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’s how to reduce the amount of food waste when feeding your kids to lower your footprint on the planet, waste food, and save money.
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!
TIP: These efforts also help in times when you’re simply worried about how much food you have on hand or access 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:
TIP: 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.
Tip #2: Freeze Leftover Mixed Fruit for Smoothies
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. You can keep the fruit for up to 6 months and add to smoothies as you like.
TIP: I put everything into the same bag and pull out what I need.
Food Waste Tip #3: Freeze Bananas for Baked Goods
Freeze leftover banana bits (and too ripe bananas) to use in baked goods like Banana Bread and Banana Muffins. Simply thaw and mash and use.
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
Tip #5: Repurpose Leftover Veggies in Smoothies
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
TIP: The key with any of these would be that they weren’t in a sauce or salted excessively. Try this idea in my Healthy Chocolate Smoothie.
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 and can help you feel better when there’s a run on things you’re out of at the store.
Food Waste Tip #8: Freeze Your Greens
You can freeze kale and spinach to prevent it from going to waste and use it in baked goods like Spinach Muffins and Spinach Pancakes and also green smoothies. Find out exactly how to do it here.
Tip #9: Freeze Leftover Milk and Yogurt
You can pop small amounts of milk or yogurt into ice cube trays to freeze for later. And also whole half gallons of milk. Learn how to freeze milk for kids here.
Tip #10: Extend the Life of Your Produce
Learn how to absorb excess moisture in produce like berries, broccoli and green beans to make sure they don’t go bad before you have a chance to use them up. Find my best tips for making produce last longer here.
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!
It’s a great point that fruits and vegetables can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to not waste them. My sister is trying to get some food recycling programs at her company this year. That way, her home, and office are much more eco-friendly and doing their best to limit food waste.