Restoring the Lost Petal

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You Are Throwing Away Money and Don’t Even Realize It

are you wasting money on foodWhat is your food budget per month? $200? $300? $600? $1000?  Did you know you are wasting at least 10% of that?

Over spending on groceries is one of the most common problems in the family budget.

I’ve shared some kitchen secrets and ways to cut kitchen costs and here is another measure you’ll want to consider if you are trying to reduce your grocery spending.  Today, I’m talking about a drastic meausre.  This is a one that might ultimately help you save 10% or more on your groceries.

From time to time drastic, “crazy” measures are necessary. Not many people are willing to take the time to do this.  Those that do are often motivated to make drastic changes to their spending and eat habits.

Today we’re talking trash tracking.  Actually logging the weight of food you are throwing away.

Why track your trash?

According to a 2012 study, the US throws away some 165 billion dollars in food a year. To me, that’s just a really big number and to you it probably doesn’t mean much more.  But consider this – of that figure the average family wastes between $1365 and $2275 annually. That’s between $113 and $189 per month wasted in your home!

Tracking what you throw away is an eye opening experience.  When you see what you’re tossing in the trash it is a big motivator to do something different.  To make a change for the better in your budget and the landfill.

How to Track Your Trash

I recommend tracking your waste for a minimum of two weeks but the optimum would be a four-week tracking This will hit most of your family’s typical eating habits and possibly even some of the extra stuff you do from time to time.

Tools You Need

Step 1:  Get the Family On Board


Everyone who is able to put something into the trash can needs to be on board so that all wasted food can be accounted for. Call a family meeting and explain the purpose of trash tracking and the goal.

Step 2: Set a Goal (and maybe a prize)

The average house hold wastes 11.2 ounces of food per person, per day.  Your goal is find out how much your family is wasting and adjust your habits accordingly to reduce more waste and thus reduce your grocery expenses.  If your family is result-oriented simply having the goal of determining how much is wasted might be enough.  If some of your family is motivated by rewards offer up  simple cost-free reward (like an extra special trip to the park or mom and dad do the chores day).

Step 3: Designate a Meal Time Tracker

Another great way to get the family involved is to designate meal time trackers.  Older children can get the job of jotting down the waste before it goes in the trash can.  You could choose one person for each meal time or one person each day or week.

Step 4: Stack it, Track it, Trash it

It would be great to do a direct calculation of cost but this isn’t always practical.  The easiest way to track is by weight.  You can track one of two ways depending on the type of scale you have.

  • Kitchen scale Method

Keep a plastic store bag on the counter and place all food scraps in it for the day (or meal depending on the size of your family).  At the designate time of day weigh the trash and record it.

  • Bathroom Scale Method

Designate a separate trash can for food waste.  Load it up after each meal and when there’s a significant amount, weigh it on the scale, record it on this Trash Tracking free printable and then dispose of it. There’s no time like the present to start a compost pile.

Step 5: Calculate

Studies that provide solid dollar per pound ratios are hard to find.  Based on what I’ve read you can calculate your dollar amount per pound by multiplying the pounds your toss by $1.43.

Step 6: Evaluate

This is where it gets real.

What are you going to do about the food your family is wasting?

Realize that food waste is a two-fold problem.  It fills up landfills and drains your wallet.  Making changes is a win-win.


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  1. This is a great post, Danielle. I recently wrote a post called My #1 Rule For The Frugal Kitchen (& How I Just Broke It). The picture is of a $100 bill going in the trash can. We don’t realize it, but when we throw food away, it isn’t any different than putting cash in the trash can. One way our family has learned to be less wasteful is to cut our trash pick up in half. We used to have our trash picked up weekly. Now we have it picked up 2x a month. Not only did this cut our bill in half, but we have to be much more careful about anything we throw away because we need to conserve space in our trash can. Thanks for helping to bring awareness to an important issue. Love this post!

    • Thanks Heather! That is an awesome tip about trash. I didn’t realize you could change your schedule like that.

      Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Always so good to remember the importance of using what we have and not wasting it. I find that when I am busy it is so easy to become less frugal and more wasteful. I always hear my grandmother’s voice saying, “Waste not want not… you could probably use that for something.” I try to use left overs for re-make meals as often as possible. It was easier when my kids were not teenager bottom-less pit eating machines. 🙂 Thanks for sharing wise tips.


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