Food Waste Prevention Tips
Plan ahead. Use a grocery list to limit impulse buys and waste. Buy less, and buy more often. Factor in no-cook nights. Donate excess to a local food pantry or food recovery service before it goes bad.
Store food properly. Potatoes, onions and garlic belong in a cool, dry spot, not the refrigerator. Separate fruit and vegetables in the fridge. Dark leafy greens last longer wrapped in a paper towel or cloth.
Eat it all. Carrot tops work in salsa verde. Grapefruit peels can be candied. Potato skins make crisps. Veggie scraps add flavor to stock, as do animal carcasses. Parmesan rinds add fatty flavor to a pot of beans.
Understand expiration dates. “Sell by,” “use by,” “enjoy by” and “best before” dates generally indicate when a manufacturer feels a food item is at its peak quality. These labels, largely unregulated, are typically not an indication of food safety. Trust your eyes and nose when it comes to what is still good to eat. Exceptions to this rule include deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses and smoked seafood; in these cases, do follow the “use by” dates.
Take a fridge inventory. Replenish perishables as you use them up, and move older produce to the front of the fridge or top of the crisper when stocking new groceries so you’ll see them before they go bad.
Keep a kitchen waste diary. Use your phone to track wasted food for a couple of weeks or fill out a wasted food form, then adjust shopping lists and cooking habits as needed.
Learn to love leftovers. Pasta, rice, beans, a cooked chicken and roasted veggies can all be reimagined into new dishes. Make it a point to take leftovers for lunch. Designate a night for foraging in the fridge reimagined into new dishes. Make it a point to take leftovers for lunch. Designate a night for foraging in the fridge.
Consider portion size: If leftovers aren’t your thing, keep careful tabs on how much you cook. Watch for plate waste at home and when eating out.
Befriend the freezer. Store extra pasta sauce, a half loaf of bread and leftovers in the freezer for future use. Label and date containers of sauces, soups and stews —which freeze well—to jog your memory down the track.
Grow your own herbs. It’s easy to do, requires little space, and herbs are rarely sold in portion sizes designed for home cooks.
Sources: local food waste gurus, including Dana Gunders.
Food Waste Resources
Watch. Just Eat It, an entertaining account of wasted food from Canadian filmmakers.foodwastemovie.com
Read. Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable by San Francisco Chronicle food writer Tara Duggan. taraduggan.com/books
Click. Follow food waste news and find prevention tips via waste watcher Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Buy. Imperfect Produce for 30% to 50% off retail. Conventional or organic boxes in sizes small, medium, large and extra large. Imperfectproduce.com
Donate. Find a home for excess edibles through a community food pantry, church or other group. Food Runners can help find a good fit.
Volunteer. Pick up or deliver food for Food Runners.
Read our feature story on Food Waste.
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