20 Common Groceries That People Throw Away the Most

According to Forbes, Americans throw away 30 to 40% of their food totaling $240 billion of wasted spending.  Spoiled and unused groceries cost the average family almost $1900 annually.  Reducing waste by 50% could save families about $950 a year and help jump-start new financial goals. To get started saving food, and money, check out these 20 common groceries that people throw away the most.

1. Bread

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With a short shelf life, bread is one of the quickest items to spoil. Worldwide, nearly 24 million slices are wasted every day.  Reduce waste by putting half the loaf in the freezer, buying smaller loaves, or using extras to make breadcrumbs, croutons, or bread pudding.

2. Cereal

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Across the globe, a staggering 30% of cereal products are wasted. Storing cereal in air-tight containers or clipping the bag shut can help keep it fresh.

3. Milk

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Consumers waste approximately 66 million tons of milk a year. Consider buying half gallons or using alternative milk products with longer shelf lives.

4. Eggs


Consider buying a half dozen eggs at a time instead of a dozen or more. Without an appetite for eggs or meal planning, eggs may spoil if not used within 4 to 5 weeks. Consider cooking eggs for a quick lunch or making a quiche for dinner.

5. Fresh Juice

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Fresh fruit juices without preservatives from the grocery store or made at home may only last 1-3 days. So do not buy more than you are planning to drink within a couple of days.

6. Melons and Berries

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Fresh fruits are among the most wasted foods. They typically last 2-7 days on the counter or up to 9 days in the fridge.  Do not buy more than you are planning to eat in 3-5 days. Consider freezing fresh fruit for up to 2 to 3 months. After that, you may find yourself making fresh fruit ice cream, smoothies, or sorbet.

7. Apples

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Roughly 1.3 million apples are thrown in the trash yearly. While fresh apples can last up to 2 months when stored properly in the refrigerator, they don’t last forever. So it’s best to buy apples individually, store them in a cold, dark, well-ventilated space, and avoid slicing them until ready to be eaten.

8. Processed Fruit

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Unopened cans of processed fruit can last for months at room temperature. But they’re easily hidden in cabinets. Instead, keep processed fruit products stacked together with expiration facing forward.  It’s best only to buy what you plan to eat within the next month versus storing extra food or purchasing in bulk because it’s on sale.

9. Lettuce

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Everyone loves a good salad, but lettuce spoils quickly and is frequently wasted when not eaten within one week. People often have good intentions to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, but make sure you have a meal plan to reduce food waste.

10. Onions

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When onions are peeled, almost 40% of the onion is wasted. Consider using onion powder or freezing dicing onions to prevent waste. When shopping for onions, pick the smallest one available instead of throwing half an onion away.

11. Potatoes

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Globally, approximately 3 billion pounds of potatoes are thrown away. That’s enough to feed nearly 6 billion people one serving of mashed potatoes.  Potatoes can last several weeks if stored in a dark place. But they don’t last forever. So although you can cook lots of delicious freezer-friendly potato dishes, it’s better to buy only the number of potatoes you need per week.

12. Fresh Herbs

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Most fresh herbs will last 2 to 3 weeks before turning dark, brittle, or filled with mold, but brown spots may appear within the week of purchase. You can maximize the shelf life of heartier herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano) by wrapping them in a damp paper towel in the fridge. Tender herbs (parsley, cilantro, and mint) should be placed in a glass with one inch of water at room temperature.

13. Bakery Treats

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We all love birthday cakes, cookies, and pastries on weekend mornings, but they don’t tend to last more than a couple of days on the counter. Try freezing these bakery items before they spoil or buying smaller portions.

14. Sweet Snacks

Sweet Snacks
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Although no one likes throwing away chocolate or gummy bears, these snacks have expiration dates too. So avoid overbuying snacks during sales, holidays, and birthdays to prevent waste. Instead, place open sweets into storage containers or ziplock bags.

15. Meat

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Portion control and planning is the key to avoid wasting meat and processed lunch meats. Ask the butcher to divide meat packages into smaller servings or consider freezing portions the same day as your grocery run.

16. Seafood

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It’s easy to waste seafood that you thought you would eat in a day or two. But uneaten seafood spoils if not eaten before the expiration date. Don’t forget that uncooked fish and seafood can be stored in the freezer if you find yourself changing dinner plans.

17. Cooked Leftovers

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In line with the old saying, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs…we often prepare or serve enough food for an army. Freezing leftovers and eating them later may help reduce wasted groceries and take-out orders. You could also try cooking smaller meals by cutting recipes in half.


18. Condiments

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Aside from not using condiments before the expiration date, condiments are frequently wasted by not getting the sauce off the bottom of the jar/bottle. Adding a little water can help loosen the remaining sauce. Resist the urge to purchase large containers of condiments during sales or at bulk stores.

19. Oils

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Oils have a shorter shelf life than many people think. And it’s made shorter when not appropriately stored.  Most oils should be stored in a cool, dry place (not the fridge). Be sure to check the bottle for expiration dates and keep all oils together to prevent duplicate buying.

20. Ice-cream

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Although ice cream can be stored for up to four months and used past the expiration date if unopened, opened ice cream should be consumed within one to two months. And when not appropriately stored or left in the freezer too long, ice cream can develop a freezer burn that is guaranteed to affect the taste. Therefore, it’s best to buy ice cream in small quantities that you know you’re going to use for the best taste and the least waste.

Feed Your Finances

If you’re looking to have better money habits who would have thought you could begin in your kitchen? Be thoughtful and deliberate about your food purchases and avoid impulsive grocery shopping trips.

Meal planning and budgeting will help. Before shopping, be sure to check your cabinets and write down exactly what you need to buy for the week. Be a little creative in the kitchen and try using up what you already have before the next shopping trip.



Theresa is the founder of the blog In The Game Investing. She is a personal finance and investing enthusiast, helping professional women take control of their money and investments.