Earth Day Inspo: 6 Tips for Reducing Food Waste, Plus Leftover Recipe Ideas

Live every day like it's Earth Day.
By: Emily Lee

Photo by: Maria Salete Poli ©mspoli

Maria Salete Poli, mspoli

This Earth Day, food recovery is the hot topic on everyone's docket — and for good reason. Recent research from the USDA revealed that  over one-third (30 to 40 percent) of our food supply goes to waste each year, while studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that we could feed over 25 million Americans living in food-insecure homes if we were to reduce food waste by just 15 percent.

In light of these figures, there are now a number of programs dedicated to food recovery. Just last September, the USDA and the EPA teamed up to tackle the nation's food waste epidemic and announced the first-ever national food waste reduction goal: To cut food waste in half by 2030. It may sound lofty, but the organizations have already seen great success with their joint U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which provides a platform "to assess and disseminate information about the best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste." By the end of 2014, the challenge had over 4,000 participants, well surpassing its goal of 1,000 participants by 2020 — and also proving that you don’t need to be a political ecologist or a policymaker to affect positive change.

If you're inspired to join the food recovery mission as a means to reduce your carbon footprint but don't know where to begin, start small by checking out these simple techniques aimed at reducing food waste in your own home. To no one's surprise, the way that we store, reuse and ultimately dispose of our leftovers makes all the difference.

Food Network Kitchen's Chicken Soup 3 Ways, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

1. Cook in bulk, then freeze your leftovers.

The only problem with big-batch cooking is the monotony of repeating the same dish for several meals, so choose recipes that are easy to customize with each reheating. Food Network Kitchen's Chicken Soup 3 Ways can be made and frozen into three separate batches.

2. Put leftovers into individual food storage containers for you and your family to pack for lunch the next day.

Even the fussiest eaters will be swayed by this chilled, Asian-inspired noodle salad made with leftover cooked spaghetti.

Organic waste for compost

Organic waste for compost

Organic waste for compost with vegetables, fruits and varied food.

Photo by: Antonio Gravante ©Antonio Gravante /

Antonio Gravante, Antonio Gravante /

3. Compost your leftovers.

With urban composting programs and food drop-off sites cropping up in major cities throughout the country, living in an apartment is no longer an excuse to toss out your food scraps.



Photo by: Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

4. Add leftover meats and vegetables to salads, stir fry or wraps.

You can defrost leftover chicken — whether it's grilled, roasted or poached — and slice it into thin strips for this Classic Cobb Salad.

5. Use vegetable scraps to make homemade stock.

Customize this basic stock recipe by adding zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and corn in the summer. In the winter, try celery root, parsley, dried sage and mushrooms.

Food Network Kitchen’s unexpected croutons as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

6. Turn stale bread and other leftovers (like biscuits and croissants) into breadcrumbs or croutons.

Enhance the flavor by drizzling the cubed bread with olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes before baking.

Check out more of our big-batch recipes that can be frozen and reheated as needed:

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