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12 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

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.