Guide to Reducing Food Waste

Being a careful shopper and storing food properly can go a long way toward keeping it out of the landfill.

There is a lot of food waste going on in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away somewhere close to 42.8 million tons of food each year. We can change that by planning what we buy, and eliminating the need to throw anything away by storing it properly.

Shop With a Purpose

One of the easiest mistakes to make when you go food shopping is to buy too much. If you’re buying without a plan for what you will do with all the food, some of it is likely to end up as waste from spoiling. Before shopping, decide if you are buying for a week, two weeks, or a month, and have an idea of what you’re going to do with certain items to ensure they don’t end up in the trash.

Proper Food Storage

Not everything you buy needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Foods like bread, fruit, potatoes, and onions are best kept out of the refrigerator because they can spoil quicker due to moisture. Tomatoes and cucumbers don’t have to be refrigerated either. They can sit in a big wicker basket on your kitchen counter for a week. If you want to store them longer, you can put them in the refrigerator with special preparation to ensure they don’t take on too much moisture.

Keep Bread Fresh

One source of food waste is bread that has gone stale from not being closed properly. One way to keep bread from drying out is to close the package and remove as much air as possible. Then put the remainder of the packaged loaf inside a Ziploc bag or wrap it in aluminum foil. If some of the bread does happen to dry out, instead of throwing it away, toast it and use it for breadcrumbs. Freeze any extra loaves until you need them.

Keep Meat in the Freezer

You should keep meat in the freezer and pull it out to defrost in the refrigerator 1 or 2 days before you need it. If you have a package of chicken that you plan to use in a day or two, it can stay in the refrigerator in a Ziploc bag to keep any juices from leaking onto other foods causing cross-contamination. Keep it close to the top shelves of the refrigerator, because that is the coldest spot. If you place it near the bottom, it may not stay cold enough and spoil before you get a chance to use it. At best, you should keep raw meat no longer than 3 days in the refrigerator. Freeze it if you need to keep it longer.

Keeping Milk and Dairy Products

If you tend to buy milk and eggs, but the milk sometimes spoils before you empty the carton, consider buying one with a longer expiry date. Milk is dated when it comes into the grocery store. The store rotates its stock as “FIFO”, which means first-in, first-out. When you buy your milk, grab a container from the far back and keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator with the eggs. The door section does not stay cold enough, and could be why your milk spoils too quickly.

Serve Smaller Portions and Save Leftovers

When you cook, make just enough for that meal, and put any leftover food in plastic containers that adults or kids can take for lunch the next day. Once a week, you can clean out your fridge leftovers by making a “potluck” dinner. Take out all of the leftovers and reheat them for a quick dinner, and let everyone choose what they want.


Put food scraps in a compost pile for your garden or flower beds. Onion tops and skins, egg shells, vegetable peelings, and bones can also be saved and used to make broth for homemade soups. Collect all your scraps in a bag and store in the freezer until needed.

Give Away or Donate Extras

If you buy too much produce or canned goods, donate them to your local food pantry. Someone can always use the extra food, and it won’t get thrown away.

Being a careful shopper and storing food properly can go a long way toward keeping it out of the landfill.


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