Feeding kids is a challenge and seeing all of the food that we try to get them to eat that they discard or ignore can be really demoralizing—and a waste of money and resources! Here are a few ways you can reduce the amount of food waste when feeding your kids to lower your footprint on the planet…and save yourself some cash too.
How to Reduce Food Waste
According to the NRDC, up to 40% of the food in the US is never eaten, which may ring true if you’re feeding a little kid with variable preferences. (Anyone else have a toddler who likes to take one bite of something and then claim to be done??) And while larger scale programs to reduce food waste may vary from community to community, there are small ways you can make a fairly big impact at home. For me, this is a simple way to throw away less food, spend less money on groceries, and get my kids to eat all of the healthy food I want them to!
Food Waste Solutions
I’m going to share some food waste solutions including what to do with the following foods that your kids may leave on their plates:
All of these items can cost a lot at the store, so being smart about reusing them (and avoiding the waste in the first place!) can help.
Food Waste Tip #1: Serve Smaller Portions
Toddlers (and big kids) may eat less than you expect them to, so the best way to avoid tossing food at the end of the meal is to give them less to start with. They can always ask for seconds! This also has the bonus benefit of being less intimidating when it comes to serving new foods.
Food Waste Tip #2: Freeze Leftover Fruit
If your kids leave fruit after a meal or snack, gather up any that’s in good condition, wash it, and store it in a zip top freezer bag for future use. I like to keep a bag for bananas and a bag for miscellaneous fruit so I can see what we have to use up more easily. You can keep the fruit for up to 6 months and add to the bags as needed.
Food Waste Tip #3: Turn Frozen Fruit into Smoothies
Buying frozen fruit at the store is a great option, but if you already have bags of frozen fruit going from the kids meals, use that for their smoothies! It often feels like getting food for free when you serve what they didn’t want in one meal in a new way.
Food Waste Solution #4: Turn Leftover Produce into Freezer Pops
Okay, so the smoothie tip only works if you have a kiddo who likes smoothies, but what kid doesn’t like frozen fruit pops?? You can basically make a smoothie and freeze it in a reusable mold and serve up their produce that way. We love this option for warmer weather!
- Green Smoothie Freezer Pops
- Cherry Banana Freezer Pops
- Blueberry Greek Frozen Yogurt Pops (with spinach!)
- Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Pops
- Mango Popsicles
Food Waste Solution #5: Repurpose Leftover Veggies
You can save leftover vegetables, assuming they aren’t too manhandled from the meal, for future use. Some things you can simply pop into a reusable container and serve again later, but you can also store many vegetables to add to smoothies similarly to how we do for fruit. Here are some that work well when stored in a zip top freezer bag and added to smoothies:
- Raw celery
- Raw cauliflower
- Cooked sweet potato
- Cooked butternut squash
- Cooked carrots
- Cooked beets
The key with any of these would be that they weren’t in a sauce or salted excessively.
Food Waste Tip #6: Add Leftover Veggies to Muffins
Butternut squash and sweet potato are great options for muffins, so if you have leftovers and are looking for a new way to serve them up, that’s a good option. You can even add leftover broccoli, carrots, or sweet potato to Egg Muffins!
Food Waste Tip #7: Use What You Have Before You Shop for More
I know that it can be tempting to go to the store for food when you’re out of the things that everyone really loves, but I try to frame this situation as a challenge. What can I do with the lingering apples to make them more appealing? Can we have a snack-y type meal or snack to use up the lingering odds and ends? Maybe make one night of the week leftovers night and use up what you have so you can start fresh at the store. It’s much more fun when it’s a bit of a game!
P.S. Composting Is a Good Idea Too!
I realize this won’t work for everyone, but we have a very thriving compost bin that winds up helping our garden grow. Yes, it’s still waste in some ways, but it goes to a good use. I fully admit that my husband does all of the work on this aspect, but I’m grateful that we have this option in our lives!