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Genius Ways To Actually Eat What You Buy At The Grocery Store

Eating food is so much more fun than wasting it.

raspberries, milk, sorbet, bread, spaghetti, squash
Alexandra Folino / Andrew Bui

Picture this: You, looking for a quick weekday side, thrilled to find spinach in your fridge because that'll be easy and great! Ten minutes later: You, throwing out that container of spinach—your third this month!—because it went bad again. It hurts every single time and you promise you'll change next time and eat the dang stuff.

Instead of making promises, what you actually need is a game plan—having even a loose one will help! Knowing what you're buying before you head to the store is a solid place to start, but even better? Knowing what to do with leftover groceries. Bought a bunch of cilantro? Chances are your recipe only calls for a handful. Turn it into something else, like chimichurri, so that you don't end up wasting what's leftover.

Here are our tips for how to use every last drop of your groceries while they're on their last legs.

Almost every dairy product is interchangeable.

You can pay attention to expiration dates and still find yourself with accidentally leftover half-containers of miscellaneous dairy. In this scenario, it's helpful to know what ingredients work seamlessly as swaps when it comes to trying to limit our food waste. Yogurt and sour cream can typically be subbed for one another. Same thing goes for crème fraîche and sour cream, or any of the above and labneh. So, if you are making a pound cake that calls for sour cream, but you have a container of yogurt you're hoping to use up, you know what to do.

Wash 👏 your 👏 fruit 👏 first

There are a few ways to keep waste to a minimum here. Wash all your fruit before you put it away, for one. Then it's easy to reach in and grab a handful of, say, grapes for easy snacking. Accessibility is key! You can also freeze any fruit that looks like it's starting to get a little soft if you know you won't be able to eat it before it's too late. I use those frozen fruits in smoothies, on top of oatmeal, or best of all, in homemade sorbet.

Roast your veggies

Now, for the vegetables in your life: While a lot of vegetables (potatoes! onions! winter squash!) have a long shelf life, others (broccoli! summer squash! mushrooms!) really don't. I always try to plan how I'll use my veggies when buying them, but things don't always go to plan. The solution? Roast a big pan of random vegetables and use them as a side for a couple of meals, or snack at them throughout the day—cooked vegetables are way more likely to be eaten than wilting ones! Plus, you can throw leftover cooked vegetables into a hash or frittata and give them new life.

As for that famously finicky spinach? More on that here.

Lean on fresh herbs

Bought a bunch of cilantro or parsley? Chances are your recipe only calls for a handful. Before you forget about the leftovers in the back of your fridge, turn it into something else, like chimichurri or green romesco. Toss herbs in salads (or stir them into dressing), cooked grains, or lentils. If you definitely don't think you'll get to them, freeze them: add chopped herbs to ice cube trays, pour over olive oil (which will help preserve them), and freeze until solid before popping out and storing in a resealable plastic bag.

Bread is just the beginning

Listen to me: Your toaster is your best friend. It will revive a stale piece of bread and make it perfect for avocado toast. You can also freeze sliced bread and pull out a couple of slices as you need them (use that BFF toaster of yours to thaw them out!). Once your bread really seems like it's getting too stale, or even if you're worried it might mold soon, make homemade croutons or breadcrumbs (pulse a few slices in a food processor until it's your preferred consistency). You can also turn your loaf into bread pudding or French toast.

Freeze the meats

Try to only buy what you need when you need it, especially when it comes to seafood. Just like those vegetables, if you are worried about something going bad go ahead and just throw it in the freezer where it will last for a few months. I love making a tortilla soup and then packing it up in the freezer for an easy future meal. Bonus: You can stir in some wilted spinach as you are reheating it on the stove to use that up as well!


It's simply most helpful to pay attention to what we typically end up struggling to use before it goes bad. For example, I almost always let my cucumbers go to waste. A weird one, I know, but I'll buy a package of Persian cucumber and only end up eating one or two before they start to mold. I had to learn to limit how often I buy them and really ask myself if I need them or not. Now, when I do buy them, I immediately pickle half of them in a simple vinegar and water mixture, and after a couple of days I add any cucumbers I still have to the jar as well. Knowing where we are most wasteful is a big first and helpful step towards a minimally wasteful lifestyle.

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