7 Ways to Avoid Food Waste
Zero Waste Kitchen
August 1, 2017 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on September 11, 2020
The most popular phrase you’ll see on this blog is “I hate food waste.” I do. I really, really, really HATE food waste. 40% of all the food in America is wasted.
With all of that wasted food, we could feed 60 million people for a year! Food also makes up 20% of the solid waste in landfills. When organics, like food, are trapped in a landfill they can’t decompose.
This post was sponsored by The Swag – Reusable Produce Bags. I received The Swag to try for free all thoughts and opinions are my own. Please see my full disclosure for more information.
There’s not enough air in the landfill to aid in decompositions. All of the organics are surround nonorganic material making it impossible for it to breakdown.
Instead, the organics release methane which is 20 times more powerful than Co2. It’s a huge contributor to climate change.
Besides, the ecological impact of wasted food, you’re throwing away $2,000 a year. What a huge waste of money.
RELATED: How I’ve Saved $12,000 since Going Zero Waste
1. take inventory:
How often do you go to the grocery store without checking what you already have in your fridge first?
Sit down and take five minutes to make a quick meal plan. This isn’t your normal type of meal planning. (Trust me, I HATE meal planning.)
RELATED: How to Make a Five Minute Meal Plan
This is just a road map to make sure that you’re not wasting food. With a rough idea of the types of meals you’ll be eating, you know what to buy and what to eat first.
2. one bad spot doesn’t equal a rotten tomato:
A little bit of mold isn’t going to kill you. If there’s a small speck of mold on a tomato or a bell pepper, I just cut it off.
If you see something starting to go bad, it’s getting a couple of dark spots, just cut them off. Make sure to cook the foods with high heat and you’ll be fine.
I also cut mold off of cheese. Cheese is mold. Often times we have large blocks of hard cheese in the fridge. Occasionally one side will get a couple of specks of mold, just slice it off and use the good part.
Having said this, I would never eat moldy meat or milk. Use your best judgment.
RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Composting
3. buy less:
We often buy WAY too much food. We can’t eat all of it before it goes bad. Buy less than you think you need. You’ll typically wind up with the right amount.
You can always stop by the store to pick up a couple of things if you need more, but you can’t reverse the aging greens in your crisper drawer.
Our eyes are often way bigger than our stomachs. We all have this secret fear of not having enough food to eat and we tend to overspend. Grocery stores are very good at marketing.
I just came home with four pounds of sweet potatoes. Two pounds would have been fine for a week or two, I just got carried away because they looked so lovely.
Watch yourself. Buy less than you think you’ll need!
4. save your scraps:
You’re probably composting things you could have eaten. I just wrote a huge post all about 8 innovative ideas for cooking with your food scraps. Check it out here. You can also save scraps like carrot peelings, onion skins, garlic skins, tops of celery to make a delicious veggie stock.
There are so many creative ways to use food. Before walking anything out to the compost bin, ask yourself, “Is there anything else I can do with this?”
5. utilize your freezer:
If you can’t eat something in time and you notice it starting to look a little tired, freeze it. Most fruits and vegetables can be frozen and used again.
RELATED: 5 Tips for Utilizing your Freezer to Prevent Food Waste
6. cook once; prep once:
Food often goes to waste, because we’re just too busy to cook all of the meals we thought we were going to make.
Life happens and things pop-up. Keep things streamlined by cooking once and eating multiple times. If you’re chopping peppers for stir-fry tonight and you’ll need peppers for tomorrow fajitas, why not chop all of the peppers right now?
Tomorrow you won’t have to break out the cutting board again or dirty another knife. Keep it simple.
Also, look for meals that freeze well like soup or marinara. If you’re making some anyways, why not double the batch? Cook once now and eat multiple times later.
tips to store your food properly:
Making sure your food is optimally stored will make it last as long as possible, giving you every chance to avoid food waste.
I have been using The Swag produce bags in my fridge for the last several months. They’re shaped like large envelopes making it easy to buy groceries at the farmers market or the grocery store to avoid the plastic produce bags.
They seamlessly move from the store to the fridge. We’ve downsized to an apartment fridge and these bags have been a total lifesaver (and space saver)!!! They’re flexible allowing me to fit all of my groceries in the fridge.
The produce bags are made of organic, unbleached cotton and are shipped without anything in the box other than your bags. They won’t even print the instructions to save as many resources as possible.
The bags keep your produce at just the right humidity and create a breathable environment, so if you do over buy, they’ll keep just a little bit longer. 😉
carrot and celery:
trim your carrots and celery into snackable strips and submerge them in water to keep them nice and crisp!
I like to have these things prepped when submerging in water so they’re easy to grab and go for snacks. Keeping healthy snacks convenient is a must!
mushrooms and brussel sprouts:
Leave in an open bowl on a shelf or in the crisper.
I’ve always had the best of luck storing these out in the open so moisture doesn’t plague them. However, you can also wrap them in a small dry swag bag.
Keep berries in an air tight container like a mason jar and don’t wash them until right before you eat them! They should keep for up to two weeks.
Greens thrive in an environment that absorb moisture. The Swag produce bags keep my greens super happy.
I’ve had spinach last for three weeks in these bags. You wet them just on the outside to create proper humidity. The inside is still perfectly dry preventing your greens from wilting.
Place your chopped greens inside a long swag bag for a crispy lunch all week!
onions and potatoes:
Both of these items should be stored in a cool dark place separately. I store them in open baskets in a cabinet.
cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, squash, and avocados:
I let these guys roam free in the crisper drawer.
lemons, bell peppers, stone fruits, and cucumbers:
These fruits and veggies have tender skins and are prone to getting wrinkly or mushy. These do very well inside of a large swag produce bag. You can keep them all in the same bag, as they start to approach their time move them to another bag.
The bags are color coded and it’s handy to keep one color full of produce that needs to be eaten first. Dampen the bag on the outside and store in your crisper drawer.
apples and bananas:
I keep these room temp on my kitchen table for optimal snacking.
I treat all of my herbs like bouquets of flowers. Stick the stems in a cup of water and place them in the fridge or on your table trimming only what you need. The herbs should last a week or two.
Let your tomatoes ripen at room temperature before moving them into your Swag Bag with the other fleshy fruits and veggies.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for avoiding food waste?
Great points in your list, Kathryn! I store carrots in the fridge in a tightly closed mason jar. No water. They keep exactly as they are for weeks and weeks.
Interesting. I’ve always wondered about air tight for some foods. They’re so picky. I’ll have to give it a try.
Good ideas! Carrots are usually my enemy if it comes to storage as they grow mold quite quick from the moisture in my fridge. Need to store them differently. But as you said, chopping off the moldy bits does the job, and I remember to eat them soon!
Seems like a freezer is the solution to most food waste related products, and I’m really glad our new flat has a decent sized one. So much less cooking!!
I will also start a little series about food waste and how to use up things you thought inedible on my blog, check it out in the next week or so 😉
Freezers are awesome! Can’t wait to read your post!!! I will definitely be on the look out! Tell me what to do with broccoli stalks!
I know this comment is a yam ear old but cook them with the rest of your brocolli and eat them! Best bit imo! Same flavour without the flowery texture (this is how mum used to get me to eat it!)
I am just now getting into cooking. These tips are amazing!
You have to try freezer stock!!! Take all your scraps cover with water and simmer for an hour or two. You’re left with amazing stock that I, of course, freeze. I use 8 oz mason jars; because, they’re a perfect cup. I don’t have to defrost a huge thing then refreeze it.
I am guilty of buying too much produce also. I am getting a little better, but still need to work on it. One way I like to use up a lot produce at one time is to juice it (which I like to do anyway), but it gets the job done when produce is about to spoil.
I want a juicer! What type do you have?
My crisper is where good intentions go to die! I need to start prepping so it stays fresh longer!
That’s the most perfect quote. I want to frame that in my kitchen.
I’ve tried storing tomatos on the counter, but they seem to go bad faster than in the fridge. Plus, they just seem to taste better when cold, to me. Great storage tips – thanks!
Of course! Yes, I think the pros have the tomatoes all wrong. Fridge is the way to be.
I’m so weird about tomatoes, because I already don’t like how they taste (except when they’re home grown – what is it about tomatoes that just tastes so much better when they’re fresh from the vine?). I’d agree that they should stay out of the fridge, unless of course they’re in a salsa or a salad.
I grew tomatoes last year, and they were far superior! I’m upping my tomato game next year. I canned about 6 batches of salsa in September. They didn’t even make through half of football season…. haha.
What a great posts and tips. I hate wasting food and didn’t know about some of these tips!
Thank you! I just unrolled some salad for lunch today. It’s crisp after being in the fridge over 10 days, can you believe it!?
I am SO with you here. I hate hate hate wasting food. It’s like a mega pet peeve! I use every scrap I can and have a post similar to yours. Except I wasn’t aware of some of your food storage tips. Thanks for the great advice!!
Of course! I have a batch of freezer stock coming up soon!
My freezer is also crucial – I’ve never had bread mold ever since I discovered how well it (and as you said, most things) freeze! I also use a recipe search engine to find ways to use up as much of my nearly-going-bad stuff as possible. For example, I might search for "recipe with sour cream, spinach, and tomatoes" to get inspired: https://spoonacular.com/recipe-with-sour-cream-spinach-and-tomatoes
Hope this helps someone else!
Yes! I always Google what’s about to go bad! My boyfriend is so darn picky though. However, I think we’d both live off pizza if we could. 🙂
I’ve been told if you store tomatoes in the fridge it actually changes them molecularly and makes them less sweet. I store mine in a cardboard box with other non-refrigerated veggies in the shade! -www.kenibartleyblog.com
Cheese mold can be avoided with wax paper first….then a plastic bag. Try it?
This was really nice! Thank you so much 🙂
Using The Swag reusable bags to replace those plastic produce bags is a great idea, but $74 for a starter pak? Ouch! I admire entrepreneurs who see a need and create eco-friendly products, but if the average middle-class family can’t afford them, they don’t seem very practical to me. Surely there is an American manufacturer who carries a similar product at less cost.
I eat large green salads daily and am constantly challenged to use up all the greens that come in those large clamshells. Each time I use them, I wipe down the interior of the clamshell with a paper towel, and lay another paper towel on top of the greens and store it upside down in the fridge, so any condensation will drip onto the paper towel. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps. I also use those paper towels for other uses so I’m not adding to paper waste.
I was thinking of making my own. Learning to sew can save you a fortune.
Great post! This is such an important issue. I have also just posted a blog in which I share some of my tips for reducing food waste: https://www.thegreenpumpkin.com/the-first-and-most-important-step-towards-a-sustainable-diet/
I read somewhere that you can regrow some vegetables and I decided to try this idea out with leeks. It works! I treated it mostly as an experiment but if something can grow even in my flat on my windowsill, then why not?
Great tips. I also hate food waste. I grew up in the tropics without a fridge until I was about 9 years old!! My Mum was super efficient at avoiding food waste and I learnt a lot from her. We need to shop for what we need and plan our meals appropriately. Difficult to do sometimes as there is too much temptation. We just need to use our common sense ?
I like the pickle all kinds of veggies and even eggs. I always am aware of what goes bad first and eat those and make meal plans around those foods.
For Zero waste starts using composting machine for machines:http://sukhiservices.com/.
90% volume reduction of waste is achieved. And in simple way Reduce Food Waste in Your Own Life, Share what you learn, Start a Food Waste Campaign, Support Businesses for Food Waste Reduction and Engage with Local Government.
I think this a good post especially because food waste is such a HUGE problem! Good Job
Thought you may like to see this food storage guide.
Can you send me the link to buy these bags thanks
Thanks for sharing this post. We started a campaign to prevent food waste. Actually we created a mobile app and website ‘Groliste’. It is manage all things like food, grocery and other pantry items. Groliste connects you to the food, the supplier, the producer, the land, the water, the farmer, the economic impact and your individual contribution to the society. Groliste intends to connect you right to the source and feel the importance of food. It intends to solve one of the biggest global problems of food waste, its impact on the society whether its economic, social, climate or resources related.
I got so sick of those plastic, flimsy bags at the grocery store that I made my own bags from old sheets. They not only feel better and look prettier, but they make all my produce last longer by far in the crisper! All need to know that they don’t have to buy veggie bags because they are so easy to make and going greener means you should be reusing, saving money, and developing a hate for plastic!
I loved this blog and going to share it on my social media channels! @OLIO_BayArea I would love to do a collab with you if you’d be interested! [email protected]
This is so helpful. I came across your post while doing research for own blog. I am writing on plastic free living. I have long been frustrated with wasting food myself and I am so happy I found all you useful tips. I will continue to follow along.
Oh, I’m so with you on hating food-waste! For me, since I took early retirement I think of the money I’m wasting. We just started using Click and Collect at the supermarket, and I’m convinced it stops us over-shopping. I also check my supplies with tablet in hand so I know I’m getting everything I need. One other thing is we grow our own. Just a few, anyway. I can harvest fresh herbs a little at a time, and nothing is wasted.
Foodealz is the first app in the MENA region that fights food waste by helping businesses sell their surplus food at a discounted rate. Check us out https://foodealz.com