Did you know most food waste happens at home? Here are dozens of ways to repurpose food plus save time and money.
What is food waste?
We buy food with the best of intentions, don’t we?
We don’t mean to be wasteful, do we?
But have you thrown out food this week?
Perhaps you bought vegetables because you thought you should be eating more of them. But then didn’t cook them or know how to make them taste good.
Or you bought food intending to eat at home but then ended up going out. Or the ingredients meant for a specific occasion went unused because it never happened.
So the banana ripens before you peel it. The lettuce turns brown before the salad is made. The fish turns before you get to it.
You’re not alone. It’s estimated that we toss about 20 percent of the food we buy.
Food is the largest stream of materials in American trash. Forty four percent of food waste occurs at home.
A food waste challenge at home
Ready to see how much food and money you are throwing away? You can do your own wasted food challenge. For one week, measure how much food your family wastes in a week and record the volume. Track how much you throw away and the reason you didn’t eat it. It could be that you ate out, didn’t know how to cook the food, didn’t feel like cooking, bought too much, didn’t store it properly. Also note the approximate value. If you paid $3.00 for a container of strawberries and threw away a third, you lost a dollar to wasted food.
Let me know your results! 😉
Tips for reducing food waste
- Label items in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. A name and date go a long way to help keep track of food and reduce waste. No need to make your freezer a cold tray bin!
- Store leftovers in clear glass containers so you can see them.
3. When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165° F. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through
4. The Sell-by date is a suggestion for display in store. There is still reasonable time to use the food so no need to throw out milk on this date!
5. Best-by and Use-by dates are recommendations for best flavor/quality. Beyond this date is rarely a safety concern (see #6). An exception is infant formula and baby food. These dates should be followed.
6. Use Best-by date on foods with a higher Listeriosis risk: deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, raw sprouts, raw milk and soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk.
7. FIFO: first in, first out. Bring older food to front of fridge and cupboards to avoid castaways.
8. Post an “Eat First” sign in your fridge to let everyone know what foods need to go. Use these foods for lunches, snacks, or to repurpose into another meal. Or make Sunday a clean-out-the-fridge meal.
9. Shop your own kitchen first. Ask: “What do I have?” rather than “What do I want?”
10. Cook perishable foods first. The sooner you get to them, the easier it is to serve as snacks and meals through the week, saving time, effort, and money.
11. Check out: Is My Food Safe? and FoodKeeper Free on Itunes.
12. Right size your portions so you’re not cooking too much
13. Purchase with a purpose. Planning a weekly menu makes better use of your groceries.
How to reduce food waste, dairy
- Keep your milk fresh and cold by storing it in the coldest part of the fridge—the back bottom shelf. Not the door.
- Clean the cheese drawer. Shred or chop a variety of cheeses to use in grilled cheese sandwich. Add jam for a flavor boost. This is not your mother’s grilled cheese!
- Have extra milk on hand? Make Masala Chai to sip hot or cold.
- How long does yogurt last? Kept cold it can last a month. See mold? Toss.
- Plain yogurt can be mixed in dips, dressings, pancakes, muffins, overnight oats, smoothies, soups or sauces.
- Have extra milk you need to use? Make Panna Cotta or yogurt or bake Apricot Pecan Crisps.
- Spread ricotta cheese on toast. Top with sliced kiwifruit or tomato.
- Use cottage cheese in place of cream cheese or ricotta in dips, casseroles, pancakes and desserts. Process in a blender if you want a smoother texture.
How to reduce food waste, vegetables
- Mix leftover corn with chopped peaches, avocado and feta or black beans and peppers with a squeeze of lime juice.
- Freeze chipotle peppers and dollops of tomato paste on waxed paper, then store airtight.
- Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark, ventilated place, such as an unheated pantry or closet. Refrigerator is too cold for spuds. Take advantage of the bags many potatoes are sold in. Those dark-colored, perforated plastic bags with small holes cut in the sides allow air movement and are ideal for taters.
- Onions, like potatoes, prefer a cool, dry, ventilated area.
- Leftover avocado? Rub the cut surface with lemon or lime juice; store in airtight container. Smash onto toast with sprinkle of chile flakes and salt.
- Blend fresh herbs with oil; freeze in ice cube trays. Or make pesto.
- Marinate older mushrooms in oil, vinegar and herbs
- Add chopped vegetables to hummus, quesadillas, pizza, tacos, frittatas, and omelets.
- Grate butternut squash, carrot or parsnips in hash browns, breads and muffins.
- Add puréed cooked carrots or squash to mac n cheese or serve over ravioli.
- Collect vegetable odds and ends such as carrot peels, asparagus ends, broccoli stalks, onions, celery roots and leftover green beans in a freezer bag to use for soup. Use the whole cauliflower in Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccine.
- Add limp carrots, peppers or celery or soft fruits such as plums, pears, apples to your slow cooker meals for more flavorful soups, stews and braised meats.
- Pickle juice can be used to pickle onions, cucumbers or zucchini.
- Use the levers on your crisper drawers. An open lever allows moisture and gases to escape for apples, pears, peppers, mushrooms, and ripe mangoes and avocados. Closed lever keeps moisture in for lettuce, spinach, broccoli and strawberries. Compost what you don’t use.
15. Use a salad spinner to keep lettuce, herbs and other greens dry. A rubber ring on the bottom keeps it from scooting across the counter like this Oxo spinner.
How to reduce food waste, fruit
- Ripe bananas are super sweet additions to smoothies. Peel ripe bananas; freeze in airtight container. Break into chunks before tossing in blender or use ripe bananas to sweeten cooked oatmeal. Add toward the end of cooking.
- Look for a produce sale bin next time you shop. Give a bruised apple a home and save money.
- Use leftover fruit or vegetables to infuse water.
4. Extra fruit on hand? Repurpose it into a sorbet.
5. If you consistently throw away fresh fruits and vegetables, buy frozen or canned. They result in less food waste overall.
6. Salsa is the Little Black Dress for a chicken breast. Use fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices.
7. Freeze juice, chicken broth, coconut milk, and wine in ice cube trays for flavor boosts
8. Extra fruit that’s past its prime? Freeze it for smoothies. Make a sauce to spoon over oatmeal or yogurt. Blend with olive oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing or glaze
9. Store bananas, pineapple, ginger, winter squash, eggplant, and basil at room temperature.
10. Ripen at room temp in a paper bag, then refrigerate avocado, kiwifruit, melon, peach, pear, plum, and mango.
11. Repurpose a less-than-perfect mango into Mango Jalapeno Dressing.
12. Will you use the BOGO special? If not, best to leave it at the store.
How to reduce food waste at home, grains
- Repurpose leftover pasta into a peanut noodle bowl or scramble with eggs. Float ravioli in chicken broth with spinach and mushrooms.
- Use dry bread (not moldy) to make croutons, breadcrumbs or crostini. Slice into ¼-inch, spray with cooking spray, bake 5 minutes at 350°F. Mix ricotta with peas and mint to spread on those toasted slices.
- Consider the bulk bins when shopping for grains, cereal, nuts, dried fruit. Buy the amount you need to avoid storing foods you may use once in a blue moon. Also reduces packaging.
- Repurpose dry bread into a strata. Plus a good way to use those veggies and cheese.
- Slice olive bread or cranberry walnut bread into thin slices, bake at 350℉ to make crackers.
- Dried tortillas? Make chips. Cut into wedges, sprinkle with salt and chile powder or lime zest. Bake 400℉.
- Cooked rice and grains can be frozen in airtight containers for several months. Don’t forget to label and date.
How to reduce food waste, protein
- Vacuum-packed ground meat is only packaged once so it uses half the amount of plastic. Vacuum packing makes it last longer.
- Ideal storage for eggs is in the original carton in the center of the fridge. They may be refrigerated 4 to 5 weeks. Once cooked (such as a pie or casserole) or out of their shell, eat within 3-4 days.
- Repurpose leftover meatloaf into paninis or add to egg muffin cups or cornbread.
- Packaged raw meat: should be stored on a tray on the bottom shelf up to 2 days before cooking or freeze for 3-4 months.
- Store packaged raw meat on a tray on bottom shelf. Plan to use refrigerated roasts and steaks within 3 to 4 days and ground beef within 1 to 2 days of purchase.
The number one way to reduce food waste at home?
Shop with a grocery list. You’ll spend less and save time and you’ll never find brown, mushy lettuce in your fridge again. My LiveBest shopping list can help.
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Judy you hit it out of the park with this post, leaving nothing out to help folks reduce food waste. Bravo!!
Thanks, Bridget! Small steps to reduce food waste. Take what you need and use what you take, right?