Reducing food waste in This Tiny Blue House

Let me preface this post by telling you quite honestly that Mer and I were the biggest food wasters ever. It’s shameful really. We’d buy so much food unnecessarily because we were awful about eating leftovers, cooking our food wisely and being frugal.  I cannot even tell you how many times I threw perfectly good food in the trash because I was too lazy to cook it and it expired. Like I said, we were just awful.

Then, when we decided to really focus on paying down our debt (post about that coming Wednesday so stay tuned) we gave ourselves a 75.00$ grocery budget each week. Beforehand, we’d spend at least 100$ weekly and then also spend over 100$ on take out because we were big food wasters and constantly felt we had nothing to eat. Absolutely ridiculous and so incredibly wasteful.

So back to the grocery budget thing. By lowering our grocery budget we had to become far more savvy about what we bought. Not only did we slash our grocery budget but we also cut out restaurant food so that 75 bucks had to feed us 3 meals a day – 7 days a week with NO exceptions.

What worked for us was meal planning every meal and snack we’d eat so we knew exactly what we needed to buy. We’d also look at our weekly grocery store flyers to see what was on sale  before we sat down to discuss what we’d be eating that week because 75$ doesn’t get very far around here unless you buy things on sale (We live in a high COL area and food prices  often reflect it). We never did without fresh produce, fresh meat or dairy. We simply bought those items on sale and made meals around them. We tried new vegetables because they were on sale and fell in love with things like Okra and Yuca which was something neither of us had ever eaten before. Moral of the story, it is possible to slash your grocery costs if you’re okay with experimenting with cooking and eating new and delicious foods.

Reducing our food waste happened by consequence. With less food in the house we had to get creative and not waste anything because wasting just wasn’t an option anymore. We were very much aware of how much individual items cost and we became far more vigilant about how we treated food. Respect all the food!

Here are a few techniques we use to keep our food waste to a minimum. The biggies in TTBH  are bread and vegetables and these are a few things we came up with that prevent us from wasting and also provide us with extra meals at no cost. Win win situation.

Bagging up vegetable “scraps” to make soup stock and then make delicious soup

This is amazing because it makes a delicious and FREE soup stock from vegetable “scraps” you’d otherwise throw in the trash.  I have a freezer bag in my fridge at all times and every time I have uncooked veggie scraps (peels, stems, tough outer leaves) I put them in the bag to make soup. On Sunday nights  I put all my veggies in a large stock pot, cover them with water and let them boil for an hour or until tender. Strain out the veggies and you’re left with a delicious and healthy stock that you can use fresh or freeze.

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This batch had garlic, onions, carrot  ends, carrot peels, potato peels, broccoli rab stems and the other leaves of the broccoli rab that were too tough to cook.

I’ve also made stock with eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, green beans. Almost all veggies work really well.

The batch I made yesterday will be used to make a minestrone this week with minestrone veggies I harvested and froze from our garden over the summer, frozen garden beans and frozen tomatoes. The entire meal is FREE.

Using Stale Bread Two Ways

Bread is the second biggest potential form of food waste  here in TTBH. We’ve always got chunks of hardened stale bread laying around. In the olden days  (ha! only 7 years ago) I’d just put it in the trash without much thought – now, I use it up in two different ways.

Sliced bread and hard crust baguettes get stored in a zip lock in my freezer. Every Friday night I pop them out of the freezer and let them thaw, chop them into chunks and prepare an amazingly delicious French toast bake to eat on Saturday morning.

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I follow this recipe, except I use old bread and I sometimes double the egg mixture depending on how much bread I have to use.  Also, I always soak it over night to sort of rehydrate the bread. It never fails and it’s always really delicious and such a treat on Saturday mornings. Margs loves it too. You can also add dried fruits like raisons, plums or apricots.

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With softer breads with less crust we make bread crumbs. Have you seen the price of bread crumbs or panko lately? Absolutely crazy considering you can make it yourself for free at home. The thing with breadcrumbs is that you need softer bread with less crust so loaves and Italian breads are perfect options. Leftover breads from dinners and such are stored on top of my fridge in a plastic tray where they dry out. Once the tray is full and the chunks are sufficiently dry I grind them up in my food processor and pass them through a colander to remove any larger pieces. I then store them in an air tight container in my pantry and season them as needed. (Salt, pepper, dried parsley & dried oregano are our go-to favorite seasonings).

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After midnight on NYE as we were walking/sleding home from a friends house!

I suppose that continuing on with our efforts to reduce food waste is one of my new years resolutions. I know I said I wasn’t setting any mostly because when I set goals I tend to fail miserably but I think we’ve really found our groove with handling food in this house so I want to keep on keeping on.

I hope you had an amazing New Year and that you’re creating awesome plans to reach your goals, resolutions and intentions for 2017. (Thank you for sharing them with me by the way, I seriously enjoyed reading them).  We were over at a friends place until far too late but we had an amazing time, were treated to a delicious meal and got to tow our kiddo in her sled because we opted to walk. Can I just tell you how peaceful the streets are at roughly 1am when you’re hauling a tiny kid in your sled? It was an exhausting but perfect night.

Now tell me, what hacks do you use to reduce your food waste?

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Author: Jenny

I'm Jenny, a 30-something mama to 1 living child and 5 angels. I live in a tiny blue cottage in a small suburb outside a major Canadian city. I live here with my miracle baby Margs, my husband Mer, my pup and my 2 cats. I blog about a bunch of different things including parenting, frugal living and minimalism. Feel free to subscribe to my blog and follow me on instagram, twitter or bloglovin.

53 thoughts on “Reducing food waste in This Tiny Blue House”

  1. I’m still kind of shaky on the food waste bit, but it’s not so much me as my boyfriend. I’m all about eating leftovers and things like that, but he insists on going out because he never feels like the food we have is “enough” for him. I’m trying to convince him that he doesn’t need to eat as much as he thinks he does and he should focus on consuming less, but better foods. Either way, we have started composting. It doesn’t do a lot for the actual edible parts of food, but it is nice not to throw away all of the fruit peels, veggie scraps, and other biodegradable items. Also, I’m hoping to use that compost to grow a nice little herb/veggie garden in the summer. It’s a lot harder trying to do that in an apartment with no yard, but it can be done! Keep working on that budget and you’ll be doing fantastic in no time!

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    1. Composting is a great start.

      Mer was a lot like your boyfriend. It was never enough yet he’d never eat it. I think it was a need to have a ton of food but we never consumed it if that makes sense. One of our biggies was eating leftovers for lunch – he was sort of resistant to this which inflated our food costs unnecessarily and led to a ton of waste (there’s only so many leftovers I can eat). Once he got on board we sort of found our groove.

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  2. I picked up some wonderful tips. Thanks! I had never thought about the making broth from veggie scraps & I’ll definitely be trying that. We do okay and are fine with leftovers but we eat out too much. Planning better is a sort of ongoing goal that I’m going to hit hard in the new year. All the best to you in 2017.

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    1. We love the broth. I tend to split the batch in 2. I leave half in our fridge to make a soup later in the week and then freeze small portions in muffin tins for Margs. That way I can make her a veggie soup for lunch anytime during the week.

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      1. I find it really useful both for cooking and for feeding Mars. Often when I’m making rice or roasting veggies in the oven I’ll pull out a muffin tin portion of stock to add a little bit of extra flavor.

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  3. Awesome ideas! This is a category my husband and I have yet to see eye to eye on. He’ll buy groceries without checking to see what we already have, or he’ll pick up ‘treats’ that we don’t really need, etc., then complain when we go over budget. I’m definitely going to try and corral our food spending this year. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. I know the feeling. Mer was really resistant to taking left overs for lunch which would inflate our food budget drastically. He’d want to buy lunch every.single.day which was costing us a ton and was really really unnecessary and like yours he’d complain about how much money we’d spend on cash.

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  4. Hi! New here… I’m going to have to try the food scraps thing. That sounds great! Some of the things we do… we make a list of the foods we do have before we shop, we go through the ads also and we make a plan for what to eat. The food list allows me to buy things we always use when they are on sale vs. regular price. Things like pasta, beans, canned goods, cake mixes (instead of buying expensive treats!) We also try to “schedule” for non-food items like cat food/litter, toilet paper, laundry supplies – try doing one per week, it gives you more money for food if you don’t buy them all on the same week. One more thing… we prioritize what’s for dinner by what’s going to spoil first. If he wants frozen this, but we have something in the fridge that won’t last like chicken, we cook chicken, then the next night we can do the frozen stuff.

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  5. I’ve started meal planning and meal prepping, and have taken to freezing ALL leftovers, and extra bread slices and it has reduced my food waste and weekly spend drastically! I’m now on a budget of £20 a week for food and sometimes don’t even spend anything on a food in a week as I know there’s plenty in the freezer

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  6. Great post – I’m definitely on a mission to cut my food budget and particularly the amount of food we throw away in 2017 so you’re tips are really helpful. I particularly like the ‘veg peel’ idea for soup stock as I make a lot of homemade soup and throw the outer leaves away etc. I’ll be keeping them from now on! Thanks for popping over to my Brilliance Within blog – much appreciated and I look forward to reading lots more of your tips. Happy New Year! x

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  7. I am SO awful with food waste in my house. I too waste food just because I’m too lazy to cook it or it’s just gone one day over its expiry. I always end up buying the same and keep doing the same every time. I definitely need to pick up some of your tips and definitely start budgeting and meal planning a lot more in the new year.

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    1. We were exactly the same way. When we slashed our budget down to 75$ a week we had to make pretty big changes. Hopefully you can come up with a plan that works for you and your family!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this! We compost our produce scraps, and I make stock from leftover meat scraps and bones. I use my crock pot for that too 😉 We also eat leftovers for lunch most days or freeze them. And we try to buy a few extra inexpensive “stockpile” items each week. A can of salmon, a bag of beans, etc. It helps keep the pantry stocked…resulting in a week of “free” meals every few months, and it ensures we have staple foods in the event of a weather emergency or something.

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      1. I add my scraps and fill with water to two-ish inches from the rim. I set it to high for about an hour so it gets nice and hot and then leave it on low overnight (at least). I usually end up straining it around lunch time. So easy and such good flavor!

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  9. The big thing in my household is also planning and we just got into using a slow cooker. So we couldn’t use the excuse that we didn’t feel like cooking and go out. It also help give us more variety to our meals!

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    1. I wish I could take credit! My great grandma used to do this in the summer months when she harvested her veggies and prepared them for freezing. She’s make enough stock to last her an entire winter worth of soups!

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      1. That is a very good idea. You can also freeze in Tupper Ware containers. That way you will both save money and avoid unnecessary plastic contamination. I freeze everything in tupper wares as well as used ice cream / margarine containers, what saves me almost 2 pounds per month.

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  10. One of the things I started doing to save food was to get everything into the freezer the day we shopped. Before I’d think “Well, I won’t freeze this or that because I’m going to cook it in the next few days.” But, with my disability I can’t always count on being able to cook certain things on certain days. And things would go bad before I’d use them.
    I also stopped (and this was much harder) cooking as though our kids were still living at home. Going from feeding a bunch of hungry teenagers to just the two of us was an adjustment! Now instead of buying two roasts for one meal I buy one and cut it in half for at least two meals.

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    1. We do that as well. When we buy chicken breast on sale we wrap each one individually in plastic wrap and pop it into the freezer. I rarely have fresh meat in the fridge. Instead, I just pull out whatever I need for that day in the morning and by the time dinner rolls around it’s thawed and ready to use.

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      1. Yep. That’s the way I do it. I usually have my meals planned out days in advance so I pull Tuesday’s dinner on Monday night, etc. I can’t believe how much waste I’ve eliminated by freezing things immediately!

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  11. I meal plan and cook a lot. I make meals out of scraps of everything and turns out well. I am a spend thrift and love eating out so I’ve cut down on it massively but still allow a treat every so often

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  12. Also I’m terrible with picking up treats at the supermarket. I have to really curb that. I buy in bulk and bulk up general dishes with butter beans and kidney beans etc and we eat fresh food a lot but I do love the treats. In restaurants I always get a doggy bag if I don’t finish and it’s great for leftover lunch or dinner

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    1. I’m so guilty of this too. I tend to gravitate towards treats so it was really hard to curb that completely but we managed. Now, we’ve loosened up the budget a little and I buy a few treats here and there. I can’t pass up brownies for some reason and they somehow manage to make their way into my cart every week. I’d make them but I suck at making brownies.

      The leftover thing is key. It’s a win win situation actually because you’re getting 2 meals out of 1 which makes the cost of eating out a little easier to digest. On occassions when we do eat out we always do this and have it for lunch/dinner the next day.

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  13. Food waste is still something that our family struggles with a little. I can’t count in them to eat leftovers, so I end up eating them over and over until it’s gone. Lame. Now I’m trying to repurpose bits of a previous previous meal more strategically. For example: cajun chicken in the crockpot. No one is going to even touch the left overs, so I pureed the stock and veggies from it along with a couple cans of tomatoes. Add a little cream and butter, and I’ve got spicy tomato soup. Which everyone ate. Today I’ll make papusas with the chicken and a little cheese, and that will dissappear as well.

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    1. Thanks a brilliant idea! I tend to do somewhat the same. Last week for example I made roast sausage with broccoli rab and then intentionally made extras. The following day I used the leftovers to make a pasta with garlic, sliced sausage and greens. Basically, my effort one night made two meals.

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