HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Wasted Food, how I deal.

In my house we don't care what foul language you use (provided there aren't any little ones about) so there is no "swear jar." We do, however have a "waste jar." I am thankful that I have the means to purchase, prepare and enjoy the bountiful variety of foods available to me, and I am mindful of the fact that not everyone is so lucky. But, inevitably, there are stale chips, burned pancakes or leftovers forgotten in the back of the refrigerator, and it pains me when I have to throw these things away. So, in my kitchen I keep a jar on the counter, and any time food gets thrown away, money goes in the jar. The amount of money is relative to the amount of food, and around the holidays I give the money from the jar to a local food pantry.

How do you deal with wasted food? Feed it to a spoiled dog? Compost for the garden? Toss it and forget it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I call it soup...

    Seriously, most stuff gets made into soup before it's completely rancid. Or a casserole but I'm not really big on those. Our fridge is mostly produce and dairy, both of which when on the verge of rotten taste the best. We keep meats in the freezer till we want to use them.

    I was visiting my in-laws and went through their fridge throwing out anything that had deteriorated to more than 50% slime. My father in law didn't appreciate it and took the green onions out of the garbage and put them back in the fridge and in his mostly Italian with bits of English.

    "Eh! Whadda you doin? Eez good. When war, you no throw away stuff!"

    1. Who knew? A jar can solve world hunger.

      1. I've rarely had anything go beyond salvaging bad except lettuce, and it goes to the compost heap. Failed pancakes go to the corgi and the mutt.

        1. I'm another one whose dogs eat mostly everything without tummy problems. I try not to buy too much produce at one time otherwise I make a soup if need be. Work is a great place to bring excess food.

          1. If it's edible in any sort of fashion (e.g. stale, old, burned, etc.), I eat it.

            You're talking to someone who eats every part of the apple except for the stem. I even cut open mustard bottles to lick the inside clean before tossing the (now cut-up) bottle.

            However, if it is spoiled, rotten, decayed, rancid, poisonous, etc., I toss.

            And if I have to toss, I don't worry about it. Life's too short. There are bigger problems in the world.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              hey ipse, just be careful trying to get the last drops of mustard out of glass jars - if you get your hand stuck in there you'll have to waste perfectly good oil to free it ;)

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                What do you think I do with all my limp celery stalks? It's the perfect tool for wiping clean the insides of a glass mustard jar ...

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  1. i was kidding...sort of :)
                  2. i'll give you one guess what i was eating when i saw this reply last night!

              2. re: ipsedixit

                omg ipsedixit, i thought i was the only one who ate apples (and pears) core and all! every family member and friend i have thinks that i'm a complete nut whenever they happen to witness me devouring an apple whole.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  re: cutting up the mustard bottle -- make a vinaigrette in there instead! I read this somewhere (Mark Bittman?) and thought it was genius.

                2. Make something out of it, and freeze, with a note to use immediately.

                  1. I love that, LBHF. I just love it.

                    The light in my fridge is broken, and it is *too* easy to lose track of what gets shoved toward the back as someone roots around in there, looking for a specific mustard. It's usually produce and leftovers that go off beyond use (though there has been egregious spoilage of bacon, yeah, you heard me right, BACON) , and I can't do compost here, unless I come up with the money to buy an indoor box. I always feel so guilty when I let something go to waste; my depression-era great-grandmothers gather around me in a vapor of disapproving clucking and you've-disappointed-me vibes whenever I chuck blackened basil, or limp greens that have begun to dampen the bag.

                    Your jar is very appealing to me. I once found a tube of sausage that was off, and it had puffed up so that the plastic seams of the package were strained, and weakening at the seams, bands of white showing under the gold as the plastic had thinned. It was a meat bomb, destined to go off at any second. I really should have been made to pay restitution for that, other than that extremely slow and tense walk to the garbage can.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: onceadaylily

                      Freeze the bacon right away! It heats up just fine, and no tragic bacon spoilage. I put wax paper in between the slices so they won't freeze together. (You can reuse the paper for the next package of bacon.)

                    2. We have a good little boxer dog next door--she doesn't get a lot of attention so I make a point to save every morsel our wasteful human household might discard. She gets scrap sandwiches daily.

                      p.s. about leftovers/treats for dogs -- in case you aren't aware, onions are NOT good for dogs. Chocolate is NOT good for dogs, even during the holidays!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: blue room

                        Thanks for the doggie health reminder. Equally important, no grapes or raisins, which the vet says can case kidney failure.

                        1. re: blue room

                          I'd rather throw the food away. After one cat developing diabetes and one Maltese getting pancreatitis (leading to failure of pancreas), we no longer give scrapes to the pets. The vet bills aren't worth it.

                        2. I buy food and cook with it the same day. Leftover cooked food gets frozen - my freezer is filled with nukable lunches for work.
                          The only 'foods' that I recycle are coffee grounds and vegetable peelings (the local council collect food waste weekly for the city compost heaps).

                          1. The boyfriend constantly teases me about my in ability to throw food away. Food was not something we had in excess as a kid and my mom was amazing and turning nothing into dinner. So as a result I have an array of food saving compulsions. I usually plan dinner based on what is going bad in my fridge. Usually I can catch stuff before it gets to gross to eat. I keep all the little bit of stuff that are still good eating for soup, egg, or casserole type dishes. I have my freezer bag full of trimmings (carrot peals, onion skins, etc.) that are used for stock. And everything else gets composted (coffee grounds, etc.). The only problem is that I keep getting sent home with other peoples "trash." The last time we visited his family in New York, his mom sent me home with all the left over beef bones from dinner so I could make soup.

                            1. I love this thread! I wrote one of a similar type a while back about how disheartening it was to watch people throw out all their leftovers good or not and toss things from the fridge that haven't even reached the sell-by date.

                              I love the idea of a waste jar!!!! Fabulous idea.

                              As I said before, and I'll say it again, several well-loved recipes would not exist today if people had been as many often are today with tossing. Bread pudding, casseroles, soups.... etc

                              1. I should institute something like that at my parent's home. When I look through their fridge/freezer I always find something that has gone bad and needs to be thrown out. My mother has a bad habit of taking something that should already be tossed, like wrinkly mushy blueberries, and putting in the freezer as if that will somehow resuscitate it. The stuff that manages to make it into the freezer is usually wrapped poorly or in a ziploc bag that isn't sealed so it gets totally freezer burned. On a recent freezer check, I found a chunk of mozzarella in a resealable package (not sealed) that was from 1997. I'm also constantly finding portions of meat that are so dried out and covered in frost, that they're completely unidentifiable.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: gmm

                                  gmm, i have a sneaking suspicion our mothers may have been twins separated at birth. i've posted on CH before about the frighteningly old/expired/spoiled food i've unearthed in my parents' kitchen over the years. the last time i went to visit, i discovered an open carton of almond milk in the refrigerator that i had been using during my previous visit...7 months earlier.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Ick...how does 7 month old almond milk smell? It's also not unusual for me to find some kind of vegetable that has partially liquified in the bottom of the crisper drawer.

                                    1. re: gmm

                                      i don't know - i figured it would be gnarly, so i held my nose, turned on the hot water & the disposal, and poured it right down the drain!

                                      [unintentionally] moldy cheese & yogurt are common in their fridge...but talk to me when you find an open box of cornstarch in the spice cabinet that expired over 2 decades ago. seriously.

                                2. It has taken me years, and a new level of discipline, but we just don't waste food anymore. It is something I am actually proud of. I am embarrassed by how much food we wasted when we were younger.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    I'm with you, smt. About the only thing I can think of is occasionally a scallion or three or some parsley. After a while it just about becomes second nature. Little bits of things can make great omelettes.

                                  2. Three doors down from our place is a rough older man who's not particularly friendly but loves his once a weekend poker game with the older gents who come to visit. I caught this man's ear about gardening a few years ago and it was the first time he'd ever thrown me a smile. Our gardening conversations went from seed to harvest to recipes. Turned out he wasn't much of a cook and living alone he kept a pretty bare frig. So, I started bringing him dinner every now and then when our leftovers weren't enough to store or freeze but definately not trash-worthy. These days, he stops by for his weekly containers and always brings the empties back for refills. I figure he's learned to trust his neighbors a bit more...and he's gained about 10 lbs. since talking to me :)

                                    My leftovers aren't wasted, they go to Jim.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      What a great story! Glad to hear that....

                                      1. re: jenscats5

                                        Oh the joy goes both ways. Jim's appreciation is very motivating. We don't have much that goes in the trash; compost for the obvious things but leftover food would never get thrown out or go un=used. My freezer is my secret weapon and Jim an unexpected friend.

                                    2. I saw a factoid this morning that Americans waste 14% of their food.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I've seen numbers like that and even higher. As smtucker said above, it takes discipline but it's quite easy. I hate waste of any kind really.

                                      2. What a great topic!!! I was contemplating a blog about this topic. Product utilization is the food service term used for using every possible bit of leftover food/scrap..and also preventing the untimely demise of food. For many years in the restaurant/food service profession I mastered the art..saving money and serving tasty and nutritious food. I will start with just a couple of hints and come add on when it is not so late in the day. Bacon..an expensive product, but indispensable in many dishes.....bacon..especially uncured bacon, which I prefer, is no longer the eternal cured meat to be left in the pantry for months on end. When you bring home the bacon, literally, lay it all out on a sheet pan and put in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until just short of done...drain the bacon fat into a container and refrigerate for a variety of uses and then freeze the precooked bacon..and take out what you need at a later time..microwave or reheat in oven or on stove top for what your recipe needs. No more slimy bacon to be tossed! dead lettuce? In our home that is turned into "dead head" soup..a classic italian, and delicious, italian first course or luncheon soup. Bring some nice stock to a simmer on top of the stove...made from leftover bits of course, peel off any slimy parts of the lettuce, rinse and slice the remainder and add to the stock with any odd bits and bobs of leftover veg, rice or pasta and a good knob of butter..et voila..a wonderfully tasty and healthful soup.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: grammywheels

                                          Ah, another fan of lettuce of soup. Lettuce is a bit under-appreciated in this method.

                                        2. We throw leftovers, spoiled foods,etc into a compost bin


                                          1. I'm unemployed so I run to the grocery store almost daily. I always check the fridge to see what I can use up and plan a meal around that. Unfortunately not everyone has the "luxury" of being unemployed or the luxury to run to the store every day.

                                            We have a couple friends who are bachelors or who simply like our food; we often invite them over and they are more than happy to raid our fridge for lunches or dinners. My pet peeve with this is that they never return my tupperware! My sister and our close family friend always come to our house with their own tupperware and leave with them filled. I rarely cook anything in excess because I usually don't like eating leftovers for days.

                                            And I agree with smartie, work is a great place to bring leftovers. I used to do that every Thursday and everything was usually claimed before 11am, especially desserts. Sometimes someone in our lunch group at work would tell us "tomorrow, don't bring lunch because I'm bringing in ---- for us". Ahh, I miss those days!

                                            1. We feed anything leftover or forgotten to our five chickens. They return the favor with their eggs.