Our kitchens foster all the satisfaction that comes from the eating and togetherness that occurs around our tables. At the heart of all of this is the food itself, which when not properly managed, has to be discarded. Throwing out food that's gone bad causes a special kind of guilt. Here are a few ways to avoid it.
Keep a Menu Plan in Plain Sight
Not wasting food happens before you even go to the store to buy it. Planning your meals for the week ensures that you only buy what you need and that you'll use up everything you buy. Never underestimate the power of a chalkboard or white board hung somewhere in the kitchen—a very visible board will keep you on track throughout even the busiest of weeks. Or, if you prefer to keep things digital, I love Plan to Eat, but I've also heard good things about Paprika.
SOME TIPS FOR YOUR PLAN:
Include an empty night or two: Meal planning doesn't mean you'll cook every night, or that you should. In fact, keeping a couple empty nights in each week allows for the very real possibility that you'll eat out one night and also leaves room for a leftovers night that will remind you to consume whatever you didn't finish earlier in the week.
Consider cuisines with particular ingredients: Try to consider planning additional meals that use up ingredients you'll buy for another meal. For instance, if you buy a bunch of cilantro and only need two tablespoons for the recipe you'll use on Monday, plan another cilantro-containing dish for later in the week.
Store Fruit Out in the Open
Fruit, of course, is an excellent snack and side dish. But when it's hidden in drawers in the fridge, you're less likely to reach for it. Instead, store it in a nice basket or bowl on the counter (but remember some fruits, like grapes and strawberries need to stay chilled). Organic decor and waste prevention, check and check.
Designate (and Label) Refrigerator Shelves
This might seem a bit over the top, but when you (and, more importantly, everyone else who puts things back in the fridge!) know that condiments are always kept on the right fridge door, you won't accidentally buy duplicates while old items languish unfound. Furthermore, when you have a designated spot for leftovers, you know where to look first when you open the refrigerator for something to nosh on.
Always Label Your Leftovers
Label leftovers with the date they need to be consumed by so no one is throwing anything out because of an unknown.
Turn Your Produce Drawers Into a Rotating System
It's easy to forget what's hidden inside your refrigerator's crisper drawers when you use them as a storage free for all. Instead, make them work for you with this system from Think Eat Save:
I have labeled the produce drawers with "Week 1″ and "Week 2″. If not everything gets used up on the first week, it gets moved over to the "Week 2″ drawer before I bring put any new groceries away. When I'm deciding what vegetables to have with dinner, I always check the "Week 2″ drawer and use up whatever's in there first.
Store Food That Needs to be Eaten at Eye Level
It's a simple tip, but it just might be the most important one on the list. Whenever you have something that needs to be eaten soon before it goes bad, store it on an eye-level shelf. If every time you open the fridge, your must-eats are the first thing you see, you'll be more likely to use them up—keeping your food waste to a minimum, forever.