10 tips to help you reduce food waste

Over one third of all food produced in the U.S. is never eaten, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That wasted food often ends up in landfills where it is released as methane gas that contributes to climate change. 8-9% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste in landfills. By keeping food out of the landfill, we can help protect our planet, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our own backyard, and conserve important resources like labor, land, water and energy that are used to grow, package and transport food.  

Taking everyday steps to reduce food waste can also help you save money. Every year, Americans lose more than 218 billion dollars on wasted food. A family of four can save an average of $1,500 per year by preventing food waste!

Here are 10 tips to prevent good food from going to waste (and save money at the same time):

  1. Create an “Eat This Now” section of your refrigerator and pantry. We recommend making this section somewhere highly visible, like the refrigerator door. Organize food that needs to be used up quickly and label it with reusable materials. You can use a dry-erase marker to write the dates you brought food home to prioritize older items.  
  2. Cook only what is needed for that meal or meal prep for the entire week. Be intentional about the portions you are cooking and the ingredients you are buying. Only cook for leftovers if you have a plan to eat them before they go bad. This food calculator can help you estimate the amount of food you need to prepare for a meal.
  3. Learn how to properly store fruits and vegetables to make them last longer. Some fruits and vegetables prefer cool, dark spots while others prefer to stay on your counter.  
  4. Use leftover ingredients to make a new, delicious meal such as a fun soup. Get creative!
  5. Your freezer is your friend. You can freeze most foods, such as meat and vegetables, that you don’t intend to eat right away. This will help keep the food from going bad before you have a chance to eat it.  
  6. Don’t always listen to the labels. Labels like “best by” and “sell by” serve as guides for the quality of a product, not its expiration date. These labels are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Use your senses to determine if a product is still good to eat. Learn more about from the EPA.
  7. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are great for smoothies. Make sure they don’t go to waste just because they’re not as attractive as other fruits and veggies.  
  8. Buy smaller quantities. Try not to overestimate what you will be able to eat in a week. Keep in mind any food events such as grabbing dinner at a restaurant with friends and family.
  9. If you bought unopened items that you won’t use, find out if you can donate them. Austin has many great food rescue organizations. Find one that aligns with your values.
  10. Compost food scraps and whatever you can’t finish or donate. Composting gives your food another life as rich soil that benefits our community. The planet will love you for it!