Top 5 Food Waste Solutions



One of my top pet peeves is wasting food. My mom has always been the same way, so I know where I got it from. I remember our weekly “leftover night” as a child. My mom would pull out all the random leftovers from the week and that’s what was for dinner. Thanks to my mom I’m very good about using my leftovers now. I just hate to throw food away. It’s money in the garbage!

Food waste is a big problem though, not just an annoyance. Did you know that 30-40% of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten? Americans waste an estimated $162 billion in food each year ($400 billion globally!)!!! On average, we all waste about 25% of the food we buy. For many of us trying to choose quality food on a budget, not wasting food is the #1 priority! But it’s not just about money. Millions of Americans face hunger on a daily basis while the amount of safe, edible food wasted in the U.S. continues to increase.

On an individual or family scale, many of us end up wasting food due to poor meal planning, improper storage, or even just not understanding what the labels on food means (FYI, they have very little to do with when the food goes bad).


Here are 5 ways to help reduce your food waste:

  1. Make a meal plan or menu each week. Take a look around your pantry and fridge to see what needs to get eaten! Use what you already have at home before buying more food. This is THE most important step! Also, when you’re at the grocery store, make sure you only buy what you will eat before it goes bad. Be careful with sales, it’s not a bargain if you end up throwing some in the garbage.
  2. Plan in leftovers! When making your meal plan or menu for the week, make sure to leave room for those leftovers. You can easily take them for lunch the next day, or if there is a lot leftover it can be another meal the next day (either the same or “repurposed” – for example, leftover baked chicken can become chicken burritos– see recipe below).
  3. Make sure your refrigerator is working properly and is optimally between 35°F and 38° F and your freezer is at 0°F. Don’t just assume it’s working properly. Purchase a thermometer to keep in there so you can always check. Some of the newer digital refrigerators have this built in. This will help prolong the life of foods. Regular maintenance of your refrigerator will also help it working better (when was the last time you cleaned the coils on your fridge?).
  4. Prep your vegetables when you get home from the farmer’s market or grocery store. That way they are ready to go and are more likely to get eaten before they go bad. This can be a game changer!
  5. Use everything! Do you have fruit that’s a little too ripe? Freeze it and use it later for smoothies or homemade ice cream, sherbet or sorbet. How about random leftover vegetables? Make a soup. Just add leftover meat or beans for a full meal. You can even make amazing homemade stock from leftover bones and veggie scraps. Keep a “stock” bag in the freezer and toss in bones and vegetable scraps until you get enough to make stock or bone broth.


What are some of the ways you reduce food waste? Anyone compost with the inedible food scraps?


Chicken and Black Bean Stuffed Burritos
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 4 burritos


I usually cook a whole chicken on Saturday or Sunday in the slow cooker. This is just one great recipe to help use that leftover chicken. It’s not a fancy meal, but it’s quick and delicious!

If you can’t do grains or gluten simply top mixed greens with the spicy chicken and bean mixture for a delicious salad.



¼ cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¾ cup cooked black beans (if canned, rinse and drain)
½ cup salsa
4 (8-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in shredded chicken and green onions.
  2. Combine beans and salsa and warm up in small pan or microwave. Spoon ¼ cup bean mixture and ½ cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese. burrito-step2
  3. Roll up and eat!


Nutritional Information per Burrito (will vary depending on which tortilla you use): Calories 338, Fat 11.5g, Saturated fat 3.3g, Cholesterol 60 mg, Sodium 348mg, Carbohydrate 30.4g, Fiber 6.8g, Protein 26.9g

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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About Author

Kelly Gehle, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP


Kelly is a Nutritionist at the HCC at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary NC. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Arizona State University and her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Her areas of expertise include functional nutrition, health and wellness education, prenatal nutrition, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition.

1 Comment

  1. Great food waste solutions! My best bet is using all the leftovers! People should also know that "Best before" text means the food is still eatable, just its taste maybe somehow strange, sometimes! Greetings!

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