Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

12 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, April 3, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

A recent paper from the National Resources Defense Council shows that Americans waste up to 40 percent of their food, with the average family of four creating up to $2,275 in food waste annually. Preventing waste makes sense…and cents. Wouldn’t you rather save and spend that money on a vacation?

As an adventurous home chef with a love for experimenting with new recipes and new foods, I’ve had to acquire a sharp set of money-saving skills to get the most out of my budget and my pantry.

Here are my top 12 ways to minimize food waste.

  1. Waldorf Chicken and Pasta SaladPortion control. Controlling the amount on your plate controls the amount in the garbage. Start with a small serving and get seconds if you want them.
  2. Leftover luck. Give yesterday’s dinner a new life in a new recipe. Transform grilled chicken, steak or veggies into sandwiches or pasta salad. Get creative; last night I turned leftover chili con carne into enchiladas with delicious results!
  3. Cut your costs in half. Buy just what you need. If you need only half a melon, fish fillet, piece of cheese or loaf of fresh bread, our stores are happy to provide just the half you need. All you have to do is ask.
  4. Make a plan. Before we shop, my husband and I make a meal planner based on what’s already in the fridge and pantry (and what’s on sale!). This helps us save time and money. Plus, it prevents us from buying food we don’t need.
  5. First in, first out. Rotate items in your fridge and pantry so the oldest items are at the front. (Admittedly, I still need to work on this. I just “discovered” an expired yogurt lost in the back of the fridge. It was my favorite flavor too. Sigh.)
  6. Bulk binsCounter, pantry or fridge? Storing produce properly keeps it lasting longer. Check out our fruit and vegetable guides to learn proper produce storage.
  7. Belly up to the bulk bins. Spices, nuts and grains, oh my! Choosing only the amount I need makes more sense than storing half-filled boxes — or throwing out what I didn’t use months later. Bonus: many of our bulk offerings are organically grown.
  8. Preserve the bounty. Don’t let those juicy peak season crops go to waste! If you can’t finish them, freeze or can them and use in soups, sauces, smoothies and baked goods later.
  9. Smooth solution. A smoothie is a great vehicle for those leafy greens, a handful of berries or that last splash of juice or milk.
  10. Stock up. From carrot tops to celery stubs to chicken bones, scraps can be saved for soup stock pot.
  11. Hit the bar. Shop our stores' salad bars when you need very small amounts of vegetables for recipes.
  12. Use it up. When you buy a special ingredient for a recipe, don’t waste what’s left. Search our 3,000+ recipes for other uses.

By eating those leftovers, using our freezer and planning ahead, my family has both saved food and money. While we certainly haven’t mastered the art of zero food waste and still compost and throw things out, we are getting better.

What tips do you have for minimizing food waste? Share in the comments below.




Bunny Batson says ...
Great ideas & good information.
04/10/2013 9:32:24 PM CDT
ann says ...
Amazingly, 12 tips that could save morre than money. will save the planet. Store spices in freezer to prolong shelf life.
04/11/2013 6:19:04 AM CDT
Sharon Gugliotta says ...
We have always watched our food dollars but having just retired, we have more time to play in the kitchen. With our sons on their own, our three large dogs are our children now. After reading the ingredients on about twelve bags and cans of dog food, I realized we were paying for alot of fillers with little actual meat protein or vegetables. Thus begun my study of nutritional needs of the pups. The first place I looked was the upright freezer. In reality we all have packages of mystery meat hidden somewhere near the back with an unreadable date and contents smugged on its label. I take all like proteins, i.e. pork, chicken, beef and fill a soup kettle half full. Water is added (or any letfover broths) and put on the stove to gently boil. You can also use a slow cooker if you wish. After the meat is fully cooked and falling off the bone, I then add any leftover vegetables which are showing some signs of becoming old, spongy--just not what we would feed our family. I scrub, dice and add them to the kettle. Sweet potatoes are great for the dogs nutrition, as are carrots, de-strung celery, turnips, greens and most other vegetables. Add a grain--barley, rice, oats, whatever you can get cheap. We usually buy rice in 10 to 25 pound bags and repackage it in glass jars. When the grain and vegetables are cooked, set the kettle off the stove to throughly cool. After donning plastic gloves, I then go through the cooled mixture and remove all bones and ensure the contents are bite size. Then I repackage the mix into meal-size bags, keep about three in the garage frig and the rest into the freezer. The dogs are in doggy heaven when the "Cook's Special" is in their dishes for dinner. We have reduced our waste greatly and what could not be used for doggie food goes into our redworm compost which produces about 25 pounds of fertile soil each year. It's a win-win situation.
04/11/2013 7:08:36 PM CDT
Sarah Henderson says ...
Love this list of suggestions! Another great way to cut down on waste is to 'share the wealth.' If we've got too much of a perishable item, I'll take it to the office and pass it on to a colleague whom I know does a lot of cooking. When my best friend heads out of town, she brings over a bag of things she's not going to be around to eat. Not only are you preventing waste, you're building community.
04/14/2013 5:14:43 PM CDT
Llory says ...
I wonder whether it's households wasting food. How much produce goes unpurchased simply because it's slightly bruised or a little misshapen? And then it starts going bad and tonnes and tonnes are thrown out. And at restaurants and fast food franchises - every day at closing time, I see my local donut store carrying out racks and racks of donuts, muffins and pastries because they're no longer "fresh." I'd like to see grocery stores and restaurants take that food to homeless shelters and places where that food will gladly be eaten.
04/15/2013 7:45:48 PM CDT
Jo says ...
Wonderful tidbits for being aware and preempting the waste!!!
04/16/2013 11:28:43 AM CDT
Michael Nott says ...
Drying herbs, fruit and vegetables when you have an excess is easy, cheap, free of preservatives and allows you to enjoy your favourite foods even wen not in season. It also prevents food going to waste.
07/02/2013 7:18:23 AM CDT
Sarah Robleski says ...
WholeFoods, along with all other grocery stores, throw LOTS of food away a day. Bread without preservatives has zero shelf-life. Give it to a food bank, maybe? Also, because of the pickiness of today's shoppers, who think all apples should be blemish-free and shiny, a lot of perfectly edible food is not put out for sale. When you are selling certified organic food, a single touch by a customer or other untrained person causes the food to be "contaminated"....bye-bye organic label, bye-bye food. I realize the kitchens in the larger stores can use the "less desirable" food for ingredients in their prepared dishes, but seriously, how does Whole Foods justify its waste of food?
11/18/2013 6:49:25 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SARAH - We donate food at the end of the day whenever possible. It depends on the local city's healthy code laws if we are allowed to donate in particular areas. You can check with your local store to see where/if they are able to donate their products.
11/20/2013 12:12:38 PM CST
Aaditya Shah says ...
I love this
05/12/2014 9:34:15 AM CDT