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Fight the Food Waste in Your Own Fridge

Peter Lehner

Your home

Food is simply too good to waste. And feeding the U.S. population requires an enormous amount of land and resources. Still, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste. When the resources to grow that food are considered, this amounts to approximately 25 percent of all freshwater, four percent of the oil we consume, and more than $165 billion dollars all dedicated to producing food that never gets eaten. Reducing your own food waste is an easy, effective way to trim down your bills and your environmental footprint.

So are you up for the challenge of fighting the food waste at home?

There are simple tips to keep your food bill and “food-print” down at the same time: shop wisely; know when food goes bad (hint: those expiration dates are merely manufacturer suggestions for peak quality and not regulated); buy produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive; cook only the amount of food you need; and eat or compost your leftovers. NRDC has more tips here.

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  • Caz D

    Here are some of the habits I've developed to help fight waste in my own fridge.

    Plan and observe a leftover day every week (commit to using leftovers, not throwing them away)
    Consult your fridge and pantry before you go to the green grocer/butcher/supermarket
    Use a mobile app to keep track of what is in your pantry and when it expires (so you can use staples up before they go off)
    Put a white board on the front of your fridge to keep track of what's in there, with stars next to the most perishable so you don't forget those beautiful vegetables you couldn't resist.
    Put one (or more) servings of soup, stew, casserole (any large quantity recipe) straight into the freezer (label it with date and what it is) use these for lunch or when you're too tired to cook instead of getting take-away.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      What amazing tips. Thanks for sharing. I need to be way better about this. I usually just end up composting the veggies I don't use.

  • Caz D

    This is one of my big issues, something I whole heartedly support. I love the approach, keep it simple and keep going, and the call to action, put your savings into a local food bank or another hunger organisation. People get tied up in making a big impact. But a million little impacts can be more powerful and spread more equitably around the world.

  • Debbi Reinschmiedt

    World hunger is an issue we can all help solve. Even simple steps count! Start by buying only what you need to avoid waste. It's a GOOD trifecta - it eliminates waste, keeps your fridge tidy, AND most importantly, you can further help solve world hunger by sharing your savings with your local food bank or another hunger organization. (WHY Hunger is a personal favorite.)
    Keep it simple and keep going!

  • Caz D

    One of the most practical ways to minimise waste is to always have a few go-to recipes for leftovers up your sleeve AND commit to having a leftover night at least once a week. It uses up what's in the fridge, cuts down cooking time during the week and expands your cooking repertoire.

  • Angie Pinchbeck

    There is a great website called Still Tasty. It's for checking what the freshness of your food probably is, or for checking how long you have before your leftovers go bad.

  • Kristen Hess

    I personally struggle with cooking after I get home from a long day of mind-work. I do enjoy it but the motivation to start for me is like motivating myself to go for a 10 mile jog.. I'm lazy, it's true. ANYWAY, I have great friends who love to cook so my thought for wasting less food... live with roommates who love to cook and plan your meals with them. Make it an equal exchange. They cook, you clean. You fly and buy, they work their magic in the kitchen, etc.

  • danafrasz

    I have been dumpster diving for 4 years and 99% of my food is provided this way. I also manage to eat almost entirely organic. I launched Food Shift in Oakland, CA to address this issue and would love to share our work with you. - We currently have an opportunity to win thousands of dollars worth of advertising on public transit to inform people about food waste and inspire them to be part of the solution. Please vote in the contest if you can - its very easy:

  • Thierry Phillips

    So for years, we have generated very little in the way of garbage (definitely less than 10% at our end, but I recognize there's far more upstream being wasted), but lately we got very serious about composting ALL of our garbage again, and composting what can be and/or recycling packaging of what packaged stuff we consume (T-bags we reuse for customer sales; other plastics can be problematic, but locally plastics recycling is taking off in a halting but promising way), glass is obviously only a handling problem). Our entire business waste generation that goes to the landfill for two locations, including the personal waste streams, is less than one 35-gal bag every two weeks. We are committed to doing even better as time goes on, and it'll actually be EASY if any kind of public effort in town here manifests, as none of the recycling centers are actually CLOSE by.

    • Thierry Phillips

      I simply REFUSE to burn any fuel to simply to run trash, so it (the non-compostable stuff) builds up a little sometimes here, producing some negative reaction from the local authorities- I anxiously await the time when the paradigm shifts from conventional appearances of cleanliness as being more important thanwhile the world crumbling around us...

  • Emily M.

    One great way to stop yourself from succumbing to impulse purchases is to walk or bike to the grocery store. You are much less likely to buy non-essentials if you have to carry them home. Another idea is to bring your own bags and bring only enough to hold what's on your list.

  • Blaec von Kalweit

    An easy-tip: make a little extra for dinner and take it to work for lunch the next day. This way, you eliminate the possibility of waste, you save money, and you save time in the morning. Let's be honest, who likes to make lunch in the morning?

  • mst900

    We eat leftovers twice a week-lunches, dinners, snacks , whatever-as long as food is used up.That night you are not allowed to open up any new food except for oils or condiments or what is needed to heat or spruce things up.this also allows me to keep inventory and buy what I need. This way food is not rotting and you can keep the fridge cleaner since moldy rotting food contaminates all food in the area.

  • Brandy Schaffels

    after recently cleaning out my fridge and cupboards for the first time in a LONG time -- and throwing away a lot of very old and very expired food -- I pledged to be a smarter and less-wasteful shopper. Now, I go to the grocery store more frequently and feel less need to "stock up." Before I go, I consider what I will be eating that week, create a list, and only buy what I need. Shopping is easier and I spend less money, and finding fresh food in my fridge is easier because it's not hidden by out-of-date stuff I'll never eat.