5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste by 20%

by Joanne Guidoccio

It’s estimated that Americans throw away $165 billion in wasted food every year. Let’s stop the madness and start reducing food waste.

“Waste not, want not.” While I was growing up, this adage was tossed about by many frugal parents and grandparents in my neighborhood. But over the past five decades, that message has somehow ended up by the wayside.

According to Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw out roughly $165B in wasted food each year. That is about 20 percent more than food tossed out in 2000, 50 percent more than in 1990, and nearly three times the amount tossed out in 1960. It’s time to get proactive. Here are several ways individuals can cut down on food waste at home.

1. Plan Ahead

Before heading out to the grocery store, plan your menus for the week. Then, go through your pantry and cupboards, itemizing only those items needed to prepare meals for the next seven days.

To avoid succumbing to snacks and other tempting foods, do not shop on an empty stomach.

When unloading groceries, you should rearrange the food in your cupboards and fridge. Take this opportunity to check expiration dates and put older food front and center.

2. Deal with “Best By” Dates

While you should immediately toss food that smells funny or has changed color, be aware that producers carefully select these dates to cover themselves. In many cases, the “best by” period can be extended by several days. Check the StillTastyDatabase to see if your food is still fresh.

3. Watch Your Portions

Before serving, calculate appropriate portions for the adults and children in your home. Give children small portions and let them decide if they would like more. If you have cooked too much food or have leftovers, store in the freezer to keep the food from going bad. Remember to date the containers.

4. Eat the “Ugly” Produce

Too often, we hold our foods to a high standard, ignoring apples that have a bruise, extra-small peppers, and overly ripe bananas. If you are overly offended by the aesthetics, consider the following creative ideas:

  • Puree and freeze very ripe fruit. The fruit can be added to your morning smoothie.
  • Peel and dice ripe plums and pears. Place in a small pot over low heat. Cook until they thicken. Instant sugar-free fruit spread.
  • Use overripe strawberries, bananas, and apples in muffins and other baked goods.

5. Save the Scraps and Peels

To reduce the amount of food garbage in our landfills, reuse food scraps and peels in the following ways:

  • Store celery tops, onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, wilted cabbage leaves, and mushroom stems in freezer-safe containers. When you have accumulated enough, use them to make a vegetable stock.
  • Use broccoli and kale stalks in your next stir-fry.
  • Convert hard bread into croutons or bread crumbs.
  • Hard pitas can be used to make mini pizzas. Cover with tomato sauce, grated cheese and whatever vegetables are available.
  • Roast potato peels to create an easy pre-dinner snack. Start by heating the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the peels with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a large baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once. Eat immediately.

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Reviewed January 2020

About the Author

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in Canadian newspapers and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma.

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