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12 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, April 8, 2015  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

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.




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
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.
04/08/2015 9:07:00 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 9:30:14 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 9:59:12 AM CDT
madeline says ...
This was so helpful!
04/08/2015 10:04:13 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 10:05:41 AM CDT
Jennifer McKeever says ...
Smoothies are great for produce on last leg. Also turning leftovers into tonight's meal. <3
04/08/2015 10:16:10 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 10:32:41 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 10:48:43 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 11:00:02 AM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 12:57:45 PM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 1:07:17 PM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 2:17:19 PM CDT
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!
04/08/2015 2:23:38 PM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 3:04:09 PM CDT
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.
04/08/2015 9:44:48 PM CDT