Tips for Organizing Leftovers and Minimizing Food Waste

I’m just going to put it out there — I think it’s difficult not to waste leftovers. At our house, we make pretty much all of our food from scratch, so we intentionally cook extra large batches of food to reheat throughout the week as a timesaver. As a result, our fridge is usually *full* of leftovers. We also eat a lot of bulky fresh produce, which means it’s all too easy for our fridge to get disorganized. A delicious leftover meal gets shuffled behind something else… and we rediscover it after it has gone bad and have to throw it out.

But — we really like the food we buy and the meals we make. If we can see (and find) our food, we eat it. This means that for our household, it all comes down to organization. I’ve struggled with keeping our leftovers organized for years, but today I’d like to share a few tips that have made a world of difference for us.

Labels, sharpie, Rubbermaid Tupperware, gallon freezer bags

Labels and sharpie. We have a new policy: all leftovers must be labeled and dated as soon as they go in the fridge or freezer.

In the past, I would always tell myself, “Of course I’ll remember when I cooked this up!” But honestly, if it’s not labeled, I’ll forget — even if I made only a couple days ago — and then I don’t want to eat it. Also, if food is labeled with a date, it’s easy to see at a glance what needs to be immediately consumed or frozen.

Stackable Rubbermaid Tupperware. I received this set as a Christmas gift last year, and it is a **game changer.** Normally, I don’t believe in buying things to save money, but in just a few months, this $20 set has save me from wasting at least $20 worth of food.

Image via Target

Why are these Tupperware so great?

They look pretty in the fridge. These Tupperware stack really nicely, and especially with a bold sharpie label, it’s very easy to see at a glance what have and what meals are available to eat.

They stay organized effortlessly. The set has several differently sized bins, but just a few different lid sizes — so all of the lids just neatly stack on top of each other. It’s very quick to put them away when I unload the dishwasher, and it’s super easy to grab an appropriately sized bin when I need to store food. Here is a candid shot from the shelf that houses my Tupperware set:

By contrast, here is a candid shot of the shelf that houses my old, mismatched Tupperware:

I do tidy this shelf from time to time, but it inevitably deteriorates into what you see above. If I store the bins with their lids on, it’s very space inefficient. If I try to stack the bins without their lids, it’s more space efficient, but the lids and the bins get separated. When you’re trying to clean up after dinner, it’s very frustrating to try to hunt down a missing lid — so I would often resort to just shoving the pot of food into the fridge. The pot would inevitably migrate to the back of the fridge, and then chances were high that the food would go to waste.

Gallon Ziplock Bags are an amazingly space efficient and cost effective solution for storing food in the freezer. Simply put 3-4 cups of food in your ziplock bag (don’t forget to label it!) and lay it flat on a freezer shelf.

The bag freezes into a a very flat “brick” shape, which can be neatly stacked on other frozen “food bricks.” It’s highly space efficient, and each bag will be easily accessible! When you’re ready to thaw the frozen food, you can break off the portion you want, or you can thaw the whole thing.

Tip: For a perfectly flat and uniform brick, lay a freshly prepared freezer bag under bags that are already frozen. The weight of the pre-frozen food will help flatten the new bag.

These tricks are super simple, but they have helped us dramatically reduce our food waste!

What are your tips and tricks for reducing food waste?

3 thoughts on “Tips for Organizing Leftovers and Minimizing Food Waste

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