5 Tips to Minimize Food Waste with Kids

Please join me in giving a warm “Frugal Family Fun Blog” welcome to my guest, Debbie Lillard, from SpacetoSpare.com for today’s post! Debbie is the author of Absolutely Organized – A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and a Clutter Free Home, and she has generously offered her best tips to help minimize food waste with kids. Picky eaters can quickly bust your budget, and Debbie offers tips that help save money as well as the environment.

Does this happen to you? You come home from food shopping and the kids tear into all the new bags of food yelling, “Whadya get?” before you have time to unpack. New snacks are ripped open, meanwhile you have 4 half-full bags of cookies, pretzels, and crackers in the cabinet, but somehow those just don’t seem so appealing. My children are 7, 10 and 13 so I go through this about once a week. I hate to waste food, so I’ve had to come up with some simple tricks to finish one thing before we start another. (This is one of my Absolutes of Organizing).

  1. Healthy After School Snacks – When they get home from school they are famished – so put out what you want them to eat on the table. If it’s easy, they’ll grab it. I often do cheese & crackers, chips and salsa, cookies and milk or a big bowl of grapes.
  2. Party Trays -The day before you go food shopping, check the cabinets for half full bags of snacks and use them up. To make these more appealing, put them in a decorative serving tray. I have one with three compartments so I might do: nuts, pretzels and chips or cheese, crackers and cut up peppers. If your kids like dip, put that out in a little bowl.
  3. Mix It Up -Produce doesn’t last long so I find myself with black bananas quite often. For this reason, I always have a big container of vanilla yogurt on hand for smoothies. Toss one cup of yogurt, one cup of fruit juice and whatever fruit you have: bananas, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries into the blender and let it whip. I like to add some crushed ice at the end. These make a great after-school snack or breakfast. A little whipped cream on top makes it even more appealing. And who can resist a bendy straw!
  4. Buffet Style – Left over meals are an economical way to save food and money, but if you have picky eaters, they won’t like the sounds of this. Again, on the day before I plan to food shop I have a “Pick Your Own” dinner or lunch. I will categorize the food by protein, starch and fruits & vegetables and put it all out on the counter. Everyone in the family gets to choose one of each and that’s the meal! If you don’t have enough left-overs to round out the meal, make one new thing that the kids love like oven fries or pasta, this will make the meal seem fresh.
  5. A better lunch – It’s so easy to go for convenience these days when it comes to packing lunches. I used to buy big boxes of school snacks at BJ’s and just use them until they were done. Now I’m trying to be more environmentally & health conscious, so I invested in some key lunch box items to do both:
Small stainless steel drink bottles– no more plastic.
Cloth napkins – no more paper
Reusable containers – for cut up fruit, snacks and sandwiches
Foil – to wrap other items ; I tell the kids to bring it home to recycle.
Thank you, Debbie, for sharing these wonderful tips with us!

Do you have any other tips to share? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment and share your ideas with us!


  1. Dear Valerie (Debbie?),

    Since I am in charge of sweeping the kitchen floor, I know first hand the waste in this house caused by YOU! You are a very crumbly eater, and a small flock (large, really) of birds could feed themselves easily with your crumbs.

    Soft foods only from now on, ok? Nothing crumbly.

    Love (?),

  2. Pink & Green Mama says

    This is fantastic!! Thank you for sharing such great ideas, I'm off to find my "party platter" and pick up some vanilla yogurt for some smoothies : )

  3. Night Owl Mama says

    great post thanks for sharing.

  4. VISART - DaLi Designs says

    Great tips, thank you so very much, very helping and inspiring!

  5. Re: smoothies
    We often have leftover spinach as well, so I throw bananas, spinach, yogurt, honey, vanilla, and a splash of milk in the blender. Green smoothies! My toddler likes them best poured into popsicle moulds and frozen.

  6. @ SkylarKD — Love that idea! About the only way I can tolerate spinach is if it's hidden in something so that I can hardly taste it. I'm totally trying this.. thanks!!

  7. You know how the last 1-2 servings of a box of cereal always gets left in the pantry…? I divide the last bits in small, clear tupperware containers (enough for a child size portion). This way my daughter can see what is there. She gets excited because there is variety and the containers are so convenient that we often toss them in my purse/car and they become a great snack while we are running errands!

  8. Thanks for sharing those great ideas. I feel so bad every time after my kids are done eating! Now I now there will be less waste

  9. Great ideas – thanks for sharing! Another tip with those black bananas – you can peel them & freeze them in a plastic bag & then use them for Smoothies or a special treat – somehow a frozen banana is almost like dessert rather than 'just fruit'. 🙂

  10. JDaniel4's Mom says

    Great tips! I love the dinner buffet.

  11. I do some of the same things. I keep saying I'm going to get cloth napkins, but with my three youngest children at ages 2, 4 and 6 I just can't bring myself to do it yet.

    So far, I have the complete control over snacks and whatnot unless my teen is home. She's pretty good finishing something first unless there's more than one person who doesn't like whatever is left.

    I hope I can teach my younger children not to be wasteful.

  12. Dara Squires says

    Like the bannanas, I have another tip for those bits of (and sometime whole) vegetables that go soft in the fridge and can no longer justifiably be served raw or as a side dish but are still not moldy (I know I'm not the only one that has these!)
    I cook them up all together and then puree them to use as a soup base, add to spaghetti sauce or macaroni and cheese or add to fruit to make popsicles (you wouldn't belive how yummy carrot/mango/yam/orange popsicles are!)
    Because they're pureed no one can tell they went soft. And if, like me, you have a child that refuses to eat recognisable vegetables, it's a great way to sneak some vegetables in.
    I try to keep similar colors together or put strong colors in with greens to over-ride them.
    Totally cuts down on vegetable wastage and means you always have some decent vegetable soup "broth" on hand (I just store it in the freezer in a yogurt container and keep adding to it until full).

  13. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog says

    @ Dara — What a great idea! I love it! It can be challenging to get kids to eat their veggies, but since they are pureed, I'm sure they can't even tell. I'll be doing this the next time I have veggies that are about to go… thanks for stopping by!

  14. Thanks for sharing these money saving tips. I never considered using party trays- I'll have to tey that!

  15. Thanks for that. My son has a terrible aversion to eating raw fruit , so I made it into smoothies for him and then he loves it! I also found some great smoothie recipes here and thought I’d share – lots of other great ideas there.