It’s hard to avoid processed foods, avoid wasted food, and still save money on your groceries. When you’re living on a college budget, or any low budget, it’s depressing to throw out food. Whether your parents were strict organizers or serious food hoarders, it’s possible to shed bad habits and have a clean, orderly fridge full of fresh and edible items.

Be Organized

Yes, this is the hardest part. How on Earth are you supposed to know what you want to eat on Thursday when it is only Sunday? I’m with you. You come up with something fascinatingly cheap and easy in the middle of the week, but you’re lacking one crucial ingredient. It is in your benefit to be more organized in the kitchen, and to allow for midweek spending. Don’t buy more than you need or you will end up with a dozen rotten cherry tomatoes. Try to plan similar meals for the week so you will use all of your ingredients. Plan to use your fresh herbs in non-traditional ways, such as in smoothies, pesto, and salsas, or freeze them to use in cooked foods later.

Use Old Produce

You don’t ever want to use something that’s rotten or moldy, but if those berries are merely overripe, throw them in a smoothie. Salvage your apples, peaches, and tropical fruits the same way. If your bananas are a little too soft, put them in muffins, pancakes, or oatmeal. You can play the same tricks on most of your vegetables. Spinach a little wilted? Sauté it with some garlic. Zucchini far too soft? Make zucchini bread. Broccoli getting soggy? Whip up some soup! Tomatoes turning to mush? Time for tomato sauce, or even roasted tomatoes! Don’t throw them out until you’ve given them a second chance.

Use the Freezer

Do not freeze your fresh vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, and more will just turn to brown mush if you try to freeze them raw. You can, however, purchase frozen produce with very good results. These items are flash frozen immediately after being harvested, and might even hold onto a lot more nutrients than your refrigerated variety. You can freeze many fruits though; it’s best to peel and or slice them, and then freeze the pieces on a cookie sheet. You can use these in homemade ice cream, smoothies, and many desserts.

Eat Your Leftovers

It’s always a good idea to cook once and eat twice, or maybe even three times. The waste happens when you make uneven sizes – like two servings of meat and six servings of rice – or when you simply never eat your leftovers. If you can’t have the same thing twice, try to change it up my making your leftovers into a sandwich, quesadilla, or Panini. You can always pour a bunch of Sriracha on anything to make a more interesting meal for day 2!

Staying Stocked

It’s okay to have a few processed items on hand. Just don’t make ramen, mac & cheese, and canned vegetables the bulk of your diet. If you’re making ramen or mac & cheese, try to add some fresh vegetables, or eat a piece of fruit with your meal. Those extra nutrients will really add up! A great idea is to just keep a few items stocked in your home to whip up a fast meal. I suggest frozen broccoli, whole wheat or buckwheat pasta, and a jar of tomato sauce (organic if possible). Another option is frozen brown rice, canned black beans, and any frozen vegetable. You can easily throw together a super quick meal with these three ingredients.

If you’re following the Hippocratic Oath of the kitchen – waste no food – these tips should surely help you on your way. Do you have any other suggestions?