meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

1. Reflect on what goes to waste each week

Are you an ingredient-buyer who lets fresh produce get mushy in the fridge, completely untouched? Or are you a leftovers-neglecter who tosses week-old casserole after it’s past its prime? Either way, identifying just what food waste you are producing can help guide you to becoming more resourceful and realistic about what you and your family eat. If purchasing pre-chopped or pre-made foods fits your lifestyle, that’s okay. Not everyone has the time or energy to continuously prepare foods from scratch each week. Know thyself.

RELATED: A community fridge in Spain lets residents avoid food waste by sharing

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

2. Organize your shopping trip

Having a grocery list and sticking to it is super-simple common sense, yet we may not always adhere to it. If making a thorough, 7-day meal plan isn’t your thing, at least shoot for a list of 1-3 recipes you plan on cooking in the week ahead. List your ingredients and exactly how much of them you need to buy. Only need 1 cup of brown rice for a recipe? Get comfortable in the bulk bin section of your grocery store. Especially if you are trying out something new, this section can be the one thing preventing extra, unused ingredients spoiling in your pantry.

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

3. Research how to properly store different foods

Once you get home, you may mindlessly store your haul without knowing the best way to preserve certain foods. Some produce can be frozen while other fruits and veggies wilt more quickly if chilled, for example. You can even extend the life of your foods by storing certain items together – or, conversely, by separating some foods. Here’s an infographic with the basics of storing your groceries to extend their shelf life.

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

4. Schedule time to prep and cook food – and stick to it

With New Year’s resolutions still holding fast, we may be inspired to eat more whole foods and recipes from scratch. This means more time spent in the kitchen preparing ingredients. While this does wonders for our health, it may also be a source of stress. Just like you schedule time to go grocery shopping – or any other important task – also schedule time to chop, peel, store, and otherwise prepare your whole foods. When dinnertime rolls around, gazing into the fridge will reveal neatly stacked, ready-to-go ingredients, instead of an extra hour of work.

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

5. Keep an inventory of your pantry

Some bloggers are notable for doing a pantry cleanse, which involves digging deep into the reaches of their supplies and uncovering forgotten food items. While this can be a creativity-inspiring experiment, it also means we do not truly know what is hiding in our cabinets. Finding a way to keep a record of what we have on hand nixes the chances of items expiring without our knowledge and keeps us accountable to the privilege of having food at our disposal at all times.

meal planning, meal plan, food waste, leftovers, recipes, food storage, food pantry, grocery shopping, grocery list, kitchen organization, food prep, cooking

6. Plan a ‘kitchen sink’ meal every week

Still have a quarter of an onion, a few limp carrots, and a few leaves of kale laying around at the end of the week, without a destined dish? Plan one meal before your next grocery store trip that can use up your leftover ingredients. Some easy dishes for throwing miscellaneous foods together include stir fries, burritos, bowls, casseroles, wraps, and pastas. Also, if you have a chunk of cucumber or other pet-safe foods leftover these can serve as nutritious snacks for our four-legged friends and will prevent excess food from ending up in the trash.

Lead image (modified) via Shutterstock; All other images via Shutterstock (1,2,3,4,5,6)