sweet potato chowder and homemade bread
Cooking Economically, Frugality, Saving Money, Zero Food Waste Challenge

Zero Food Waste Challenge {6}

I wasn’t surprised that this week was one of the biggest food waste offenders since the first week I recorded because we’re now at the point after my big monthly shop that the quickly perishable produce has all had sufficient time to spoil. However, we wasted quite a bit less than we have in the past, and because I’ve now been tracking our food waste data for over a month, I better know what we can feasibly use up in a certain timeline, and what is just too much.

How I’ve Been Cutting Down on Food Waste This Week


  • I continued on the smoothie train for several mornings this week to use up the ripe bananas and all the frozen fruit that’s been sitting in the freezer for months.
  • We did scrambled eggs and toast to make sure we’re staying up on the latest eggs from the chickens. (Our hens aren’t laying nearly as much as they were before — which is normal, once you start to hit wintertime — but we’re still getting a handful or so a day, so it’s still something I need to be mindful of so we don’t waste any. I know I’ll miss the fresh eggs when they stop laying completely in a couple weeks!)
  • To try and offset how much milk we were using for cold cereal and smoothies, I did oatmeal with raisins a couple mornings to try and make the milk stretch further. We also had some oatmeal left over in the fridge from when I’d made too much for lunch one day, so I made sure to use that up too one morning.


  • I followed through on my quest to use up the remaining 3 lbs. of red grapes before they went bad by putting them to the side of basically every lunch and/or breakfast that was served. Matt and I also enjoyed some while we watched a show together every night before bed.
  • I was still feeling majorly into having baked potatoes for lunches, so I used up the rest of those this week in meals. I mostly just had sour cream and cheese with mine, but Matt and I did have one giant one apiece for dinner one night and added a can of heated-up chili to fancy it up a bit.
  • My son Mathias, who’s 3, basically requests macaroni and cheese every day for lunch during the week (either homemade or from the box). I often will give into this request as both options are quick and easy, and for this week, I just made sure to always be putting some kind of fresh fruit on the side, including the clementines that were quickly turning and the red grapes.
  • We did oatmeal a couple times for lunch, although that didn’t really use up anything that needed to be eaten quickly. I did make sure to at least serve fresh fruit on the side, though.


  • Along with our trusty garlic alfredo pasta on Thursday night, I also made sure we had heaping portions of green salad on the side so that we could use up most of the rest of the salad mix before it went bad.
  • For Sunday night’s dinner, I scrubbed and peeled a couple large sweet potatoes, defrosted some chicken, and used up the rest of an (opened) bag of frozen corn to make this delicious sweet potato chicken corn chowder. I also baked a loaf our favorite gluten-free bread and served that on the side. The soup made so many servings that we were not only able to set aside two portions for Matt’s lunches this week, but also put aside an entire gallon-size Ziploc away in the freezer for a future meal for all of us.
  • I had leftover garlic alfredo sauce from Thursday and needed a quick win on Monday, so I threw together two opened boxes of pasta (never mind that the one was penne and the other elbow macaroni), added a bit more whipping cream and parmesan cheese to the sauce to make it stretch further, and boiled up some of the carrots I’d bought over a month ago to go on the side.
  • I chopped up an onion and several small cloves of garlic (which were left over from the last head and in danger of being forgotten) to form the base of my own version of this Brazilian meat sauce, which we had over rice. The recipe used up some of the opened bag of peas we had in the freezer, and we also did some of the red grapes on the side.
  • We FINALLY finished up the last of the red grapes by putting them to the side of creamed eggs over toast, which Matt and I enjoyed over homemade gluten-free bread (and the kids had on normal bread).

Odds and Ends

  • I took 3 of the clementines that were too hardened to eat and threw them into a small simmer pot with some cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves to make our house smell amazing.

What We Ended Up Throwing Away

Like I said above, it makes sense that this would be the week with the greatest food waste, as we’re about two, two and a half weeks out from our huge monthly shopping haul, which means that all of the “quickly perishable” produce would pretty much be spent by now. We also got a huge load of apples for free from my mom (from a neighbor’s tree) at the very end of last month, so those coincided with all the fruit we picked up the same week from the grocery store. As you’ll see below, it was just too much, and way more went to waste than I’m proud of. I should have just refrigerated the apples from the get-go, but I’ve found that we tend to eat fruit much more frequently if it’s out on the table and visible vs. if it’s in the fridge tucked away in a drawer. However, in the future I definitely need to put the apples in the fridge no matter what so that they’re there for the end of the month, when we’ve eaten through everything else. Had I done that, I think almost none of the fruit would have gone to waste because I wouldn’t have been dividing my attention between the clementines and the apples. (For the record, we *did* eat all of the red grapes, bananas, and pears, so none of those went to waste.)

This is also the first of the bread heels that have been fed to the chickens rather than being consumed by us, since I was basically the only one eating them before and since I have, once again, gone off gluten for the time being (though not super strictly).

Here’s this week’s food waste:

  • 8 small clementines = $1.54
  • 8 small apples (fed to chickens) = $2.19
  • 2 bread heels (fed to chickens) = $0.20
  • about a cup and a half of salad mix = $0.16

Total Food Waste: $4.09

As before, even though we got the apples for free, you’ll see I still calculated what they would have cost at a store.

Considering that the first week I recorded, we threw away around $15 worth of food, I’d say we are definitely making HUGE strides in lowering food waste, especially as some of the past few weeks we’ve been under $0.30 for the whole week. Even if we averaged $4 of food waste a week (which would come out to $208 of food waste per year), that’s still a far cry better than a year’s worth of food waste at $15 a week, which would come out to $780.

My actual numbers are even lower, if you look at them closely. In the past month, I’ve thrown away $9.49 worth of food (that I “counted” as food waste, anyway), which would come out to just $113.88 of food waste a year. I don’t know how sustainable this level of attention is, but even if I just get into the habit of doing more regular fridge sweeps to use up the majority of things before they go bad, I’ll be coming out way ahead of where I started.

Going Forward + Grocery Bill

We budgeted for a night out this last week so we could take the kids to the park and have some quality family time last Saturday while we drove to the next county over to make some donations to the closest thrift store. We spent $31.61 on burgers and fries for the 5 of us (although the kids shared two kids’ meals between the three of them). We budgeted $80 this month for eating out (including fast food) and have thus far spent $68, which means we can pick up a bite of fast food on our way driving back from the Thanksgiving weekend with family next week if we want/need to.

As I noted in last week’s report, we had $12 left in the grocery budget for the rest of the month.

This week, we spent a big fat $0 of it.

Next week will be my last trip to the grocery store for the month, so I’ll have to plan carefully. I wasn’t going to count our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner at my folks’ house as coming from our grocery budget (but rather have it come from a separate “holiday” budget), but since I was assigned mashed potatoes — one of the absolute least expensive things I could have been assigned — I might actually try and see if I can fit it into our $12.

I know we’ll need more milk and then potatoes for that (especially since I finished up the last of our potatoes this week), and I might also get another container of sour cream. I would also like to get some fresh fruit to last through the end of the month, but I’d have to be pretty careful about it in order to not go over. Decisions, decisions…

How’s your grocery budget looking for the month? Do you count holiday food as part of your normal grocery budget, or do you budget separately for that?

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