With bikini season approaching, Food Inc. on our DVD queues, and Jamie Oliver all over everything, food is definitely top of mind right now. We’re eating right, being more conscious of what we put in our bodies, and increasingly mindful of where our food comes from, because “from the grocery store” no longer qualifies as an answer. But what about all the food that doesn’t get from the fridge into our bellies, the food that, at best, is getting composted because we couldn’t eat it before it spoiled?

According to the USDA, 14 percent of all the food that we buy ends up in the trash, adding up to almost $600 thrown away each year. If we were as conscious about keeping our food correctly as we are about choosing the foods we buy, we could save a ton of cash and spend a lot less time cruising grocery store aisles. 

Chart 1: Extending the life of your perishables


SWIFT SHIFT: Monica, a beauty professional in Ventura County, Calif., and mother to William, age 6, was a complete leftover-a-phobe before we got our hands on her. Her fear of spoiled leftovers had her throwing away almost 40 pounds of perfectly good food weekly — essentially tossing out $400 per month!

Like any good mama concerned about her child’s health and development, Monica had questions: How can I ensure that my leftovers are safe to eat? We had answers: Five simple rules to keep leftovers enjoyably edible:

  1. All leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours
  2. Label leftovers with the date
  3. Refrigerate and eat, or freeze within 3-4 days
  4. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave on low power. (Never leave frozen food on the kitchen counter.)
  5. Reheat leftovers on the stovetop or in the microwave on glass or ceramic plates, which won't leach potentially harmful chemicals into food, which is possible with plastic containers.
Or, if you find yourself with foods that seem questionable, give ‘em a second life by getting creative:

Chart 2: Bringing foods back to life

Armed with a bevy of glass food storage containers, Monica learned to shift her habit. Finding out that leftover food was nothing to be afraid of if treated properly, she found herself shopping less, planning meals based on what she already had in her fridge, and becoming more playful and creative with repurposing leftovers.

The Shift: Use what you already have in the fridge to make meals, and spend less time and money at the grocery store.

Save $$: Simply by eating more leftovers, you can save $10 every week, which adds up to over $500 in savings per year.

Save the planet: Less food waste keeps trash to a minimum, and driving back and forth to the grocery store less frequently keeps CO2 emissions low.

For more easy shifts like these, pick up a copy of Shift Your Habit. This article comes courtesy of ShiftyourHabit.com and was reprinted here with permission.