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12 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Homemade Vegetable Broth

A 2012 issue 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?

Do you have ways you reduce your food waste? Read on to find out how you can enter to win a $100 Whole Foods Market gift card by sharing your ideas.

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. Portion 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 plan 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. Or you can try one of these ready-made healthy eating meal plans.
  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. Counter, 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 and more. Writer and recipe developer Alice K. Thompson also has some specific ways to use more of your produce, as well as some creative uses for everyday food scraps
  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 3,700+ recipes for other uses.

By eating more parts of what we buy, loving 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.

Now it's your turn to share any tips you have on reducing food waste.

Share with us in the comments below between April 8 and May 6, 2015 and we'll pick a winner at random to receive a $100 Whole Foods Market gift card.

What tips do you have for minimizing food waste? I look forward to hearing them!

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Blog contest promotion starts on April 8, 2015, 5:00 AM CDT and ends May 6, 2015, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

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390 comments

Comments

Bunny Batson says …

Great ideas & good information.

ann says …

Amazingly, 12 tips that could save morre than money. will save the planet. Store spices in freezer to prolong shelf life.

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.

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.

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.

Jo says …

Wonderful tidbits for being aware and preempting the waste!!!

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.

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?

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.

Aaditya Shah says …

I love this

Christina says …

If I open something like milk I will write the date it was opened on the container, because we used to have the problem of just opening another rather than guessing at freshness. I also look up how long things keep for, rather than guessing too short and throwing out or too long and getting icky food.

carrie-ann says …

Take a look at what you throw away. Be honest with yourself and start writing things down. Do you throw away half a loaf of bread a week? Then why not freeze it and take out slices as you need them. Take individual slices out for sandwiches the night before you need them, or use straight from frozen for toasting. If you regularly throw away vegetables then maybe you need to buy them loose and reduce the amount you buy each week.

helene vece says …

I didn't know you could ask to cut melons in half! That's great and I will be using that tip.

madeline says …

This was so helpful!

Kati forbes says …

Whenever we have leftovers, I always make a new meal out of them. If we have meatloaf, I make something like empanadas. If we have leftover rice, I make a stir fry with the other leftover vegetables in my refrigerator. Since it was Easter, we had a lot of leftover ham and mashed potatoes, so I made breakfast for my family using the ham in a leftover egg and bell pepper (leftover bell peppers from another dish) scramble and I made hash browns with the mashed potatoes by adding flour, paprika, leftover garlic and green onions, salt, and pepper.

Jennifer McKeever says …

Smoothies are great for produce on last leg. Also turning leftovers into tonight's meal. <3

Krista says …

I have a large family to feed so there is no doubt that my grocery bill is quite a bit higher then the normal. Having 5 growing always hungry boys calls for smart shopping. My tips are to plan ahead, only buy what you need for no more then a week at a time, make soups and smoothies with vegetables that are starting to wilt, always eat leftovers, and make meals that stretch and can be incorperated into the next meal exampke: chili beans, salads that can be chopped and used as filling for tacos or burritos or pitas, chicken can always be used again in many ways, potatoes can be used the next morning for breakfast ect.... get in the kitchen and think outside the box and experiment.

Emily says …

My family has always valued not wasting food. One of the ways I use up older leftovers is by throwing everything together in a frittata. I've done this with chorizo, mexican rice, and even quinoa and the results are always delicious.

Nancy Muller says …

Being single, I rarely use leftovers the next day so I have learned to freeze cooked items right away. I have discovered that already cooked foods freeze well in individual portions. I have actually made a whole meatloaf, cooked it and then frozen it in portions. Otherwise a whole meatloaf is too big for me to consume. When it comes to use it or lose it, I say freeze it and see what happens.

Marie Savage-Hopfauf says …

I keep a container in the frog that I put vegetable scraps in as I prepare meals. After a few days of this, I put them in a pot with water and a Bay leaf and simmer while I prepare, eat, and clean up after dinner. I then let it cool, strain and put in large yogurt containers to freeze. It's great to have that stock to pop in a pot with left over veggies and some beans for a simple soup supper.

Clinton Benson says …

I use the items in my pantry to make my own condiments, sauces, spices, rubs, and snacks. This reduces an overabundance of food that might go bad. The leftovers from juicing fruits and veges can be used for a wide variety of things like muffins, marmalade's, etc.

Amy says …

I live alone and don't generate much waste beyond banana peels and sweet potato skins. I rarely forget them but do sometimes procrastinate about using leftovers until it's too late, so I'll work on that. I'm a big fan of the food bar idea. I don't much like to bother with food, but don't want to rely on packaged meals, so I bake a big pot of brown rice about once a week and doctor some up each day by mixing in frozen veggies and food bar items--lots of variety without much effort.

Victoria Russell says …

Thank you, great tips! I especially love the idea of putting all the scraps into a crock pot meal, or asking for just half a melon if that's all we want or need. Great to know that the store is willing to do that!

j.J. says …

Sometimes I pay more to get a smaller container, rather than the large bulk amount, so it won't go bad before I use all of it. Like OJ and milk.

Brenda Stafford says …

After using lemons for zest, I slice them, and freeze the slices between two pieces of Press and Seal. The frozen slices can be used for flavoring tea or extracting a small amount of juice.

Gina says …

In order to avoid waste, I dehydrate food!! It's a great idea! Especially when buying too many apples because they're on sale...or onions even! Dehydration gives you the opportunity to "reuse" the food that would have gone to compost or trash.

Danielle Papsis says …

Search the bargain bin usually in the back of the stores but watch the prices. Close dated items are just as good at lower prices. Americans have been "programmed" to want and buy meat and produce that looks perfect but may not always be the best for us.

Anastasia Crisis says …

How about donating non-perishables to a local food pantry or food drive? I support the Bowery Mission which happens to be a neighbor of my favorite Whole Foods store in NYC!

Natalie Wood says …

I am a wellness coach and trainer…my Life and job are about wellness ( mind, body and soul) We do not eat processed food and I feed my baby all organic :) I buy organic baby foods and what does not get used right away goes into an ice cube tray. We then use the frozen leftover fruit and veggies for smoothies. I will be making smaller portions when the summer is here so she can eat them quickly without the mess We do not use dryer sheets, we use the balls instead and we put the lint outside for birds to build their nests. If we have leftover food , grandpa gets a call to come over for a meal and then voila…all food is eaten and none wasted. Bread is kept in the freezer and coffee grinds go to the garden ( as much as possible) so do egg shells….Hope this helps everyone!!!

Dalaine Bloom says …

I only did this one year but cannot wait to try it again. I went to Our Farmer's Market and bought a whole 5 gallon Bucket of tomatoes that were very ripe for ONLY $10.00. I went home and had bought 2 pint jars. I sterilized them as Directed on the box. Just boiling them for 10 minutes. Then I had cooked my tomatoes for only a few minutes; really Just blanching them. I then put them on the jars; packing Them tightly In the jars. I then processed them by boiling the Jars filled for 15-20 minutes. I then heated the lids slightly for 10 minutes but not warming them to a rolling boil. I attached The lids tightly on the jars and put the jars onto a towel on the Counter. 10-15 minutes later; I heard that wonderful, cute sound of lids popping. We used the tomatoes for months to come. Those were the best tasting canned tomatoes that I have ever ate . They madey chili and goulash taste like I had put fresh tomatoes into them. I was surprised how easy it was to can tomatoes that were awesome fresh. I loved it and I plan on doing that again this Summer. Yum!!!

Audrey says …

I'm a paleo gal, so I eat organic roasted chicken a lot. Instead of just throwing away the unused part, I put the leftover meat and bones into boiling water to make a soup stock. My favorite is a simple but delicious Thai coconut soup with onions, sauteed baby greens, lemon, lime and cilantro.

Sharon Page says …

I observe "use by" or "best by" dates with several grains of salt, so to speak. Many items -- whether packaged, canned, or even fresh -- are wholesome long after manufacturers' or producers' recommendations. A little mold on fermented dairy products? Just scrape it off. A bad spot on a fruit or vegie? Cut around it. Not sure about freshness of milk? Pour some out, look closely, and give it the sniff test.

Kate says …

Whenever I have leafy greens, other veggies or fruits that are about to go bad, I throw them in the freezer and use them in a smoothie down the road!

Karen says …

When buying food in bulk, split with a friend. Also if you belong to a CSA, split that and the cost with a friend too.

Denise Lind says …

I realized that I was a victim of the "out of sight, out of mind" issue with my refrigerator. Fruits & vegetables stored in the lower opaque drawers would be forgotten until they were expired. I took out the drawers and added more shelves with clear containers designed to keep produce fresh. Now I can see it all with a quick glance and this helps a lot!

GHL says …

We freeze leftover vegetables for use in soups and fruits for smoothies and ice cream!

Denise Lind says …

I buy and focus my recipes on just two main proteins a week. Whether it is chicken, beef, fish, or beans, I pick two at the start of the week, and alternate varieties of recipes throughout the week to ensure I use the entire cuts, save time, and still provide a variety of food. Whole Foods recipe emails help me a lot for inspiration!

Manda says …

I stick to the "make a plan" plan. I try not to buy anymore than we need because I hate throwing out food. Living in a small apartment with a tiny freezer, I hope to eventually have enough freezer space to keep the food stuff that can't be used because inevitably there is always something that gets forgotten in the back of the fridge.

Rach says …

These are great suggestions! I know I could be better about reducing waste. Tip: Sharing! I love to bake but don't need a whole batch of cookies lying around my home, so I often bring them in to work or give to friends!

Diana says …

We rarely waste food. Leftovers are eaten for lunch the next day & our dogs love most veggies as a treat since we are a meat free home. I try not to buy too many perishable foods at one time but that does force me to think of ways to eat whole foods more often rather than relying on processed meals. And whenever there is a can food drive I take a few items from my pantry that may have sat longer than I Intended.

Denise Katzman says …

I never purchase what I can't use or freeze immediately. What I do use, must have a dual life aka upcycling: Tea Bags. What to do with a used tea bag? One can always reuse it in another cup of tea or store in fridg, ensure that it is moist. Use the contains to bake with or in soups and in all hot dishes. Expiration dates are solely in place to guide the consumer. Way too many consumers need to be edified to the reality that the product should be used by the date given, If the product is in good condition, use it don't waste it.

jane says …

Although some people disagree, carrot tops are generally considered toxic to humans (horses love them!) I don't think it's wise to use carrot tops in soups, especially if there are children in the household.

Denise Lind says …

I realized my Pantry was way too big and as a result, dry goods would get pushed out of sight until the one-a-year cleaning when the expirations dates had passed. I divided the pantry with a wall, added a door to the second space from an adjacent room, and gained additional storage for other things while keeping my pantry at a nice size for taking action sooner when it over-flowed as well as requiring a more orderly system for smaller space.

jessica says …

I like to keep a list of what's perishable in the fridge and the date it was purchased or made on a whiteboard next to the fridge. That way we always know what is in there!

TinaI. says …

I keep extra food as leftovers and eat it for lunch or dinner the next day. I also freeze extra veggies and fruit to use at a later time. Another thing I do to minimize food waste is to not buy too much, only what I think I will use within about a week or two.

Mehjabeen Fatima Abidi says …

I've purchased portion plates. My kids are good at finishing off everything. However, the occasional leftovers ( mostly always rice) goes into a bird feeder dish outside right after sunrise and by mid-morning, the dish is empty.

Shay says …

I am a vegetarian so I am a big proponent of saving all of my veggies that I don't use in meals (ends of brussle sprouts, bruised parts of vegetables, vegetables that may go bad quickly, etc) and I will throw them in the freezer. When I'm ready to make a vegetable stock, I will boil all of my veggie remains in water and then drink it for a savoury tea throughout the day or use it for cooking lubrication instead of oil. The flavour is never the same because I try to vary what I eat vegetable wise each week and by what is on sale. I then compost the remains from the broth. Other left over veggies and/or fruits - pickling time! I will also go through my trash each week and make a list of what I'm throwing away and possibly wasting. I will then pick one item per week/month to try to eliminate waste of any kind.

Lauren Jozefat says …

I LOVE to make stocks with leftover foods! I create all different flavors and minimize the waste!

Sheena says …

If I am only rating part of a fruit, I chop the rest up and put in a large container in the freezer which I mix up and use for my morning smoothies. It's a great way to use bruised up fruits and vegetables that I might not want to eat whole anymore.

Natasha says …

If I have extra of something when I'm cooking (like rotel, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, celery, fresh herbs, broth) I'll throw it into a freezer container, label and freeze it and pull it out the next time I need that ingredient. This saves throwing the extra ingredient away.

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