how to not waste fresh food

I tend to get carried away at buying fresh food at Whole Foods. Organic this, grain-free that, I’ll take two of each! This one time I found myself shoving a massive bunch of kale into the crisper drawer while simultaneously trying to stop the tomatoes from tumbling off the top shelf all while wondering where the heck the asparagus and brussel sprouts would go…maybe on top of that huge head of cabbage? Anyways…


Most fruit and veggies have a nutrient shelf life (this is different from the regular “shelf life” we know of). The nutrient density (how many nutrients are in a single food item) of fruits and vegetables start to decline the moment they are harvested, some faster than others. In general, you want to eat fresh food within 2-3 days of buying it. This ensures you’re taking in all the nutrients you paid good money for…especially if you shop at Whole Foods.  


So while our best intentions at the grocery store are to stock up on all the good stuff, sometimes life just gets in the way. A work dinner comes up. A friend is in town so you go out for a burger and a beer. You are too tired to cook so you opt for leftovers from the night before. Whatever scenarios often pop up for you, chances are food does go to waste in favor of daily life demands.


But that doesn’t mean that the food has to go to waste and you lose a serious chunk of what you paid for. There are several ways to preserve vegetables and fruits that I’m excited to share with you today.


  1. Green Cubes

If you have kale, chard, spinach or collard greens in the fridge that you and your family likely won’t eat before they go bad (remember: 2-3 days), take out what you won’t eat, blend it up with a splash of water and pour into ice cubes. You can use these cubes in smoothies or even in a soup.


And if you have a variety of greens as well as herbs, look up your favorite pesto recipe, blend it up, and freeze those for future use. (Here’s a dairy-free pesto recipe I use often.)


  1. Vegetable Soup

With fall and winter right around the corner, making a soup out of vegetables, especially root vegetables, is a great option. If you have extra carrots, turnips, potatoes, celery, onion, and so on, chop them all up and simmer in some vegetable broth for 30-60 minutes for a nutritious soup.


On a time crunch? Instead throw the chopped up veggies and broth in the crock pot before you leave for work and you’ll come home to a delicious smell and dinner!


If you’re making a big batch of soup, get some glass containers (plastic is not recommended) and freeze some bowls to thaw and enjoy later on.


  1. Juices

 If you have a juicer (or are interested in one, here’s the one I have from Breville), that’s a great way to to get lot of nutrient density out of both fruits and veggies. Fresh pressed juices have a number of benefits, from weight loss, boosted immune system to increased energy. They’re also ridiculously delicious and easy to make.


Here’s one of my favorite recipes :

  • 4 small apples
  • 3 medium sized carrots
  • 4 celery sticks


I usually always have these 3 foods left over from other recipes, so this makes a perfect option to finish them up and not let them go to waste.


If you lie on the other side of the juice vs. smoothie debate, really you can do the same thing with smoothies: take some greens (kale is my go-to) and blend with some fresh fruits (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, etc.) for a delicious, nutrient-packed breakfast or snack smoothie.


  1. Grain-Free Breads & Muffins

One thing that happens when you juice fruits and veggies is there is a lot of pulp left over. I started looking into what I could do with them so I could literally use the whole plant.


Here’s a recipe I love for carrot,  apple and banana muffins that couldn’t be easier.  You can use the pulp from juiced carrots, or use whole ones.


Another option is a grain-free zucchini bread. Zucchini grows abundant all summer long, so those of us who overindulge at the store, or who grow it and get way more than you know what to do with, this is a great recipe.


Extending Your Grocery Budget Further

There are so many healthy and easy to make recipes to be sure you’re taking full advantage of your every grocery trip.


Here’s how I encourage you to plan for your grocery trip:

  • Plan in advance. Look at your week ahead, determine how many meals you plan to have at home, decide what several of them will be, and buy only what’s required for those recipes. Going to the grocery store with a list will help you stick to your plan.
  • Meal prep. If you are able to do your grocery shopping over the weekend, this can be a great opportunity to sneak in some meal prep time. This makes sticking to your plan a lot easier as a busy week kicks in and saves you a lot of time in the process.
  • Check in. A few days into the week, re-evaluate. Are you on track with your meal planning to consume everything you bought? If you aren’t (and, again, that’s okay, life happens!) take inventory of what will be left over and decide what you can make. Have a lot of root vegetables left? Make a soup. Have a mixture of fruits and veggies? Look up a juice or smoothie recipe.


You can see there are so many options for what you can do, meaning you can customize what you do with your extra food every week to keep it fun and interesting. I find that’s one of the most fun parts of cooking and baking! In the process, you’ll find that:

  • Your grocery bills will go down
  • Less trips to the grocery store each week will be necessary
  • You’ll get to try new meals
  • You’ll have more options!


I’m always looking for new ways others are extending the use of their fresh foods. Have a recipe or tip you want to share? Leave it in the comments below or join me over on Instagram @ThrivebyFood to join in on the discussion. 

Don’t Let Fresh Food Go to Waste (And How to Save Money At the Grocery Store)






Kristin Thomas is a health coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner specialized in helping women with hormone, digestion, and autoimmune health concerns. Having gone through these health challenges herself, she now helps clients find their own path to complete wellness through practical and natural diet and lifestyle changes.





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