a time.  By doing so, they will become habit.  Not only will you save money since you will actually use what you buy, but you don’t have to worry about being confronted by science projects.


10 responses »

  1. Refrigerator blindness–how true, how true. Very sound advice. One thing I do to combat the blindness is not fill the refrigerator. I have received lots of sneers, eye rollings and out right laughs when I told people this. A close friend even said that it is shameful and she’d fill it since we were too poor to buy food. Actually there is a lot of food in there–it’s like you said, “Refrigerators are so much larger compared to those made 50 years ago”. Lots of people think they have to be packed to the gills. My refrigerator is organized, I use the drawers for their intended uses; Eggs stay in their cartons on the top shelf; condiments on the door; and then there are clear bins I bought to corral the misc. A separate bin for fresh meats–they always leak something. I use clear plastic (shoebox size) bins for meat. One pack of meat per bin and then stack them without lids (so they don’t leak all over each other). The meat bin either goes in the DW or is washed by hand and stored under the stack once dry. One shelf is exclusively for leftovers–so I always know where they are. This also makes the refrigerator a breeze to clean. I wipe spills on demand and sanitize the whole refrigerator in under 10 minutes once a month. I may be compulsive about the refrigerator but hey– we gotta eat this stuff.

    • I like to compare a refrigerator to a purse. The larger they are, the more stuff you put in them. Not only does this make it hard to find what you want, but in the end, you waste some of what you bought because you could not find it before it spoiled. Your refrigerator sounds very organized. Well done!

    • Thank you. We try to use everything we harvest or purchase fresh… but every once in a while, we lose something in the back of the refrigerator. When I started these steps, the amount of food that was wasted was reduced. Good luck!

  2. We’re guilty of all of the above–especially impulse buys! Thanks for the reminders on how to use what you buy before it becomes compost.

  3. I have a monthly income so I have to buy the bulk of my food in one monthly trip. Instead of buying only what I need immediately, I arrange my meal plan for the month by the recipes with the most perishable items.

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