I try not to waste any food on the table. Even my daughter knows that I hate wasting food. I consider it as throwing my money into the garbage cans. So when ever I see my daugther did not finish her food or simply play with her food, she will know she will get a long-winded scolding from me. I would told her that she is one lucky girl to have food. Some children from other parts of the world sleeping with hungry stomachs at nights and it is a blessing for her to be well fed.
It is tricky to teach her not to waste food. At almost 5, she is at a rebellious stage now. Fighting back, arguing back and even with her antics, it is a task to educate her. She may not be a perfect child, but I feel that as a parent I should guide her to the right direction.
I will only allow her to take food when she wants to, not when she have to. It means to say that I want her to know that when she is hungry, she have to eat. It is hard to have her follow a specific time, i.e. 12 o'clock lunch time, so I will only feed her when she telling me she is hungry. Otherwise if I feed her before she is hungry, she will not finish her plate. I can easily store the food away for her, but the emphasis here is for her to ask for food when she wants to eat.
I also give her option to choose what food she wants to eat. When it comes to her favourite food, she seldom waste them. Slowly introduce new food to her. That way she will appreciate new food.
When ever we go for grocery shopping, we will hunt for "value for money" food. Nothing expensive. With rising prices in basic goods and commodities, it is a struggle to keep everything within our budgets.
My children may not know what is expensive and what is not; they only know what is stored in the fridge. They do not know what brand is that vegetables or cold storage now. However children learn fast by example, so they will learn what is in and what is not. So, as a parent, we should not waste food ourselves. Children learn what they see and if they live seeing mummy and daddy wasting food they learn that wasting food is really okay - no matter what mummy or daddy says. So, do as you want your kids to follow.