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How I keep my family from wasting perfectly good food

I am a cookie-maker, baker-faker, food-taker. Errr! Picture-taker! I started to blog about food with the intent to inspire others to get back into the kitchen and start cooking.

In my everyday life, one of my proud moments involves not throwing away food that's gone bad.

I'm also proud of my 5-year-old knowing her address and bus number, but I'm just as proud of my ability to use up all the things in that fridge before going rancid.

Allowing food to go to waste is disappointing to me; as soon as I go to pitch it, I think about the money that went into buying that product, I think about those who are hungry and homeless, and guilt consumes me. For that reason, I try very hard to use up everything that is in that fridge before I go to buy more groceries.

When I first started this journey, it was somewhat difficult to prepare meals with an ingredient or two that I didn't have. Many times I was tempted to jump in my car and get it, but I held off and got creative.

With time, what I realized was that I needed to become a smarter shopper. That is, paying attention to my grocery list and sticking to it. Meal planning helps a great deal with this. Knowing what you're going to make ahead of time helps with purchasing food that you're actually going to consume.

Apart from lists and meal planning, another thing that works for us is an "everything, but the kitchen sink" recipe. These are mostly recipes for soups, stews and casseroles, and apart from being delicious, they have also helped me with including a lot of those veggies that I might not have used otherwise. Like that huge bag of carrots I bought. Not sure what I was thinking, but for a family of four, that's a lot of carrots.

Fruits that have been sitting around for a while make excellent smoothies. I had some questionable kiwi fruit in the crisper drawer, but I was able to peel it, toss it in the blender with some milk, a banana and honey, and breakfast was ready.

Then there are those dreaded leftovers. My husband is not a fan, and that makes it a bit challenging, but I figured out some ways to make those leftovers into tasty new meals.

My kids love chicken nuggets and that's their dinner about once a week. But most of the time, they don't finish everything on their plate, including their favorite nuggets. Instead of pitching them, I now use them in lettuce wraps with a slice of avocado and enjoy the same chicken nuggets for lunch the next day.

Salads are also the answer to food that needs to be eaten ASAP. A bed of lettuce is just the start. "Leftovers salad" is my saving grace. When there are seven blueberries in one corner and a quarter of cooked chicken breast in another, what's a gal to do? She throws them on top of lettuce, adds some tomatoes plus a drizzle of olive oil/vinegar. But I don't stop there. I've also added leftover spaghetti to my lettuce, as well as quinoa and chunks of bell peppers. And an avocado to pull it all together.

If you're looking to cut food waste while keeping things delicious, healthy and fresh, I'd urge you to give my method a try. Plan your meals ahead of time, make a grocery list, buy what's on the list and stick to it because you can't go back to the grocery store until everything is gone.

Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration with The Laughing Cow and SheKnows.

Photo credit: amriphoto/E+/Getty Images
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