Nutrition Articles

5 Ways to Prevent Food from Going to Waste

Don't Kick Food Waste to the Curb--Prevent It

Food spoils--and quickly! When thinking about your own kitchen, you may not view the food you toss or the leftovers you never eat as money down the drain, but food waste has a major impact on your bank account and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that "American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually."

Fortunately, you can start at home and do your part to help curb food waste. You’ll be thinking green and stretching your dollars further at the same time. Some simple changes can have big effects! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Create a plan—and stick to it!
Meal planning is a critical step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you're going to eat today, tomorrow and this coming weekend, you will only purchase the foods you need at the store, preventing you from buying foods on a whim only to have them spoil before you eat them. Creating the plan isn't enough—you must stick to it if it's going to work. Setting your sights for making chili next weekend is great, but when you lose track of time during the week and let the veggies wilt, you are throwing away more than spoiled food; you're wasting your money, too. Stay on top of your planned meal schedule by keeping a calendar on the fridge to remember what’s on the menu each day. When planning, account for all the foods you have to buy and creatively use them throughout the week. Use that eight-pack of whole-wheat hamburger buns for a cookout one night and tuna sandwiches for lunch the next day, for example.

Scrape your scraps.
Look for new ways to use food scraps. Instead of throwing away half an onion or extra bits of carrot, store extras in a container in the freezer. Once you’ve saved enough, boil them in water to make your own homemade vegetable broth that you can use when cooking rice and soup. (You can also compost your food scraps.)

Don't like the heels of a loaf of bread? Chop them up and bake your own croutons, or dry them to use as breadcrumbs. (Your heart will thank you, too! Most store-bought breadcrumbs still contain trans fat.)

Leftover bits of chicken, fish, shrimp, or tofu can be used in a soups or salads the next day. If you have a dog, you may be able to treat her to certain scraps from fruits, vegetables, and meats as a treat, but check with your vet first.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • my last resort is not compost it is feed it to the chickens or pigs! - 10/8/2015 4:22:31 AM
    A note on the wasting of the food scraps:
    I have worms. You can get some worms and they will eat all the scraps from the table. (just no meat, dairy, very sour stuff) they will make you the BEST compost and the BEST plant food you will ever have. I does not stink and is very very east to do, I even forget about mine. - 10/7/2015 3:13:35 AM
    One great thing I discovered to do with broccoli stalks is peel the outer woody layer off with a paring knife and shred what is left and make broccoli slaw. Yum! - 10/6/2015 4:30:00 PM
    I put leftovers into plastic or glass containers, use a "stick em" note to write what's in there and the date. The most food wasted is always the vegetables and fruits, since we began the eating healthy plan, some Expert needs to finally admit that we toss a lot of that stuff because it doesn't really appeal to us to eat it in the first place, be honest, people!! I've had better luck with frozen veggies, just to make the family get in their veggies each day, but, seriously, salad stuff gets old because my family is not thrilled to eat salads, at least cabbage and cauliflower last longer in the fridge. There is reason that the Experts have to keep nagging us about produce, and have been nagging for Decades!! - 10/6/2015 1:23:45 PM
  • I had been losing food in the refrigerator, so I started labeling the leftover containers. I use masking tape and a sharpie. Works great, and I know what I have, so not as much goes to waste. I also mark things that go in the freezer. That really helps me keep track of prepared foods. - 10/6/2015 10:27:55 AM
    I try freezing leftovers into small containers for days I don't have time to cook, it works for us - 10/6/2015 6:13:57 AM
  • I tried the idea of planning my meals ahead and writing them on a chart but found I frequently needed to change, for example, one day I planned a meal that takes a long time to cook and didn't get home in time so I use index cards with the meals (and shopping necessities and which cookbook the recipe is in) on them. Then if I need to change I just shuffle the cards remembering that I do have ingredients in the fridge to be used up. I do pair meals that use the same ingredient, for example, mushrooms in the same week so less waste. I post them on a magnetic clip on the refrigerator so I remember to get frozen food out to thaw and my family can read them which eliminates "What's for dinner?" questions. - 7/3/2015 7:47:45 PM
  • I used to buy groceries once a week and lost most of it at the back of the fridge and much of it would get tossed at the end of the week. I now buy more frequently and waste way less. - 9/28/2014 6:10:14 PM
  • I HAD been tossing spoiled spinach into my compost bin way too often. Then a friend told me I should freeze part of the bag and just keep enough fresh for salad use. Frozen is great for smoothies and cooked dishes. No more wasted spinach now. - 9/28/2014 9:16:30 AM
  • Great info. I also freeze small amounts of left over veggies in snack size bags and they all go in the next veggie soup which I make every few weeks. The soup is different depending on what is on hand but always delicious. - 9/28/2014 7:19:05 AM
  • Great ideas.. Thanks SP :) - 9/28/2014 7:01:38 AM
  • This is a subject that I thought I was on top of, and turns out, I'm not. I can do a lot more! Thanks. - 8/9/2014 7:48:24 AM
  • I liked the suggestions for what can be done with scraps & leftovers. - 7/21/2014 8:59:15 PM
  • Good article...motivat
    ing! And I enjoy reading the comments from others. There are a lot of good thoughts there, too. By the way, some foods ARE good for your dog, but please check with your vet first as was suggested. - 4/10/2014 5:25:42 PM
    m/ - 10/14/2013 1:22:04 PM

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