Produce Less Food Waste

Think twice before throwing food away. Hold yourself accountable. Every time you throw food into the compost, think of how much money it cost you to purchase that food.

Create a Plan

Create a weekly meal plan with the members of your home, use recipes to determine how much of each ingredient to buy. Don’t forget to check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer first. Write a grocery list before going shopping, and base that list on your meal plan or a weekly menu for your family. This will prevent you from buying too much, and it will minimize your number of trips to the grocery store. View meal-planning tips here. The money you are throwing away adds up quickly.

Relearn Date Labels

“Sell By”, “Best By”, “Use By”, and “Freeze By” have different meanings. With the exception of baby formula, date labels are not regulated. They are meant to indicate freshness not food safety. Use your senses to help determine freshness and to avoid discarding valuable food prematurely.

Buy Produce in Manageable Quantities

A refrigerator full of produce looks great, however it will lead to food waste if you cannot eat all of the food before it spoils.

FIFO your Refrigerator

First in First out. Place the older and most perishable food in the front with the newest food behind it. Buy more shelf-stable foods to fill your pantry. Store leftovers smartly. Glass storage containers are not only reusable and sustainable; they allow you to see what’s inside. That way, you’re less likely to lose track of leftovers.

Buy Local

It significantly reduces your carbon footprint of the food (it took less time to get to you resulting in fewer emissions). Support local farmers who may have lost key buyers due to the temporary closure of restaurants, schools, caterers, and others by signing up for a CSA or locally sourced grocery box. Picking up produce curbside or having it delivered can limit the amount of time you need to spend in stores. Try to avoid any food packaged in plastic packaging. Aim for foods that are fresh and without any packaging, or lightly packaged in easy to recycle cardboard or paper.

Save Vegetable Scraps

As an alternative to composting, keep vegetable scraps to make stock. Keep a gallon zip-top bag in the freezer and add trimmings: carrot and fennel tops, ends of onions or leeks, tomato cores, stems of herbs and greens, corn cobs, and the like. Any produce that’s past its prime in the fridge can go in, as well. When the bag is full, defrost the contents, dump into a pot and add water to cover. Simmer for 2 hours, strain — and you’ll have better-than-store-bought veggie stock (which can be frozen in that same gallon bag).

Embrace Leftover Night

If you find your fridge or freezer stuffed to the gills with leftover food, commit to “eating down the fridge” one night a week.  Think “ingredients”,  not “leftovers”. Turn extra pasta or cooked vegetables into a frittata. Blend cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes and create a veggie packed sauce for pasta. Create burritos with leftover cooked rice, meat and vegetables, and top them with sour cream and salsa.

Make Soup

The steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables that you served as
a side dish one night can become soup on another day. In a blender, puree the vegetables with 3 or 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, then warm the soup in a pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and finish the soup with a bit of pesto, olive oil or croutons.

Portion, Preserve & Store

Many food products come in extra-large sizes, which can be more economical.  Learn how to properly freeze, can, pickle, cure, and dry to extend the shelf life of perishable foods for even longer periods of time.

Maximize the shelf life of your favorite perishable produce to ensure it doesn’t wilt or become overripe before you can eat it. For example, tightly wrap celery in aluminum foil to keep it crisp for weeks!

Salvage Stale Bread

If that loaf of good bakery bread loses its freshness after a day or two, do what the Italians do: Halve the loaf crosswise, drizzle it with good olive oil and rub it with the cut side of a halved ripe tomato. Season the bread with salt and pepper, wrap in foil and bake until warm.


Food banks and local emergency feeding programs are experiencing significant increases in costs and demand, while many of their volunteers – who tend to be of retirement age – are sheltering in place. If appropriate for your situation, contact your local food bank or food pantry and inquire about their volunteer needs.