HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Food waste in USA

The recent Gladware ad claims that American households throw out $500 of food per year. I thought that sounded pretty extreme and checked it out. The best article I could find generally agreed with the claim.


Having recently cleaned and defrosted my fridge for the first time in 3 years and only finding the dregs of a ketchup bottle to throw out, I'm just wondering how much you think you throw out per year? Do you think inedible items such as banana peels should be included?

I guess I'm just a bit perplexed because my SO and I spend less than that a month on food.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, I would say that they include only edible items. If we throw anything out it may be because we defrosted something and then got a call from friends to go out for dinner and we may have plans the next night so the shrimp may go bad. Meats I hardly throw away, as I cook them pretty often, veggies tended to get thrown away more, but now I just go to the store more often and I don't buy veggies all at once.
    We spend less than the $500 a month on food, and we have made the effort not to waste anything, and we even track what we throw out. I would say we fall far below that average.

    We do have friends that don't eat leftovers, so when they have people over any food leftover gets thrown away, unless others want to take stuff home.

    7 Replies
    1. re: roro1831

      Friends that won't eat leftovers? That strikes me as bizarre. Sure, a few things are pretty awful as leftovers (fried clams come to mind) , but most foods reheat well or can be used in other recipes.

      I know only one person who won't eat leftovers, and she is mentally ill - seriously so, as in, if she stops taking her meds she gets locked up.

      1. re: BobB

        I find it strange myself, but they will not eat leftovers

        1. re: roro1831

          I usually don't either. Only rarely. Very very rarely.

          1. re: Missy2U

            Why is that Missy? If you do not mind sharing.

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              Well, DH hates leftovers because he spent a decade working for a faith-based organisation and eating in their cafeteria where they got the same menu over and over and over again ad nauseum. There was no room in the budget for wastage, so any leftovers were forcibly recycled into tomorrow's meal whether they were really edible or not.

              I don't mind leftovers if the original food was any good, so I usually try to make enough for a LARGE serving for him the first time round, and enough leftovers for me to have the next day. If I miscalculate I'll have to eat them all week, and the last serve might end up in the trash because it took me too many days to get to it.

        2. re: BobB

          There are *lots* of people out there who do not eat leftovers as a general rule. None in my immediate family, but I've run across this among siblings' in laws and other places fairly regularly. I have to wire my mouth shut when I encounter this, lest I gape,cackle or weep too obviously.

          1. re: Karl S

            Seriously - my old neighbor was a fabulous cook (catered) and Italian - could not / would not eat leftovers. Even bread was pulverized into bread crumbs (God bless his soul) and given to me. It was truly a treat to come home to lovely, delicious pasta dishes. Did he throw them away? Absolutely not - he gave them to me. However, as I live alone I had to do that dirty deed after three days cuz' I couldn't eat it all and the pasta w/ sauce doesn't freeze well.

            I DID however freeze the bread crumbs and I miss him very much.

      2. I can believe the average is $500/year. I live alone, but throw out very little because I'm hyper organized in the kitchen and with my budget. I have a pretty good systems for freezing raw ingredients in usable portions. I also just started keeping a list of the freezer's contents on the fridge door - I check the list when I'm planning the menu for the week. Sometimes a recipe experiment flops and the food goes in the trash...

        I started following the blog http://www.wastedfood.com/ about a year ago. I was already pretty careful not to waste stuff, but I'm learned a lot from the blog.

        1. I feel like $500/year on average for American households is probably right. Some households are going to waste a lot, others are going to be more careful.

          It comes out to around $1.37/day. So, if we're counting the last few bites of macaroni that get scraped off a plate and thrown out, this probably accounts for a little bit of change every day. Plus instances where one finds an unopened but expired yogurt, or a freezer burned roast, or forgotten leftovers from 2 weeks ago and opts to toss it all, these are larger value items that certainly add up over the course of a year.

          1. Have you read all the questions people routinely ask on here, stuff like, "I left eggs out on the counter for a day, do I need to toss them?" People think stuff goes bad way faster than it actually does, IMHO.

            Anyway, I pretty much never throw out food. I used to work in a restaurant and it made me feel terrible, how much good food got tossed just because people ordered too much. It's a shame to waste when so many people don't have enough food -- I treat it with respect, and feel incredibly lucky to be able to eat as well as I do.

            7 Replies
            1. re: visciole

              Exactly. The health department is pressured to play it safe beyond what was considered a reasonable threshold, and restaurants have to comply, and media reports these as standards. I think the era of conveniance foods led people to distrust their senses, in regard to perishability. The err on the side of caution approach to the pantry has sunk in deep in the US. Teaching myself to buck the three-to-five day law for leftovers, or the automatic refrigeration of items that *benefit* from the lack of it, is a little thrilling for me, like picking up my roots where that conveniance food generation interrupted.

              1. re: onceadaylily

                Probably a lot of those people who throw out leftovers after three days because of perceived risk are the same ones text-messaging while driving their cars....

                1. re: visciole


                  Bottom line--the human brain is very badly wired to properly evaluate risk, and bad decisions related to risk are the norm. This applies to just about every arena of human endeavor, and risks associated with food preparation, storage, and consumption are right up there. I am constantly amazed at the things people report here that they throw out in the name of "safety."

                  1. re: johnb

                    I know -- how do they think the human race has survived all this time if we could be felled by 3-day-old leftovers?

                    Also, these same people who throw out all sorts of stuff go right ahead and eat out all the time with no qualms. Personally I trust my own home-cooked food, even week-old leftovers, WAY more than I would trust a fast food burger.

                  2. re: visciole

                    I toss leftovers after three days (after getting severely sick by eating that item on the 4th day) and I don't text while driving. Sorry to burst your bubble Visciole.

                    1. re: JerryMe

                      It's beneficial to have my bubble burst from time to time.... keeps me honest!

                      Sorry you got sick, but at least you won't be getting into any traffic accidents ;)

                      1. re: visciole

                        I get sick several times by eating overdue date food. Last time I drank a 3 weeks past due day milk. Didn't feel anything strange until the next day morning.

                        I don't plan on changing it. I figure. It is building my immune system.

              2. well my bf and i are so busy that sometimes we dont have time but to grab a sandwich and i often have to dispose of steaks, whole chickens, a few gallons of milk and produce at a time. sounds reasonable. i hate that it is that way and im trying to manage our waste, but sometimes it's inevitable.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sarahlovessissac

                  Just don't over buy. I use to over buy milk and put myself in the situation of throwing them away. Now, I buy in small quantity. It is better for the environment and for your pocket.

                2. also, on this topic. i'd like advice please.

                  28 Replies
                  1. re: sarahlovessissac

                    >>> i'd like advice please

                    Eat out more?

                    I'm sure people will chime in on how simple it is to manage food so there is no waste, but for someone who is really, really busy ... it is difficult.

                    The meat seems simple. Freeze it ... unless you obect to frozen meat. However, after two or three days, throw it in the freezer ... or just freeze it immediately.

                    Ditto on the produce ... or buy less than you think you need. It depends on what type of produce you mean. Better storange teqhniques might work. Store berries and strawberries in glass jars ... they will keep for weeks. No work involved. Put berries in jar. Put jar in fridge.

                    Milk is tough. Buy less. It depends on how you use milk ,,, drink it straight .... add it to beverages or cereal. I use it exclusively for coffee. My probably was forgetting to buy it at the store. I tried small boxes of shelf-table milk, but I don't like the taste. For me powdered milk worked best .. yes, I know, I know. However, it isn't bad in coffee and it was a nice back up should I run out of milk.

                    Seriously buy less though and keep some meals in the freezer.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Raw milk doesn't putrefy--it just "sours" and becomes a baking ingredient. Currently, I have buttermilk "clabbering" on the counter (add one cup store bought cultured milk to about 2/3 of a gallon of raw milk; sit out for a day)....kefir fermenting right next to it...and I bake with the regular milk that "turns" with great results.

                      IF you can get some , and don't object to drinking it, you'll have a lot less waste. Pasteurized milk rots and curdles instead of slowly souring, so you have to toss it.

                      1. re: Beckyleach

                        Actually, plain pasteurized milk sours just fine; that's what we got when I was a kid. It's homogenized milk that rots, apparently something to do with the cream and nonfat portions all commingled and screwing each others' souring schedule up. Pasteurized-only began to disappear from Midwestern grocery stores in the early '50s, but you could still get it delivered by the milkman. But then the dairies just stopped selling it.

                        One of my more pleasurable childhood memories was when Mom would open a new carton, and we'd all get to take turns (the three kids PLUS Mom!) having the first glass. Even after the carton had been shaken thoroughly, there was still extra cream in that first pour. Yum. No such fun with homogenized.

                        1. re: Will Owen


                          Not so long ago, I got those pre-homogenized milk from supermarkets in California, maybe 10 years ago. They are awesome, with that lay of fat or cream. :) At first, I were like, "what is this?" Then after tasting it, it is like "I want more, can I just have those?"


                          Is it possible to separate the homogenized milk back with a regular lab centrifuge at 4000 rpm? Or that is not enough?

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            I can get creamtop milk at a local farm. $1.75 per quart, but it's such much better the homogenized milk - it has more flavor and you can do more with it. It's an occasional luxury. (Also, while it's not an issue for me, creamtop milk is more easily digested than homogenized milk.)

                            The real funny thing is is that skim milk is homogenized too.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              can still get creamtop milk at the store. infinitely better and more versatile than homogenized milk.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Ok, you people are starting to confuse me. I like creamtop milk (non-homogenized milk). I think it smelll good and taste great, but what's up with the "easily digested" and "more versatile" claims? Please fill me in. Eager to learn.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I know a few people who are lactose intolerant but have much less problems with creamtop milk. The homogenization process binds milk components in ways that make it harder for them to digest, on top of the general milk sugar issue.

                                  And, if you read the book "Milk," you will learn the many things you can do with unhomogenized milk that you cannot do with homogenized milk.

                                  Read up.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest one of the main sugars in milk -- lactose. Lactose is dissolved in the water part of milk. Studies have demonstrated no difference.


                                2. re: Karl S

                                  And on my side, I'm young enough to have grown up on homoginized to the point where I never SAW creamtop. I remember, the first time I saw the movie "Little Miss Marker" turning to my mom and asking why the guy, took out a tumber poured a little milk from the milk bottle into it, poured more milk out of the bottle onto the girls cereal then poured the milk in the tumbler back into the bottle.

                            2. re: rworange

                              I understand that for someone who is really busy, it is tempting to load up the cart when you do have a chance to shop, to be the most efficient. You are busy but still want to eat well. There is more than you can handle in the fridge, after a while stuff has to get tossed out, and the cycle repeats.

                              I too follow similar rules of demoting the meat to the freezer after it has been sitting in the fridge for long enough. I call it demoting because home-frozen meat do tend to get mushy, but better mushy than rotten. Ditto for vegetables and fruit -- mushy vegetables are still good for soups and stews, slimy or black produce is not.

                              About the meat. I understand the pain of having to throw out a whole steak or chicken (although the chicken was not my fault, which went bad way before the use-by date, probably suffocated in its cling wrap packaging). I do not know if it makes sense, but if you do not feel like going through the ordeal of freezing-thawing to keep the meat longer because you think you might just have time to cook it "the next day", you can try marinating the meat instead. Just throw in the usual salt, spices, herbs or whatever you like, and I find that the meat seems to last longer in the fridge, its shelf life often extended for a few more days.

                              1. re: tarteaucitron

                                this may seem gross, but after all, we're talking about rotting foods... i had some stinky chicken parts that any "right-minded" indivual would have immediately thrown out but i remembered a recipe that i learned in college , not for the explicit purpose of saving rotting food but, as it happened i ate the resullts and did not become sick... i boiled the chicken in enough apple cider vinegar to cover it. it actually tastedf pretty good; i know the risk was there but chose to take it anyway; would never tell my best friend who has a brother who eats no leftovers

                            3. re: sarahlovessissac

                              "also, on this topic. i'd like advice please."

                              Plan, budget, buy, eat. Repeat.

                              1. re: sarahlovessissac

                                Get a dog. I haven't rinsed a plate in years, and don't even pitch the bones that are left over after making chicken stock.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Leftover human food is generally not good for a dog, unless you are cooking with very little seasoning and limiting your ingredients (or the quantity he/she is getting is small). Also, chicken bones are an invitation to a punctured intestine (though it turns out, according to modern veterinary practice, that raw chicken is OK--it's the cooked version that is dangerous).

                                  1. re: johnb

                                    Thanks for your advice. I'll be sure to let my vet know he's wrong.

                                    Dogs evolved to live on leftover human food, and with rare exception that's all they ate from the time they were first domesticated until the middle of the 20th century. And during that 100,000 year period, very few people were cooking up special meals with minimal seasoning and limited ingredients.

                                    Also, chicken bones that I have used to make stock have lost all their connective tissue. They crumble when you pinch them. The carcass goes into the mixer with leftover rice to make a paste that the dogs eat. Kind of hard for a paste to puncture the intestinal wall.

                                    I appreciate your concern, though.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      You're right--during that 100,000 year period, very few people were cooking up special meals with minimal seasoning and limited ingredients for their dogs. They didn't have to, because that's how they were cooking for themselves. They were lucky if they had access to a little salt. Not any longer, and that's the problem. If that's how you cook today for yourself, then that might be OK for your dog, and maybe you too. Otherwise, not so much.

                                      If you are grinding up your cooked chicken bones before feeding them to your dog, then of course that's fine. You didn't say that, and most people who do feed left-over chicken bones to their dogs don't, and people who might read your original post wouldn't know that's what you do. So it's good that the point has been clarified.

                                      I have had many vets over the years, and have never spoken to one who favored feeding leftover human table food to dogs. Much of the discussion in this thread has been how to reduce food waste. I don't think the "dog" option is the way to go.

                                      1. re: johnb

                                        About feeding dogs leftovers" No onion or chocolate and no bones.

                                        And from personal experience with scrounge-o-muts:
                                        I take all the meat trimmings and boil them down for the dog. I ditch most of the fat (like on lamb) because it... disrupts her... flow. It becomes uncontrolled mahem... ahem. Take my advice there as gospel OK.
                                        We also feed her stock veggies (minus onion). I put a few in her bowl over a week or so. Sometimes I freeze it for later. She also gets expired eggs. They are fine, but her stomach is stronger than mine. She eats 3 day old watermelon rind and corn cobs that someone pitched on a bonfire and slept as soundly as ever and suffered no later bad effects. But fat - nope. Also no spicy peppers - an invitation to disaster.

                                        Cooked beef bones are easily shattered by dog's strong jaws. The shards will perferate their mouths, throats, intestines and anuses.

                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                          "Expired" eggs should be fine for both you and your dog. I takes a veeeery long time for eggs to go bad, particularly if kept chilled. Remember, they are designed by nature to keep going for 21 days at about 101 F, feeding (and becoming) the chick until it hatches. I feed eggs to mine, shells and all. Also lard with no problems, but i know what you mean about flow. That happens to mine with just about any change of diet.

                                          I'd be very careful about corncobs for a dog. I understand they can break up and plug things up, something that you definitely don't want to chance.

                                          1. re: johnb

                                            The corn cobs were strictly a one time incident. She was one of 10 or so dogs at a giant party and they were loose and playing.

                                            Later (ahem) because our lives are so full - we had much time to speculate about what in God's green grass came out of the dog. We decided corn cobs and dog pickled watermelon rinds.

                                            I had actually caught her red pawed with the rind and snatched it up - so that was not a real mystery.

                                            Well, here I am blathering on. Yep. Totally agreed about the corn cobs!

                                          2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                            And no grapes/raisins/dried currants.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Seriously? Because I have a fence covered with currants and hybrid currants. I have no idea if my dog is plucking some, but if they are bad... yikes.

                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                Dried currants are made from a variety of grape, they're not actually fresh currants that are dried. (Confusing terminology to be sure.)

                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                  In large quantity, grapes and especially raisins can cause renal failure (fatal) in dogs (I don't know the specifics about currants, but they are related of course). Should your dog ever ingest a large quantity of raisins, get it to the vet pronto or it's bye bye.

                                      2. re: sarahlovessissac

                                        Don't buy food until you're ready to cook it, or freeze it and take it out the morning before you're going to cook.

                                        1. re: sarahlovessissac

                                          You throw away gallons of milk?
                                          There are 2 of us and I buy one 1/2 gallon jug per week. Sometimes we run out the morning of shopping day but nobody died from not getting their milk one day.

                                          Freezing for a few days if you do it correctly will save you. If I go to the store on Sat. but I'm not cooking the item until Fri. I'll freeze it. Before you go to bed the night before move said item to fridge and by the time I cook dinner the next night it's ready to cook. (Works with individual 4-6 oz meat). Don't freeze and thaw whole packages- less likely to use it all up.

                                        2. We compost most of our leftovers and "refrigerator OOPS" so does that count as wasted food, if it helps make new food?

                                          IF I had a bigger fridge (16 cf for a family four foodies and gardeners doesn't cut it! It came with the house, nearly new, so I'm stuck ) I probably wouldn't waste much of anything. As it is, stuff goes down in the basement into the OLD fridge (which probably is horribly energy inefficient, as well) and out of sight IS out of mind, alas.

                                          1. I think this is actually low.

                                            Think about all the weird things and habits people have with food:

                                            1. Food has expired for a day ... gack! Out it goes

                                            2. Crust on bread ... don't like. Out it goes

                                            3. Ever peak into a workplace fridge? Lots of leftover food sustaining its own mold spore ecosystem.

                                            4. Bag a lunch for your kid? Into the trash can and straight to McDonald's.

                                            5. Bag those leftovers from Cheesecake Factory? Well, day-old pasta salad with cream sauce just does ... not ... reheat ... very ... well.


                                            21 Replies
                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              But how do you put a dollar value on any of those items?

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Good question. The article deals with lbs of food, but the Glad ad talks about dollars. If you compare the two, the Glad claim seems to indicate $1 = 1 lbs.

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  At the end of the day it's all fuzzy math, at best.

                                                  Even with something as simple as a banana, the math isn't necessarily that simple, or straightforward. Let's say you bought that banana for $.50. A week later it's sort of brown, kinda mushy and you throw it out. It's certainly no longer still worth the original 0.50 that you paid for it when it was nice and green (or pale yellow), right? Is that brown banana half its original price? 1/3? Something else?

                                                  Who knows. It might be worth $0.40 to me because maybe I enjoy overly ripe bananas (or I need it for a baked bread), but only $0.05 to someone else b/c they really only like green ones.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    You're right, of course, which is why the study focused on weight, not worth. Still, 500 lbs of food wasted per household per year sounds worse to me than $500. And the mental image it conjures up is just horrible.

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Re: 5, When my friend and I are at, say, a chinese restaurant and are faced with eating a little more and bringing the rest home, we choose to eat up those dishes that don't reheat well.

                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                                    But leftover Chinese food straight from the fridge is one of the great meals. Why reheat it?? Same for pizza, BTW.

                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                      Deep fried Chinese food is a guilty pleasure of mine, and deep fried is not something that holds up well or long after its initial cooking, IMO.

                                                      1. re: beachmouse

                                                        That may be true, but I don't think reheating it helps very much.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                    "Crust on bread ... don't like. Out it goes"

                                                    That is sad.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      But you know that for some people, it's so true.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit


                                                        I agree, which is why it is very sad. If only 1% of the population does it, then it won't be so sad. I think a lot of people do it. I mean A LOT. I suppose it is the same as people who don't see pizza crust as well, maybe.

                                                        Here is a thought for you though, buddy? Do you consider over eating as waste of food? You know many people eat more than they need and more than their bodies can handle. Forget about the health problem for a second. Isn't that wasting food too? That is like driving a much long routine wasting fuel or turning light on 24 hours. What do you think? (don't feel pressure to agree with me)

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                                          You bring up an interesting point, but I think I'd have to disgaree with you on this one.

                                                          If the person who overeats actually enjoys what they are doing and eating, then, no, I don't think it's food waste. While you or I may think that eating too much and getting fat or obese is a big no-no in terms of food conversation and waste, the person who eats too much (and gets fat) but enjoys every single bite should not be faulted for food waste. I mean, think about it this way ... was it really necessary to have that extra scoop of ice cream? Or that additional helping of mashed potatoes with your turkey dinner? You didn't "need" those additional calories for survival, right? But you ate that additional serving because, well, you enjoyed it. It gave you pleasure.

                                                          Contrast that with a competitive food eater like Kobyashi (the Nathan's hot dog champ). Those people in my book are also "overeating" but they are clearly not enjoying what they are eating. In that case, I would consider it a waste.

                                                          Just my 0.02 on a ... very ... slow ... Friday ... afternoon.


                                                          1. re: ipsedixit


                                                            Excellent points. Not that I entirely agree with you nor do I entirely disagree with you. I do understand the premises of your arguement and the logics. However, won't that be similar to people who throw away bread crust? They don't enjoy bread crust, so it gives them (relative) pleasure to throw the crust away.

                                                            See, Kobyashi is just doing his job. He has less of a choice here. He is doing it for survival. :P

                                                            You seem tired. I will pick on you on a different day :P

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              I think, for me, the dividing line between the person who overeats and enjoys it versus the person who discards bread crust is that the former is actually ingesting the calories and using them (even if she is just a sloth and sits around all day). The bread crust person is simply letting the calories literally decompose without letting it ever being "used" by a person.

                                                              Maybe not a perfect demarcation, but I'm sticking by it and that's my story!

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                "even if she is just a sloth and sits around all day"

                                                                Is a particular person in your mind while you wrote this? Ha ha ha

                                                                I am not sticking on anything. I am looking forward to debate you some other days. Peace out.

                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I completely agree that food isn't wasted if the over-eater is enjoying it. Unfortunately I think a lot of Americans still have a "starving children in Africa" mentality and end up eating more than they *want* because they don't want to waste it. If that's the case, I say it's wasted either way. 99% of the time I happy to eat or re-purpose leftovers. The other 1% I'd rather the waste end up in the trash than on my hips.

                                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                                There's actually an irony there, since, nowadays, I've (on ocaasion) heard parents use the "starving children in Africa" spiel to try and STOP thier kids from overeating (i.e. if you overeat there won't be enough food in the world for them).

                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Anyone over the age of 5 who cuts the crust of their bread needs to grow UP, please. Seriously.

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              You leave the crusts on your watercress finger sandwiches? A little unrefined, but I suppose if you prefer them that way... (Takes sip of tea with pinky extended.)

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                '-) I'm more of an un-refined kinda gal. No tea sandwiches for me, pass the dumplings, please!

                                                      2. I know my husband and I waste waaay too much food. I wonder whether they include, say, the bag of cherries I just bought, nearly half of which met my too-high standards for edible quality and more than half of which got tossed. I think most of our waste is produce, actually. Buy supermarket strawberries on a weekend, work late monday and tuesday, have half the package on wednesday, and by that time they're getting kind of below my standards too. Pick over a bunch of salad greens and half of it, by bulk, goes out too. We mean well, but the banana gets brown and soft before we get around to it.

                                                        (I am completely open to the notion that our waste is largely the result of combined laziness and pickiness, as well as comparatively lush american lifestyles) - and, as others mentioned, I am one who pays attention to expiration dates and begin to mistrust food, particularly dairy, around that date.

                                                        We nearly never have milk to toss, though. The two of us go through three to four half-gallons of organic a week and it hardly ever approaches the expiration date.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: occula

                                                          Just a thought - things that aren't quite up to your standards for eating out of hand might be repurposed. Slightly mushy strawberries and a banana that's going brown sound to me like the beginning of a tasty smoothie. Cherries that are less than perfect for nibbling on can be good in preserves or a pie. And if you don't have the time or energy to deal with the ingredients right now, the freezer will hold them until you do. Salad greens are a bit more of a challenge, but you get the idea...

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I like to throw salad greens in soups or stews. Probaly one of the biggest reasons I don't generate so much waste is that I'll throw just about any scraps into a soup stock, stew or kettle of beans.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              I know I could do much better in that regard, and I appreciate the suggestions, and particularly your non-accusatory tone.

                                                            2. re: occula

                                                              I keep mentioning this, but put berrries in a glass jar that you put in the fridge. They will last at least a week.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                This. I kept strawberries for nearly two weeks in a glass jar, now trying blackberries (but I have a feeling I'll eat those before going bad becomes a concern, heh).

                                                                My big waste sin is produce, particularly lettuce. I need to eat more salad ...

                                                                1. re: MandalayVA

                                                                  Hey, MVA --

                                                                  You know, you can rehydrate lettuce by putting it in ice water for a few minutes. Perks up lettuce just fine. Depending on the lettuce, I also throw it on top of pasta with garlic and oil.

                                                              2. re: occula

                                                                AFAIK, most dates stamped on dairy products are pull dates not use-by dates. Fresh milk should be perfectly wholesome for up to 7 days past the pull date--in fact, it's perfectly wholesome until it goes off. Cultured products are perfectly wholesome way past the pull dates. Ever heard of blue cheese? You know that stuff that forms on top of sour cream? Scrape it off and use the perfectly good stuff underneath. No problem.

                                                                1. re: johnb

                                                                  +1. the stamped date is the legal sell-by date, not the day the product magically goes bad. depending on fat content (heavier creams can last longer) the dairy product should be good at least 1 week longer.

                                                              3. I honestly cannot think of the last time I threw out food with the exception of the innards of a chicken, and recently I bought skin-on chicken breast and took the skin off myself because it was on sale. So, not including waste and inedible parts (stems, bones, coffee grinds. the chicken skin in this case) I cannot even remember throwing food away, leftovers included. And I am really busy, and cooking for one 99% of the time. I only buy produce I know I'll eat before it goes bad, and I cook at home for every meal all week with the exception of one day a week when I allow myself to eat out lunch at work. its surprisingly easy, actually.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: CarmenR

                                                                  Hey, wait, the skin's the best part of the chicken breast!

                                                                2. I find that when I live in the US, I waste much more than I wasted when I lived in the UK or Japan. I think part of the issue is that quantities in the US generally tend to be very large- 4lb chickens, 2lb of ground beef, etc. If you want a reasonably sized portion, it can be hard to have it unless you want to eat leftovers 3x a week or have resigned yourself to the fact that you'll probably end up wasting something.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                    That enters into another reason, I would imagine a lot of leftovers don't get eaten becuse the persons in that household get BORED with the dish. Due the the large quantities most foods are sold in nowadays (at least here in the USA) if you are eating sensible portions actually using some things completely up can mean no just eating leftovers 3x a week but eating leftovers of the SAME dish EVERY DAY for a WEEK or even longer. From what I understand from other posters on this site back in the day in many houses, having a roast on Sunday meant that bits of that roast would form the main point of pretty much ALL lunches and dinners for many days afterwards.I'm not sure a lot of households would be willing to put in that much commtiment in frugality anymore ( Actually a bit more frugality, since a lot of people are for varios reasons eating smaller portions of meat per meal now than the did back then, that same roast would now probably last, mealwise, all the way through the entire week which would mean that if having a roast everysunday was also part of your tradition (as it was in a lot of households) you'd finish up the old one just in time for the new one, and so the cycle would continue). Having that much commitment just isn't part of many people psyches anymore. Food is now often looked up as being most important for pleasure not sustenence (please don't misinterpret me food has always been vitally imprtant for both to most people, it;s just that as time has progressed, which of those two is the MORE important if you asked a person, has flipped). In fact that is at the core waht this whole site is based around; most of us come here becaue we truly love delicios food and wish to maximize our consuption of it, to make every bite as tasty as we can. I suspect that if most of us werent like that, if what was of supreme importace to us with regards to food was some other factor (say how to spend the absolute minimum possible on food to get enough nutrients to keep us alive, or make the absolute minimum impact on the environment) we'd be in another group, on another site. I rather doubt that most of us, if one day we cooked a dish that tasted absoutely terrible (not spoiled to make one sick, just really distasteful to us) would be willing to continue to eat it, day in an day out just so it wouldn't "go to waste". I suspect some other people might.

                                                                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                      Good point - my wife, who grew up in Russia, has no problem eating the same dish for three days in a row so as not to waste it. Me, I get bored so I'll either make something different on day 2 and finish day 1's leftovers on day 3, or else freeze the leftovers and finish them at some future date.

                                                                      One way or another we do finish our leftovers though - at least almost all of them, almost all of the time.

                                                                    2. re: queencru

                                                                      In the US, it helps to buy chicken, ground beef etc. from the meat counter (or butcher if you have one) in the grocery store. I can ask for jus the amount I want and not have "leftover" to worry about. Sometimes buying the family pack and freezing in small individual portions helps me save money but then I am throwing out the extra plastic wrap I have froze the item in. I guess there's still some trash generation but at least I'm not wasting food.

                                                                    3. Personally, I don't waste a lot of food. I don't tend to buy more than I need. I think many people buy more than they need when foods go on sale or something.

                                                                      I will say I use to spend a lot less on food when I were a college student than I am now. Even now, I spend less than others. When I were a college student, I spend ~$20 per week. $80 a month. I would actually get slightly upset when I have to pay more than $20 at the checkout. I think now I spent about $35 a week.

                                                                      1. I do waste way too much food, and it's usually stuff like celery left in the bottom of the fridge, baked goods that get caught in a heat wave and go moldy, and - most common - smidgens of things that get put into jars and forgotten until they develop a personality. One very good suggestion here is about composting; I have a couple of friends that have barrel composters, and I think we're overdue for one of those. That and a chest freezer, which I've been wanting for years, and they're actually fairly cheap...

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                                          how about chickens (thanks to the dog posts above)? great little food-waste reducers that go on to live a good life, lay tasty eggs and become tasty old stew hens. not for everyone, but i don't feel bad about "wasting" 1/2 a loaf of molding bread or some carrot peelings when i'm throwing it to happy chickens.

                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                            Barrel composters don't wake people up in the morning, nor are they prey to coyotes or raccoons or my own dog. They are also not only allowed in Pasadena, they're encouraged, unlike barnyard fowl...

                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                              Hens generally don't wake people up in the morning, and roosters are unnecessary unless you want to breed your own chicks. Coyotes and raccoons can be a problem, but are easy to deter with the right fencing and coops. As for dogs, we had a dozen hens and a rooster when I was a kid. Our four dogs never bothered the hens. One of the dogs did get the rooster eventually, but the rooster had it coming. That said, some people are chicken people and some aren't. It's a lot like trying to convince a dog person to like cats - not gonna happen most of the time.

                                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                                              Chickens are my solution. Obviously not practical for those who don't have land. We have a flock of chickens, ducks and turkeys. No more food waste at all. No cleaning out the garden at the end of the season -they do it for us. Fertilizer and eggs provided in return. Oh, and we have less mice and bugs. But that's for another forum...

                                                                          2. The main source of food waste in this house is leftover restaurant meals. Most restaurants, even good ones, serve portions that are unreasonably large. I feel guilty just leaving it there, so I usually get it wrapped up to go, and half the time, don't eat it.

                                                                            My other problem is "produce duplication syndrome." It works like this: I'll really need parsley for something, so I pick up a bunch at a store that has only mediocre parsley. Two days later, I'm at Whole Foods, see some really good organic parsley, then buy that. A few days later, I toss the mediocre parsley.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Isoldamay

                                                                              After reading your post, I have to admit that I havebeen wasting herbs. They usually sell a big bunch of herbs and I can never finish them even if I use 3-5X the amount of as suggested by the recipes. A few time, I even cook pure parsley and clinatro as vegetables to consume them -- just so they won't go to waste. Weird huh?

                                                                              1. re: Isoldamay

                                                                                Feeding just me and Mrs. O most of the time, your average bunch of parsley (very much like your average package of celery or bunch of carrots) is Too Much all by itself. I don't even have to duplicate my purchase to overload on stuff like this.

                                                                                Restaurant food gets eaten around here. We got the Hungry Old Retired Guy foraging for lunch every day. Sometimes it'll be something Mrs. O brought home from a too-generous lunch, but she'd better not let it sit too long!

                                                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                  Will: As it is not usual to be able to buy less than a bunch of celery, I agree it's common to end up with Too Much in small households whose members aren't prone to just munch it. One of the best produce storage/life-extension tips I've read on CH is to wrap the whole bunch of celery completely in foil, and store as usual in a crisper drawer.

                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                    And at the eleventh hour, you can also drop the prepped stalks in a cup of ice water for a few hours (though I've found flavor to be affected, more water than bitter) Chow has stated that this works for carrots as well, but I've yet to try that one.

                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                      I will try that too. I try to tell my husband that putting it back into its sleeve will keep it right, but even I am suspect of that claim.

                                                                                      But foil.. hmmm. Thank you for the tip.

                                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                        I must report that I have had some success with those green bags. Not always, but for example I have some still OK lettuce in there right now in a green bag and it's been weeks. Take it FWIW.

                                                                                2. I would like to suggest getting chickens for those looking to ditch scraps. They will eat anything - including chicken. LOL

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                    Vacuum seal all the meats you buy. They last longer and don't get freezer burn. It's good for leftover stew and chilli type stuff too. It thaws better too because you don't have the styrofoam tray in there.

                                                                                    As a life long dog lover do not feed your dogs cooked animal bones. If you want to pamper your pooch mix a little of your home made chicken or beef broth with their food and of course a little steak trimmings will send your dog into orbit.

                                                                                  2. I posted this article on another thread about this topic -- thought this book might just come in handy for those looking to cut food waste.


                                                                                    Happy cooking!

                                                                                    1. And a couple of additional thoughts: 1) Yep, carrots keep in water in the frig for WEEKs. And parsley makes an awesome salad -- I think it's generally overlooked for this purpose, but it's really, really good. I find that my herbs keep best wrapped in paper towels in a large ziploc bag -- they'll stay for at least a week this way, parsley sometimes for 2-3 weeks.

                                                                                      1. For those of you interested in learning more about this topic, I noticed that Food Network is actually doing quite a bit on the subject, including this special, which airs tomorrow night: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food-netwo....