Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste (and Save Money Too)

We throw out a staggering 40 percent of our food in America, which is not only taxing on the planet...but on our wallets too. These easy tips can help you save them both.

Attention people who love food, the planet and saving money (i.e. everyone)! The stats about food waste can be staggering: a whopping 40 percent of all food in America goes to waste, which translates to $162 billion dollars in unnecessary water, energy and production costs.

Food is the number one product in American landfills. And while we might assume that large corporations, restaurants and grocery stores are the leading culprits, the hard truth is that it's individual consumers like you and me, who throw out 20 percent of the food we buy. Each American throws out nearly 300 pounds of food per year, and the average family of four spends $1,500 annually on food they don’t eat.

We might not think much of throwing a hunk of moldy cheese, shriveled veggies or half-eaten containers of takeout food in the trash. But wasted food not only clogs up our landfills, it squanders valuable resources too. You wouldn’t dream of running your shower for two hours, but that’s how much water goes into making a pound of cheese. And a pound of beef uses a whopping 370 minutes worth of water before it lands in your shopping cart.

We at Food Network want to do our part to become better food consumers and stewards of the planet. Behind the scenes of Chopped Junior, producers work to reduce food waste wherever they can, from composting to sourcing ingredients from local farmers, and using leftover basket ingredients to make snacks for the crew. And surplus food is donated weekly to City Harvest to help end hunger in New York City. 

For you at home, we've rounded up clever food-saving tips from our own test kitchen staffers, and partnered with Ad Council and Natural Resources Defense Council on their Save the Food campaign. Read on for our win-win tips that will benefit both you and the environment. And use that $1500 you’ll save every year to go explore our beautiful planet!

Food-Saving Strategies from Save the Food:

1.     Planning your meals in advance can avoid waste from the start and it doesn’t need to take hours. It can be as simple as just thinking through what you're going to cook that week on your way to the store.

2.     Get creative in the kitchen, and be willing to substitute what’s in your fridge for similar items in a recipe. For example, use that second half of the pasta sauce jar in place of tomato paste.

3.     Designate one night each week for making use-it-up meals out of soon-to-be-past-their-prime ingredients in your kitchen. A mishmash of the contents of your fridge can turn into a delicious smoothie, frittata, fried rice or pasta salad.

4.     Your freezer is like a magic box that lets you press the pause button on your food. Almost anything can be frozen—from individual groceries to leftovers.

5.     The grocery store is a great intervention point. Right before checking out, look at what’s in your cart and put back things you know you’re not likely to get around to cooking or eating in the week ahead.

(For even more delicious tips for leftovers, check out our tips for making over meatloaf, pasta and chili, and watch a leftovers-themed episode of Chopped Junior on April 18th!)

Food-Saving Hacks from Food Network Kitchen:

1.     Save parmesan rinds and use them to give stocks and sauces depth and umami flavor.

2.     Use citrus rinds to flavor simple syrups; add zest to smoothies, soups, salads and baked goods.

3.     Instead of tossing chicken carcasses and veggie scraps like carrot and onion peelings and celery ends, add them to water to create stock. (Bonus tip: Keep a bag or container in your freezer and add scraps to it as you go.)

4.     Transform stale bread into croutons, breadcrumbs or a panzanella salad.

5.     Use bacon or chicken fat as a cooking fat (try Grandma’s Bacon Fat Cornbread or Giada’s Risotto with Bacon and Kale).

6.     Add under-appreciated veggie parts like broccoli and Swiss chard stems and beet greens to bulk up gratins or stir-frys.

7.     Turn wilting herbs into pesto or chimichurri sauce.

8.     Save fryer oil and reuse throughout the week. (It doesn’t need to be thrown out after one use so long as nothing burned in previous rounds.)

Visit SaveTheFood.com for more tips, tools and strategies for wasting less and saving more!

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