35 Tips for Reducing Food Waste in Your Home

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How to Reduce Food Waste in Your Home: 35 Tips and Tricks

How to Reduce Food Waste in Your Home: 35 Tips and Tricks

Save the world and your wallet
35 Tips for Reducing Food Waste in Your Home

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Any food that makes it all the way through the food production process onto our plates or into stores and restaurants but is thrown out anyway is considered food waste. In the United States, food waste accounts for between 30% and 40% of the food supply. Most wasted food ends up in landfills and combustion facilities. Reducing food waste conserves energy, saves you money and supports your community. Here is how you can get started reducing your household’s food waste today.

Conduct a food waste audit

Conduct a food waste audit

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Like you would before crafting a family budget, use an audit to begin your mission to reduce food waste. For a couple days or a week, track how much of your food ends up in the trash and why. Then, you can craft a plan tailored to your family’s specific habits.

Organize your pantry

Organize your pantry

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With a meal plan in place, start to organize your pantry. Stack your pantry staples by shelf life and prioritize using up any soon-to-be expired products. If you’re in the mood to continue organizing, you can implement other easy hacks to simplify your life.

Plan your meals for the week

Plan your meals for the week

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Before grocery shopping, plan out the week’s meals from make-ahead egg breakfasts to easy chicken dinners. Plan to purchase only the ingredients required for those meals.

Add quantities to your grocery list

Add quantities to your grocery list

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Instead of including just items like pasta, rice or eggs on your grocery list, add how much of each you will need for the week. Save money by keeping unnecessary grocery store buys like pancake mix, stock and pre-cut fruits off your shopping list too.

Log your family’s favorite meals

Log your family’s favorite meals

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To better craft your grocery list, keep a running log of your family’s go-to weeknight dinners. Take note of the ingredients you use most frequently compared to the ingredients you bought, used once and never touched again.

Schedule eat-out days

Schedule eat-out days

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Include take-out days in your weekly meal plan. Whether you plan to order from the top pizzerias or the best Chinese restaurants, pencil that into your plan. Remember to be realistic about how often you plan to eat out and cook throughout the week.

Shop at home before the grocery store

Shop at home before the grocery store

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Take one final look at your cabinets, freezer, fridge and pantry before heading out to the grocery store. Double-check that everything on your list is essential and not already in your kitchen.

Search for substitutes

Search for substitutes

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When trying to bake or cook a new dish, don’t immediately add any missing ingredients to your grocery list. Instead, work with what you have. Minimize unnecessary purchases by swapping out ingredients for easy cooking and baking ingredient substitutes already stocked in your cabinets.

Purchase ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies

Purchase ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies

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Do not be put off by fruits or vegetables with physical imperfections. Instead, purchase “ugly” produce as often as you can. So long as they are not damaged or rotten, otherwise misshapen produce is safe to eat.

Buy local produce

Buy local produce

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Buying local produce means supporting local farmers, boosting the community economy. It also meanns you're getting your fruits and vegetables at their freshest -- the fresher the food, the longer it will last. If you are not buying produce locally, you can do like our grandmothers did and grow your own.

Buy bulk only if you know you’ll use it

Buy bulk only if you know you’ll use it

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Buying in bulk is an excellent money-saving tip only if you plan to use up all of the product you buy. Otherwise, perishable bulk buys can go bad before you get to using them.

Keep eggs and dairy near the back of the fridge

Keep eggs and dairy near the back of the fridge

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Store milk, eggs and butter near the back of your refrigerator away from the fridge door. There, the temperature is the coolest and less prone to fluctuations. This will ensure your food stays fresh.

Remember some produce belongs on the countertops

Remember some produce belongs on the countertops

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If you toss all your bagged vegetables and fruit in refrigerator drawers, you have been storing your groceries all wrong. Avocados, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, peaches and tomatoes can all be stored on your countertop as they ripen. After they ripen, these fruits can be moved to the fridge for longer storage.

Keep other produce items in the pantry

Keep other produce items in the pantry

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Garlic, sweet potatoes, winter squash, potatoes kept in paper bags, and mesh-wrapped onions should be stored in the dark, cool pantry. The following fruits and veggies, on the other hand, can be stored in the fridge as soon as you arrive home from the store: apples, asparagus, beans, beets, berries, broccoli, cherries, grapes, limes and lemons.

Make an ‘eat first’ section in your fridge

Make an ‘eat first’ section in your fridge

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As you restock your fridge with new groceries, move up any older products to the front. Turn a corner of the fridge into an “eat first” area. Place all soon-to-expire products here so they are top of mind.

Wash berries right before you eat them

Wash berries right before you eat them

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To keep all your favorite heart-healthy berries mold-free, wait until just before you are about to eat them to wash.

Separate bananas from other produce

Separate bananas from other produce

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Certain fresh fruits like bananas, apples and tomatoes give off natural gases as they ripen. Keep those stored far from other fruits and vegetables in separate bins or drawers as they will cause nearby produce to quickly ripen too.

Keep onions away from potatoes

Keep onions away from potatoes

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Onions and potatoes may pair well together in over a dozen scrumptious casseroles, however, uncooked they should not be stored together. Keep onions away from potatoes as they make them sprout faster. 

Revive wilted greens

Revive wilted greens

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To give new life to wilted greens, soak them in an ice-cold water bath. Then, as soon as you can, incorporate them into the best salads.

Regrow scraps

Regrow scraps

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Give unused vegetables a second chance at life by adding them to your indoor garden. All you need is some water, a cup and sunlight to regrow kitchen staples like lettuce, scallions and leeks from scraps.

Freeze excess produce

Freeze excess produce

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Store any excess vegetables and fruits in the freezer. Later, you can use frozen fruit and vegetables as the primary ingredient in homemade and healthy smoothies or quick and easy freezer meals.

Freeze other perishables too

Freeze other perishables too

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While some perishable foods like milk, eggs and cream-based products should never be kept frozen, others like breads and meats can be stored in the freezer. To determine the longevity of any frozen goods, use the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ FoodKeeper App.

Thaw only what you need

Thaw only what you need

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Thaw only as much food as you plan to immediately use, that way no perfectly frozen meats or veggies go to waste. You should also make sure you know how to thaw chicken and other foods correctly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, perishable foods should never be defrosted on the counter or in hot water.

Can what you can

Can what you can

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You can also can surplus foods like fruits and vegetables. Cucumbers, tomatoes and beans make for simple and easy introductory canning. 

Quickly prepare perishables

Quickly prepare perishables

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The easiest way to reduce food waste is to use up the food you have quickly before any of it spoils. Whip up soups and stews or hearty rice dinners using a mix of refrigerated perishables and pantry staples.

Learn the difference between ‘sell-by,’ ‘use-by’ and ‘best-by’

Learn the difference between ‘sell-by,’ ‘use-by’ and ‘best-by’

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According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, confusion over date labeling accounts for an estimated 20% of consumer food waste. So it’s time to learn the answer to this common grocery question. According to the USDA, “best if used by” dates indicate when a product will be of best quality. “Sell by” dates tell shops when to pull products off the shelf. And “use by” dates are the recommended last date products will be at peak quality.

Meal prep ahead of time

Meal prep ahead of time

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Meal planning goes further than listing out meals for the week. Make ahead and freeze your favorite comfort foods and incorporate other meal prep hacks into your cooking routine to save time and preserve food.

Follow the 2-hour rule

Follow the 2-hour rule

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In order to ensure all your leftovers are good to be eaten the next day, follow the two-hour rule. Do not leave any perishable food out at room temperature for longer than two hours.

Only order out what you can finish

Only order out what you can finish

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Whenever you eat out or order in, order only what you know you can finish. Kindly ask the server or person on the other side of the take-out call about portion sizes and side dishes. If necessary, keep whatever leftovers you have for tomorrow’s lunch.

Have an eat-the-leftovers night

Have an eat-the-leftovers night

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Pick a day of the week when all you eat for lunch or dinner is leftovers. Use leftover chicken or whatever else you have stored in your fridge to craft entirely new dishes, from casseroles and frittatas to soups and stir-fries.

Donate any excess

Donate any excess

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To help your community, donate any untouched packaged food you may have to local pantries and food kitchens. Shelf-stable, canned foods that have yet to reach their sell-by date can be used at food banks along with other personal care and household items.

Make meals that wipe out any perishables

Make meals that wipe out any perishables

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Rather than write a list of what you need to buy, first write a list of what you need to use up. Each week, jot down a list of all the perishable foods you need to wipe out before they spoil. Plan meals and your grocery list around dishes that use a lot of eggs or make recipes that will finish up a gallon of milk.

Use parts of food you normally wouldn’t

Use parts of food you normally wouldn’t

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If they’re edible, use up all the parts of your foods you normally would throw away. Use up a loaf of bread to make croutons or turn vegetable scraps into vegetable stock.

Cook with over-ripe produce

Cook with over-ripe produce

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Do not discard over-ripe produce. It can be used to bake bread, make a super smoothie or homemade jam for sandwiches.

Compost

Compost

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste together make up more than 28% of what is thrown away. Use any remaining fruits and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags and nutshells along with yard waste like grass clippings, leaves and wood chips to create a compost pile. Composting is just one of several ways to be more sustainable in your everyday life. 

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