Nutrition Articles

5 Ways to Prevent Food from Going to Waste

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

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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

  • 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
  • BETTYCOOPER121
    http://inspiyr.co
    m/ - 10/14/2013 1:22:04 PM
  • BETTYCOOPER121
    Simply fantastic article!! Great suggestions too. The suggestion of composting was the best.I also liked the other idea wherein making of broth using raw veggies was suggested. - 10/14/2013 1:20:43 PM
  • I clicked the link for.... Freezing and Food Safety information
    It said the page has moved - 8/28/2013 11:57:38 AM
  • Another great solution to many issues is: Buy a Juicer! All to often neglected are the multiple benefits you can reap by "juicing" fruits and vegetables. In the property I asked for from my divorce was my juicer. At 61 yrs old I am again juicing almost "everything". Green beans, carrots, celery, spinach, and it may be a little wilted...but that's OK! I save tons of money now..juicing fruits...grapes, tomatoes, apples, even catalope, watermelon, etc. My weight has dropped my energy level is "jacked" and my appetite is much better controlled. Read myrecent blog for more . Best of all....NO MORE WASTE! Try it...u will love it! Scott - 8/28/2013 7:32:02 AM
  • I really like the idea of using raw veggie scraps for making broth and even using the left over chicken bones for a chicken broth. Thanks! - 8/17/2013 1:40:45 AM
  • all good points I would like to add that its good to keep a sharp eye on the fridge- I know its easy to forget what's inside before it spoils - especially vegetables. - 11/19/2012 8:34:10 PM
  • If you're lucky your compost pile just may produce beautiful vegetables all by itself. Mine gave me two perfect and delicious spaghetti squash! - 9/24/2012 7:42:58 PM
  • These are actually good ideas! I save money by buying whole chickens and cutting them to portions myself. I freeze the scraps like the backbone and organs for stock, then after I eat the meat off the bones I also freeze those for stock. I save onion peelings, celery ends, and carrot bits for the stock too. I always have a big container of these scraps, and when it's full it's stock-making time! I also make my own raw fermented sauerkraut and pickles and plan to make my own apple cider vinegar from apple cores and skins once I get a bunch of apples. Leftover wine can be made into wine vinegar. - 9/7/2012 1:59:37 PM
  • Great ideas. I do save my veggie scraps and freeze them until I have enough to make broth. I put them in the crock pot for 48 hours and then freeze them in ice cube trays so you can measure them easily (about 1/4 cup each cube). Besides using them in rice and similar items, I will use a couple of cups worth on steak night, reduce it down to about 1/3-1/2 cup so the flavors are condensed, add a little salt and pepper and just a dab of brown sugar which helps flavor and thicken. Then, I add my sauteed mushrooms and the whole thing goes over the filet mignon. Sort of a semi-veggie-demi-
    glace. Heavenly! - 9/7/2012 1:48:23 PM
  • Great ideas, I really like the one about freezing leftover coffee for iced coffee later. - 9/7/2012 12:14:39 PM
  • Great Article. I was just talking about this yesterday. Composting is a very good idea. - 9/7/2012 10:27:13 AM
  • This was a fantastic article, and I'm loving the suggestions in the comments. I had no idea I should freeze spinach for my smoothies. Problem solved!!! And I wanted to add that you CAN most certainly feed your dog scraps depending on what it is. But if you do, first check to make sure it's not toxic (http://www.aspca
    .org/pet-care
    /poison-contr
    ol/people-foods.aspx). Secondly, it should be free of salt or most seasonings. Also, because some foods (pasta for example) are higher in calorie than others (like carrots), you'll want to adjust the amount of regular dog food you're feeding. And I never give scraps while at the table or just because I have some available .... always mixed into the regular dog food. But, naturally, avoid any of this if your dog has a sensitive stomach. But generally speaking, variety in foods - especially at a young age, is just as good for dogs as it is for humans. It also helps avoid allergies. But always talk with your vet if you have doubts. - 9/7/2012 9:28:35 AM