Reducing food waste

Food waste is a big problem in the USA. Find out how to save money and help the environment by reducing the amount of food you waste. Learn about freezing, recycling and storing food.

vegetable food waste in trash bin
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the USA, 30% to 40% of the food that is produced is not eaten.  Food waste in landfills causes water, land, and air pollution. You can reduce food waste by properly storing, using, and recycling food.

Storing food to reduce food waste

Learning the proper storage method for your fruits and vegetables helps them stay fresh longer. Putting some produce in the fridge will make it spoil faster. If you know you will not eat food before it spoils, you can freeze it.

Fruits and vegetables

The best way to freeze soft fruits, like raspberries, is by placing them on a baking sheet. Make sure you leave room between every piece of fruit. Once it is frozen, put the fruit a plastic bag and squeeze or suck out the extra air before storing it. Fruits that are high in vitamin C, like apples, turn brown when frozen. To stop them turning brown, you can dip them in a mixture of lemon juice and water. Dry them before freezing them.

Most vegetables can be frozen as well. They should be blanched prior to drying and freezing. Blanching is quickly cooking food in boiling water. This will ensure they retain their color and texture.

You can use vegetable scraps instead of throwing them away. Making vegetable stock is an easy way to reduce vegetable waste. Simply place your vegetables and/or herbs in a pot of water, add a bit of salt and boil for at least 30 minutes. You can boil for several hours if you wish to make the flavor stronger. Stock can be frozen for up to four months.


To keep soft herbs (such as parsley and cilantro) green, place them into a glass jar with a bit of water on the bottom. Put a loose plastic bag on the top and store it in the fridge. The exception is basil, which should be stored on the counter.

To store hard herbs like sage or oregano, put them in a single layer, wrap in a damp paper towel, and place them in the fridge.

Herbs like basil, chives, tarragon, oregano, lemon balm, and mint can be frozen. Frozen herbs can be stored for up to 12 months! Start by rinsing the herbs and choose one of the options.

  • Freeze individual leaves on a baking sheet, place into a freezer bag and put into the freezer.
  • Put herbs into ice cube trays and cover with water or 1-2 tsp of your favorite type of oil.


If you have extra butter, cut it into 1/4-1/2 cup sections and wrap with plastic wrap. Place it in a plastic bag and put in the freezer for up to 9 months.

Milk and cream are very easy to freeze – you can just put them right in the freezer. If the bottle or carton is full, you must pour out 1/2 an inch of liquid. Liquid expands when it freezes, and pouring out a little bit will stop the container from bursting when the milk expands.

Soft cheeses like ricotta cheese or cottage cheese can be frozen in their containers. If you want to freeze cream cheese, you must wrap it tightly in plastic wrap first. Hard cheese should be cut into cubes or shredded and put into plastic bags. Freezing hard cheese changes the texture. When you thaw it, it will probably be more crumbly.

Meat and fish

To freeze meat and fish, wrap it tightly in a layer of wax paper or plastic wrap. Next, put it in a plastic bag and suck out the air or wrap it  in aluminum foil. The most important thing is to keep air away from the surface.

You must thaw meat and fish completely before cooking it or it will not cook evenly. The safest way to do this is to put it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

Many stores sell meat that is about to expire for a much cheaper price. Buying the meat that is on sale and freezing it right away is a good way to save money.

Composting to reduce food waste

Composting is a great way to prevent food waste. It is a way of treating solid waste, such as food and plants. Some foods, like meat and dairy, cannot be composted.

Food waste is broken down by bacteria until it becomes compost. Compost is used to make soil healthy and grow plants, including food crops.  Some cities have composting programs. Many do not, but you can compost at your own house as well.

Watch a video about how to compost

 If you have a garden or house plants, you can use mix the compost in with the soil. If you do not, you can give it away to someone in your community.

Using smartphone apps to reduce food waste

There are smartphone apps you can use to reduce food waste. Some of these apps are only in big cities, but they may come to other areas soon.

  • Olio lets users share food they will not eat with others. Individuals, restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries can all post photos. When you want to pick something up, you can send a message to the person who posted it. The two of you will agree on a time you can pick the food up.
  • Food for all is an app used in New York and Boston. Restaurants who have too much food post meals one hour before they close. App users can find restaurants close to them and buy the food for a much cheaper price.
  • Foodkeeper is an app made by the United States Department of Agriculture. You can search for information about food you have bought. The app will tell you how long you have to eat the food before it goes bad. You can add calendar reminders to your phone so you do not forget to use it.