Day 20 of the January Money Diet – A Foolproof Way to Cut Spending

Eliminate food waste | January Money Diet

“Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” – John 6:12b

Many of us can significantly reduce our monthly expenses without sacrificing one thing. The key is to eliminate wasting resources. When we stop wasting, we enjoy the same quality of life but we have more to share.

This was a hard list for me to write, but these are some of the things I’ve wasted:

Food – I’ve cooked too much, purchased too much, and forgotten about food. I’ve stored food improperly so it spoiled before we ate it. I feel so terrible when I waste food.

Time – I’ve wasted time on social media, watching mindless TV, and doing unproductive things like worrying or gossiping.

Money – I’ve wasted money on impulse buys, and purchasing things to impress others. I’ve bought things I didn’t really need.

Resources – I’ve left the lights on in an empty room, and let the water run needlessly. I’ve been careless and left the automatic sprinklers on during a rain storm. I’ve discarded things that someone else could have used.

Practical Strategies for Reducing Waste

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy, costing the average family between $1,365 and $2,275 each year.

On the positive side, using only what we need can be a wonderful way to stretch our money, honor the earth’s resources, and have more to share with those in need.

For inspiration, you might enjoy reading about a family who’s figured out how to cut waste at  Zero Waste Home.

What if 2016 was the year we all stopped wasting even one morsel? Let’s do this! Here are some strategies:

Waste Less Food

* Cook the right amount for your family. If you regularly throw away uneaten portions, recalculate your favorite recipes. Better to eat every bite and occasionally give a family member an apple if he’s still hungry after a meal, than constantly discard leftovers.

* Take leftovers to work the following day for lunch, and save money on meals out.

* Reinvent your leftovers in another meal (casserole, stir fry, soup) within a day or two.

* Freeze leftover meat, veggies, juices, milk, etc. for soups and stews. Do this within a day or two of cooking to preserve quality.

* Save and freeze the cooking water from vegetables, and use it as a flavor-enhancing base for soups and sauces. Spaghetti sauce freezes well, too.

* Be aware of small waste. Do you routinely throw away a third cup of coffee from the pot every day? Measure out exactly how much you need and experiment until you find the exact amount that eliminates waste.

* Save the carcass from a roast chicken or turkey and use it to make a batch of homemade stock.

* American restaurants are notorious for serving too-large portions. Don’t be shy about asking for a doggie bag at a restaurant. Or consider sharing a meal to eliminate food waste.

* If they’re too far gone, compost fruits and vegetables that are past their prime.

Conserve Resources

* Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.

*Repair drippy faucets and leaky toilets.

*Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.

*Check out these 100 water saving ideas.

*Try these energy saving ideas from Day 8.

Eliza’s One and Only Time Management Tip

As a self-employed writer, making the most of my time is a daily challenge. Some days I feel so tired at the end of the day, and yet I feel like I accomplished so little. I think many of us feel that way on a regular basis. Perhaps we need to cut ourselves some slack, and get back to basics.

Here’s my simple tip, which I read a long time ago and try to practice every weekday. At the beginning of the day, write down your top three priorities — the three most important things you would feel really good accomplishing today. Then start with the one task on the list that makes you feel the most resistance.

If you get off track browsing Pinterest for donut recipes or watching funny dog videos (speaking for myself), just re-focus on those three things. Repeat tomorrow.

How About You?

Is yours a zero-waste home, or is this an area you want to work on? Do you have ideas to add to this list? If you’ve adopted any conservation strategies, will you share them with us in the Comments section of this page?

Here’s to wasting less and sharing more in 2016.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day 20 of the January Money Diet – A Foolproof Way to Cut Spending

  • Ellen

    Food/Time: I don’t have a lot of time in my day when it comes to food prep AND I would say that wasting food (accidentally) is still one of my issues.

    One thing I have tried is Freezer Meal menus which works really well (for me). I set aside half of a day to shop and prep the meals to be frozen and then take them out as needed to be prepared. The menus I’ve selected too often have similar/ common ingredients so there is not waste on buying something that is a one-off that you only need part of. Also prior to the meals being frozen I portion them out accordingly.

    I guess this is a proactive and not a reactive strategy.

    Anyone else tried something like this? Did it work for you?

  • Kim

    I also have a container in the freezer for left over veggies and use it for soup. Make chicken stock from left overs etc… I no longer receive the flyers / junk mail, I can always look at the flyers on line. I cut up old sheets, towels for rags to save on paper towels. Knit my own dishclothes & when they are worn they go to the rag bag to. Recycle as much as possible, donate to the Next to New. I enjoy the challenge of stretching everything as far as possible. Going to the Library is an inexpensive outing for me, also enjoy the Library movie night.

  • Lynn Louise

    We try to conserve as much as we can. With a teenage growing son there are few leftovers in the fridge and not much goes to waste. I do the same thing with the water as Mila does so we have the water hot before the dishwasher starts. I use the clothesline as much as I can and even have a line in the basement to use in the winter months. It is expensive to run a dryer especially for heavier items that take a while to dry. I always keep the broth when I make chicken or beef and then use it for soup or other recipes. I pack my lunch every day when I go to work and always have meals planned so we don’t waste money eating out. We do recieve a lot of junk mail and right now I just end up tossing it. I’ll be looking for a better way to recycle it. I make alot of homemade food including strawberry jam and yogurt (your recipe Eliza) and I am currently trying to make my own butter. When I look back I cringe at some of the things I bought that were total wastes of money. Clothes, furniture, household items…things that I just thought I had to have. Now I wish I had the money I spent on them instead of the items. I have curbed my spending over the last few years and am really conscientous about what I buy and how much it costs.

  • Lynette

    We have been aiming to be a zero waste home for a few years now. We rarely have leftover food, chooks are great to eat food scraps. We have minimal paper waste as we don’t receive junk mail. we also drastically reduced our water consumption by not flushing the toilet when only doing a wee(I know this is not for everyone)for five people this saves thousands of litres of water. We also avoid processed food so are not throwing away food packaging.

  • Mila

    We compost and have for about 5 years now. We are about to start another garden area and have lots of compost to rototill into our garden area. When you grow your own veggies it not only saves money, but also all those plastic bags we put our produce in (or it comes in) when we purchase it at the grocery store.
    I freeze a lot of leftovers and thus have meals ready to go. My husband is not one who likes to eat things more than two days in a row. Sheesh! So I rotate these frozen meals back into the menu in about three weeks or so. I raised six children and, even though the youngest has been gone for year, I still cook to much.
    We also fill up a container with water in the sink as we let the water get hot, before we run the dishwasher. Otherwise, the dishwasher will run the same water until it’s hot enough to start the wash cycle. It’s about a gallon of saved water every time. We use this to water indoor plants and fill the electric tea kettle, among other uses.
    I do need to start doing a better job of recycling paper. I’m always throwing away the junk mail. I need aspecific place to collect it so I can turn it in when I have a box full.
    I’m enjoying these challenges. I ONLY read books from the library. My library has a program that shows how much I have saved by not buying the books I have read. Over $3000 last year!!!!

  • Emilia

    I hate wasting food. Awhile back my husband and I started saving vegetable scraps for veggie broth. We keep a plastic tub (empty spinach container) in the freezer and add onion skins, ends of carrots, kale stems, etc.. When it’s full we make broth and then repeat the process. My recent trick has been freezing the unfinished pieces of fruit that my toddler leaves on her plate in a jar and adding them to her smoothies.

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