I live a pretty busy lifestyle. I'm in my late 20s and go out often and I work a lot as well.

I find that I'm always throwing out food. It's mainly becuase I do grocery shopping but I don't know when I'll be able to use it. And after a while, they just go off.

I try to buy less, but it's just the inconsistency and unpredictableness of my lifestyle. I don't want to have nothing in the house and at the same time, I don't want to have to throw out so much food all the time - it makes me feel guilty.

Are there any strategies or habits you can suggest to manage my food and grocery shopping better?

  • 4
    How far away is the grocery store? How practical is it to make very small shopping trips?
    – user296
    Mar 5, 2011 at 3:36
  • 3
    Btw you could also get good practical ideas on how to cook so that you can eat the meal for many days on Cooking SE.
    – sharptooth
    Mar 5, 2011 at 6:51
  • @sharptooth - good suggestion. This question is an excellent place to start.
    – justkt
    Mar 7, 2011 at 17:15
  • Do you like Spagettios? :)
    – Andy
    Dec 27, 2014 at 2:16

7 Answers 7


You want to combine a set of techniques to avoid throwing food away.

  1. Consider setting aside a weekend day or other non-busy time to do some food prep. Check to see if there is anything in the fridge that needs to be used quickly and prioritize meals that use that item. Make a weekly menu and get your groceries. Chop all the vegetables and fruits you need for the week's meals. Cook meats that can be cooked in advance. Chefs call the concept of having everything ready for making a meal "mis en place." Try to do yours in advance to energize you for cooking and also make you more likely to cook on those nights you've been at the office late.

  2. Get to know and love your freezer. Buy frozen meat in bulk and portion individually (wrap 1/2 lb blocks of ground beef and chicken pieces in foil then store in freezer bags, for example). Get frozen packaged fish fillets for seafood. Boil a whole chicken, shred the meat, and have on hand for easy meals like tacos, enchiladas, chicken pot pie, pasta, etc. Do the same with beef roasts or pork shoulder for pulled pork, etc. Freeze vegetables and fruits if you can't use them in time (or buy frozen vegetables to begin with). You can even consider making dumplings like perogis or pelmeni and freezing for a homemade alternative to a frozen food aisle meal. You can even go all the way with freezer cooking.

  3. Cook with shelf-stable items. Rice, pasta, beans, lentils, canned goods, and other items can be made into major components of a meal.

  4. When you do buy something perishable that doesn't freeze well, try to utilize it in more than one of your meals for the week. This works well for items like fresh herbs.

  5. If you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking, a source like stonesoup is a great place to start - many recipes there can be finished in under 10 minutes, most are five ingredients or less, and all are tasty and good for you.

This question from Seasoned Advice has a lot of great suggestions, although geared towards a college student, that you should consider.


Try to choose less perishable items. Besides canned and bottled are adequate for some foods, and frozen foods for a wider range, such as vegetables and prepared foods. Dairy has a limited life, but some types live longer, like yogurt. Fruits like apples and oranges will last a good deal longer in the fridge (bananas too, but the peels discolor). Bread items and leafy vegetables just won't keep long for fresh use; pick them up when you're actually about to use them. (Keeping bread in the freezer for toasting works well, though.)

  • Bananas go mushy if you leave them a week or so in the refrigerator :) .
    – DumbCoder
    Mar 5, 2011 at 12:34
  • 4
    Bananas go mushy as soon as you leave the store with them. =(
    – MrChrister
    Mar 5, 2011 at 18:21
  • 1
    My biggest win was from exchanging flour tortillas for bread. The tortillas last a lot longer (in the fridge) and can be used to make just about any sandwich you'd want into a wrap. Mar 5, 2011 at 21:12
  • 1
    Also you can buy meat in bulk and parcel it out into Ziplock sandwich bags and throw those in the freezer. Keep 1-2 defrosting in the fridge depending on how often you expect to be home that week. Mar 5, 2011 at 21:14
  • If you want to go hog wild, one of those home vacuum sealers can help a lot, but it can itself be expensive (up front, bags, electricity).
    – C. Ross
    Mar 7, 2011 at 18:43

Buy products that can be stored for a long time or require thorough thermal processing. For example, you can buy frozen chicken meat in two pounds packs - it can be stored in a freezer for half a year, then you roast it and after it cools down you can put it into a fridge and it will last for up to ten days. Just about anything that you've roasted or boiled for several dozens minutes can be stored in a fridge for at least five days - its taste will get slightly worse over time, but it still preserves nutrition value and is safe to eat.


Let me start out by saying I know your pain.

One of the most important things to do is have the basics in stock in your larder. They are the sorts of things that keep well, and you can make great simple meals from them whenever, without having to worry about them going off in a matter of days.

A simple inventory like this - http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2006/12/06/the-well-stocked-kitchen-staple-foods-you-should-always-have-on-hand/ - can make a big difference. (This list is good, but check the comments for additional suggestions. There are a few extras that commenters reckon you should have and I think they are right - I certainly have more than just what's on that list.)

And remember - frozen veg may or may not be as nutritious as fresh, but they are better than nothing.


Make a menu of 15 (or more) things you like to eat. Write a grocery list for what it takes. Divide that list into perishable and non-perishable.

Put those items into a calendar and try to stick to it.

Depending on the amount of storage space you have, once a week fulfill your perishable list. Use coupons and shop the sales to keep your prices down.

On your way home, stop at the grocery store and buy only the perishables you will need that night for cooking. I personally chose recipes that didn't always need fresh stuff (like canned tomatoes being good enough.)

You spend more on the nightly stuff, but you make up some savings with the long term shopping. Just count on going to the store for 10 minutes a night a part of your cooking routine. I used to just look at the wall, but with an app like Evernote this would be pretty easy.

  • Also, since I posted this, I have started to use one of those Grocery/Meal delivery services. (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket and the like) I have found I spend less time at the grocery store, waster considerably less food, and spend the same amount I did before. (Plus I eat stuff I never would have otherwise.) The food boxes basically do the planning for me for most of our week.
    – MrChrister
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:24

Most basic tip: Don't go to the grocery store hungry.

What we do to minimize food waste: On Sunday when my wife and I go grocery shopping, we figure out what meals we are going to have for dinner that week, and we only buy what we need for those meals.

We also try to decide in advance what night(s) we are going out for dinner. For example, we know we have to take the in-laws out for dinner on Wednesday, so we don't buy a dinner for that night.

As part of our weekly planning, we figure out the lunches we will take to work based on our dinners. For example, if we plan to make a big pot of pasta for dinner one night, we know we'll have leftovers for lunch, so we won't buy a lunch for the following day.

Basically, we try to match our food purchasing to our food consumption.

During the week, we generally try to cook the dinner that uses the most perishable items first. If we buy seafood, that will be Monday night's dinner. The frozen pizza can wait until the end of the week.

My wife an I both have to deal with the occasional unexpected late night at work, which can mess up our cooking plans. As a result, it is not uncommon for us to be too tired to cook, so we skip a dinner. It is less wasteful to do that with something frozen/preserved.

Also, we try to consider cooking time vs our work schedule. We don't pick a complex dinner for a night that we know in advance will be a long work day.


The best way to stop wasting food is to create a weekly plan. Every weekend, before making your grocery shopping, take 30-60 mins and plan (with your spouse if your married) for the next week's meals. It doesn't need to be too detailed, but it'll help you to approximate what you need in terms of food for the whole week and buy accordingly. I have a similar problem where I need to go out often and also work a lot. But spending some time on the weekend to create a plan helps me minimize my wastage a lot. My inspiration to do this has been from the below 2 articles from Trent in SimpleDollarWeekly Meal Sheet from www.TheSimpleDollar.com



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