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Five Ways to Cut Food Waste at Home

A handful of simple strategies can help you to eat more sustainably to protect the planet.

Five Ways to Cut Food Waste

It never feels good to throw away food, and yet, we’ve all done it.

That gorgeous bunch of lettuce you got at the farmer’s market? Liquefied in the produce drawer. The fresh bread you were going to make so many great sandwiches with? Molded over with just
a few slices used. The mango you intended for a new salsa recipe? Unspeakably smelly and buzzing with fruit flies— an innocent bystander that missed its moment of glory as the perfect complement on Taco Tuesday.

A 2015 report from the National Resources Defense Council shows that a staggering 40% of food in America—more than 20 pounds per person each month—is thrown away. In terms of dollars and other resources, the report estimates, discarded food is equivalent to $165 billion per year plus 25% of the water used to irrigate and grow the food. Throw in 10% of all energy used in the U.S. plus the chemicals and land used to grow the food and to put the waste in landfills, and you have untenable losses.

See also: Food Waste Not, Helps Earth A Lot

Here are five simple ways you can reduce your food waste footprint.

  1. Plan ahead. Buy only what you need. Okay, so the bok choy looks good this week and it’s on sale, but have a game plan for it and stick to plan. Everything you buy should have a purpose.
  2. If you can’t eat it, freeze it. Most foods can be frozen. Access the comprehensive guide at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the best cheat sheets available on general freezing guidelines, what containers work best and an alphabetized list of foods with freezing/preserving tips for each: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze.html.
  3. Cook it, juice it or blend it. Stay on top of your inventory by using it creatively. If you can’t put it in a smoothie or make a sauce from it, use it to make soup or a flavorful stock, or juice it.
  4. Compost. Save all of your scraps and compost them. Your garden beds will love it when you feed them your homemade “black gold”: www.howtocompost.org.
  5. Read past expiration dates. Just because the date says “Best by November 1” doesn’t mean you have to throw food away if you miss the date. Use common sense . . . and test with your nose and eyes. If it smells bad or looks bad, then dispose of it. According to the USDA, “Except for ‘use-by’ dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. ‘Use-by’ dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.”

Sandy Todd Webster

For 22 years, Sandy Todd Webster was the chief architect of IDEA's content program - including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS - the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. She created, launched and nurtured these brands and many others during her productive and purposeful IDEA tenure. Sandy is a Rouxbe-certified professional plant-based cook and a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach who is pursuing a Master's degree in Sustainable Food Systems through The Culinary Institute of America (expected August 2024). She plans to combine these passions with her content expertise to continue inspiring others to make the world a more just, healthy and regenerative place.

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