1916 cookbook from Scott's CoalHopefully, this page will house readers’ collected wisdom on how they prevent food waste.

Leave your tips on avoiding waste here or, if your advice relates to a specific post, feel free to comment there.


  1. viv in nz
    Posted June 12, 2008 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    left over cooked whole potatoes…add garlic salt and a lump of butter or a dollop of oil and squash in a sandwich machine or on a grill until browned…delicious!

  2. Laura
    Posted June 12, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I realized I was wasting a lot of food because I didn’t have time to cook it before it went bad: meat turned gray/green and veggies became mush . My problem was that I learned to shop and cook for a family of 4, but now cook for just two. I stopped buying in bulk for the week, and bought for just a few days at a time. It makes for a few extra grocery trips, but I rarely have things go bad now. I still have the reflex to make enough food for 4 , and even though I tell myself the rest will be left-overs, it usually gets fuzzy at the back of the fridge. Buying less and trying to not over prepare has helped me to waste less (although it’s still not perfect!).

  3. Posted June 12, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    We have a CSA share that yields us A LOT of greens, often more than the two of us can eat. By the end of the week, if we have a lot leftover, I make

    - green turkey meatloaf (you chop the greens in the food processor). A ratio of 1 to 1 meat:greens works well. Just add extra breadcrumbs if it seems too wet. Basically the recipe is ground turkey + greens + any sauce (tomato, salsa, bbq) + 1 egg + breadcrumbs + spices + any other leftover veggies. Bake for an hour at 375.

    - pesto – works with pretty much any greens. in the food processor add greens, garlic, parm cheese, herbs, handful of pine nuts or walnuts, and drizzle in the oil. salt to taste.

    - chop greens in food processor and add to avocado and salsa to make guacamole.

  4. Jan Garvin
    Posted June 12, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Two tips.


    One chicken can be used as the basis for three meals for a family of four. Meal one. Baked, boiled, fried or grilled, use one half. The breast gets you two servings, the drumstick and wing gets you another, and the thigh feeds a forth person. No, it’s not as much meat as we’ve gotten accustomed to eating, but it’s plenty to keep you healthy. Serve a salad, a grain, a cooked vegetable, and some fruit with it. Anybody who eats a reasonable portion of each food will be well fed. Anybody who dislikes something on the plate can simply skip that item, and may find themselves a little on the hungry side. No one ever died from missing one portion of one meal, or even a whole meal if nothing appeals. It they are a little less full than they might have been, then they just might be willing to be less picky next time a meal is served. Don’t even notice whether they eat everything or not, and they are not allowed to complain about the food, they just don’t have to eat something they don’t like. Fighting over food is just not worth the time or effort it takes. If you put a balanced meal on the table, day after day, then the kids will learn to eat what they get. By the time they are teenagers and the growth furnace kicks in, all food tastes pretty darned good to almost anybody.

    Collect the bones from the plates and refrigerate them. Don’t be grossed out at the idea that you are going to use something that has once been served on someone’s plate. You are going to boil it for several hours before you use any of it, and that’s going to kill any person to person germ that might have gotten onto the food from the plate.

    Second meal. Pick large pieces of meat off the remaining bones and use them in a casserole or stir fry.

    Take all the bones and put them in a stock pot. (you might want to simmer the bones from more than one chicken in this process, if you want a stronger flavored broth) Cook for at least two hours, until the remaining meat is absolutly falling off the bones. Take the bones out of the soup, cool them, then pick off the small pieces of meat that remain. There will be at least a cup, unless you are better at boning chickens than I am. Add the meat, a grain or other carbohydrate (beans, potatoes, etc.), any left over vegetables you have in the fridge (always save ALL your left over veggies, including the water they are cooked in. Put a quart container in the fridge just for the purpose and dump the pot likker and left overs into it, then, when you have cooked the last bits of a chicken, add it to the soup. If the soup doesn’t have enough meat to supply an adequate protein serving for everyone, be sure to use some sort of bean in it lentils, split peas, or any kind of plain bean. Add salt, pepper, herbs and spices to taste. Garlic, oregano and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese are good starting points, but rosemary and sage is also good, as is chili powder when the grain added is left over stale tortilla chips. Serve with the usual salad, and a suitable bread.

    In addition to feeding my family three times with one chicken, I also feed our three dogs all the soft bones (none splintery breast bones, back bone) and any skin that we don’t eat. Less than six ounces of any chicken is wasted in my house.

    Contrary to what you may have heard about feeding animals chicken, turkey or fish bones, any bone that crumbles instead of splintering is a perfectly safe food for the animal, and will supply needed calcium. Dogs didn’t move in with humans because the cave men feed them Science Diet out of cans. Dogs are omnivores. They only need a slightly higer proportion of their diet to be meat than humans do. They moved in because the cave men and cave women discovered that the dogs would eat the portions of food that were about to go into the kitchen middin. Garbage disposal is not a new problem. Even hunters and gatheres have to find some place to dispose of their unused food and other items, and lots of unused items create odors and draw flies in the process of decomposing. No one wants that stuff right under their noses. Noot only do dogs cut down on the amount of stuff that goes into the midden, they can easily be trained to go off somewhere else to dispose of the parts of their food they don’t digest.

    Obviously, this process can be used with any meat that comes into your kitchen still on the bone. One of my favorite things to do at our local barbeque place is to ask for a doggy bag for our rib bones. They come home, get simmered into a broth with a little barbeque and smoke flavor, then cook use that broth for cooking beans. Makes me a little less guilty for spending $10 per person on a meal in a restuarant when I can turn the left overs into the basis for another, much cheaper meal.

    Okay, that was long


    For those of us empty nesters having to adapt from cooking for ourselves our spouses and our children (and whatever stray friends the kids bring home for dinner) to just cooking for one or two, take a tip from an elderly friend of mine.

    She cooks the amount of food that the recipe calls for instead of trying to adapt it to serve one or two. Then she fills TV dinner trays with the leftovers, covers them with foil and puts them into the freezer. If she’s not in the mood to cook one evening, she seldom has to, there are plenty of nutitrious, tasty, home cooked complete meals in the freezer just waiting for the application of some microwaves

  5. Rachel
    Posted June 12, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    1) Make baby food. I freeze leftovers (like a rice, lentils, and split peas dish) in an ice cube tray. Saves us from buying food for the kid, has her eat our food, and keeps the waste down. Also great to do with vegetables and fruit that are not going to get eaten before they go bad.

    2) Freeze leftovers in lunch-size portions. My husband and I rarely buy our lunch at work–we save money, eat smaller lunches, and don’t waste food from big meals.

    3) Collect leftover bits of wine in a bottle in the fridge. Use in place of cooking wine or wine vinegar.

    4) Periodically eat down the pantry. We do this before Passover, so we don’t have as much leaven food around, and we’re doing it again before we move. It keeps cans and dry goods from expiring.

  6. Shorty
    Posted June 12, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    If celery goes “wobbly” it can be rehydrate by putting the end (or i cut it up the stalks) in water…

  7. Judi Dial
    Posted June 13, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I have two, one’s two cookbook recommendations.

    My big hint is a “left over bin” in my fridge. I use a plastic shoe box and into it (in containers) go the 1/2 an onion, small bit of grated cheese, etc. that leftover when cooking. It wasn’t that difficult to train myself to look in the left over bin first when cooking soemthing new. So now we have less “leaking” onions, etc. to pitch!

    The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown makes use of more commonly discarded bits of food to make broths, etc. This is things like pumpkin rind, etc. that are boiled to make a broth, then extracted and the remaining food added.

    Also along this line, of using more of a fruit or vegetable,(and thereby throwing out less or buying less), there’s some interesting hints in Vaina La Place’s cookbook, Unplugged Kitchen.


  8. Addie
    Posted June 14, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    All vegetable trimmings–including onion and garlic peels, ends of carrots, etc–go into a bin in the fridge. Once a week, boil them up into a vegetable broth. Vegetable broth can of course be frozen, if you don’t use it up quickly. But you can also just boil it for a few minutes every 7 days, and keep it indefinitely.

  9. Posted June 15, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I buy organic milk. It may be more expensive than the regular kind, but it’s perfect if you don’t drink it often, but still need it in the refrigerator for cooking or cereal, because it lasts much longer than the regular milk.

    Also, I only buy perishable food items I know I’ll eat for the week, instead of buying them on a whim.

  10. Madeline
    Posted June 15, 2008 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    In the grocery store there are a few of the bundled veggies that you don’t have to buy the bundles of: grapes, asparagus, bananas, tomatoes. Some people just grab the whole thing but you can cut down on waste by just picking up what you know you will eat.

    I guess it all leads back each of us slowing down a bit to think about what we eat everyday and being more conscious overall.

    Also, almost all food scraps can be composted with worms and turned into wonderfully fertile soil.

  11. Posted June 15, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Dunkin Donuts Waste enough food at the end of their evening to feed an entire fire dept or police dept thats one donut per person and one bagel or what ever else is on the shelf. It is Dunkin Donuts policy to NOT DONATE the left on shelf donuts to local communities cause then they wouldn’t buy them on a regular basis. If you multiply that times the number of shops you can figure out thats alot of un hungry kids or people in the am hours the next day if they just stopped trashing them donuts! Not that our society needs the calories or fat however it a better option that putting them in Black bags and sending them off to the landfill. To Make a statement we could stop buying our favorite coffee for a week to pressure the francise to Donate left on shelf items. So think about this next time you choose your flavor and atleast tell them they should donate at the end of the night or sell first thing 1/2 price. Come on America Speak up! this crusade alone could save 2 million tons a year to the land fill.

  12. Jan Garvin
    Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Ready for another curmudgeon tip?

    This isn’t about preventing food waste, but I suspect that anybody who is concerned about wasting food would rather not waste anything else either.

    Today, I was sorting and folding a week’s worth of laundry generated by three adults and a part time preschooler (he stays with us 3 days a week, and with his other parent the rest of the time) I found two towels that were so worn that the binding on the edge was gone and they were raveling out. I also found two tee shirts that had developed enough holes that I didn’t want to wear them. Finally, there was a flannel sheet that had worn through in one area, and besides, it’s too small to stay on our deep mattress. I cut them all into 15″ squares. Viola! Several months or even years worth of cleaning rags that I won’t care if they are used on the oil pan of a car or to clean up after an indiscreet pet. If one gets too stained or icky to salvage, I can throw it away with a fairly clear conscious.

  13. Posted June 17, 2008 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Ask for half-size portions in full-service restaurants. I find many restaurant meal servings are too large for my appetite, and not all the leftovers are suitable for doggy-bagging. If restaurants got enough of these requests, I imagine they might offer different portion-size options on their menus.

  14. Jan Garvin
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Jensid, many restuarants will give you a take out box for your left overs instead of a conventional doggy bag.
    You can put anything that was on your table in it. Bread, butter, half a baked potato, sour cream, salad and the remains of your entree will almost always fit in a single one. If it doesn’t, or if the left overs are such that some need reheating and others don’t, ask for two boxes. Remember, if it was served on your table it’s going to be thrown away. Even packaged things, like packets of ketchup and mustard are usually thrown away because the staff is too rushed to sort the stuff that really can go back onto a table from the stuff that has to be tossed.

    Last weekend, I brought home half a serving of refried beans, a chili rellano, and some rice. If made a great lunch the next day.

  15. Jan Garvin
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I have been concerned about the big salmonella and e Coli contaminations in fresh fruits and vegetables. Lots of grocery stores have been just throwing away perfectly good lettuce, tomatoes and spinach. That food is perfectly safe if you cook it before you eat it. A few stores will give you the “contaminated” food if you sign a waiver releasing them from liability for any illness you contract as a result. Failing that, keep an eye on their dumpsters and salvage the food. Around here, but not everywhere, once something has been placed into the trash, it is no longer the property of the person who threw it away. There are places where it’s illegal to dumpster dive, and others where it isn’t. Check your local ordinances.

    On the other hand, Mad Cow disease contamination is NOT cured by cooking. And, we had an article on our local TV station stating that some people in our area had died from Crutchfield-Jacobs disease, which is related to Mad Cow. Both were avid hunters, and the doctors thought they may have come from the Deer they had shot and eaten. If you or someone in your family hunts, be extremely careful to cut away the spinal cord of any animal you kill without touching the rest of the meat with it.

  16. Kara
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Especially since my divorce I have always been very careful to conserve food. I carry my own Tupperware divided dish to restaurants for leftovers for a meal the next day. When I buy meat and fish, I divide it into individual portions and freeze it. I absolutely never throw any food away, can’t afford to do that. It bugs me that my son and daughter-in-law waste food. They throw away leftovers, or if they save leftovers it sometimes doesn’t get eaten.

  17. penny
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I make a weekly menu and shopping list, it use to contain only 1 “leftovers” night, now it is 3. I still have trouble getting my husband and teens to eat leftovers, but have noticed that I am not throwing away as much food on trash collection day. As for the resturant waste issue, we now only eat out for special occasions, moslty a birthday, which adds up to 7 meals eaten out in a year. I hope to even cut back on that number as my oldest daughter is an asiring chef wannabe, home cooked meals come from the heart!

  18. Bill & Willette
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    One of the things my wife and I do is to make lots of casseroles usually we can get 2 or 3 meals out of them and if any is left over, we date it and freeze it. Meatloaf is another good idea, where you can make an extra large portion and freeze it for later.

    Rotating the casseroles and other larger portioned meals keeps a variety of dishes so the family doesn’t get bored. Whenever I make dishes, such as pasta, I always make more sauce than is needed, date it and freeze it. Then if I decide to make pizza, lasagna or any other dish that requires sauce, it is right there in the freezer, when ever I need it.

    Another thing we do is shop the area of the meat section for the stuff that is about to reach expiration dates. Although this is not a
    waste-saving device, it surly saves a lot of money.

  19. Rubenora Raman
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    FYI. In the Philippines, it is customary that Buffets charge double the price if customers leave unfinished food on their plate. All the customers know this ahead of time as there are signs all over the restaurant and the waiters remind you too. So everybody takes little bits at a time to make sure they like the food before they fill their plates, or the party needs to make sure they help each other finish their food. Isn’t that a great idea. Why can’t we do that here in US?

  20. Posted July 24, 2008 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    My aunt taught me long ago about the vegetable soup bag. Anytime I have leftover/spoiling veggies that freeze may be a tablespoon of peas left in the pot from dinner or a tomato that has started its slow decline…I pull out the veggie soup bag from the freezer, chop up the items if needed, and just add the items to the bag. Once a bag is full I start a new one.

    In the fall and winter I usually pull out the crockpot on a Sunday afternoon, take out a veggie soup bag and empty it in and add seasoning. No two soups are the same, but it is a great way to keep from wasting even those small amount that you won’t save for the next meal.

  21. Posted July 24, 2008 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Diane (again)

    Inspired to waste fewer leftovers, I have diligently started to label every tupperware lid in the fridge with contents and date as soon as I pack it for storage. I have been using post-it notes and they work great for this. Much easier than tape.

    Now when we look in the fridge for a snack or to see what’s available for a meal we can actually see what’s in there without having to lift all the lids.

  22. Jonathan
    Posted July 24, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Good idea, Diane. Visibility is a huge factor in avoiding waste. That’s why clear storage containers are best.

    In my house, we have many plastic containers with solid colored tops. My wife’s solution is brilliantly simple: put them on the shelf upside down so you can see what’s inside.

  23. Posted July 29, 2008 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Lettuce isn’t just for cold salad any more

    I have just discovered braised lettuce –

    i used romaine, washed, just don’t dry it out…sautee with some garlic until its wilted…that’s it!

    I thought to myself, if you have some not so fresh lettuce…don’t throw it out – BRAISE it.

    I think you can do this to many types of lettuces…

    Don’t throw out Radish leaves – edible! I made tabouli (check my blog) with them.

  24. Rachel
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Ever since we started keeping the cheese in wax paper, we’ve noticed that as it gets old, it doesn’t get moldy but it does get hard. Slice the hard cheese, microwave for 15-25 seconds, and voila! Yummy melted cheese to eat with toast (or even on its own). A great late night snack.

  25. Posted August 13, 2008 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    If fruit is a little “too ripe” then i will make a compote out of it, or bake into a crisp – often “mushy” apples or peaches will make excellent purees or smoothies…

    to prevent berries from “rotting at the bottom”
    1) take out the little foamy thing in those plastic trays (if it came in one), it tends to stay wet
    2) take berries out, rinse and let them dry a bit before putting them back…

  26. DrFood
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    These are some great tips! We also keep our cheese in waxed paper–we bought a box of wax paper bags, I guess for sandwiches, but I use them for chunks of cheese. They don’t dry out quite as fast as they would with no wrapping at all, but they do get dry edges and are much less likely to mold. I tend to grate the hard stuff to serve on scrambled eggs.

    The eggs are from our own pet hens, and if you have a back yard I highly recommend having your own chickens. See or the many other similar sites for more information. Chickens are marvelous garbage disposals. They are very good at figuring out what they can eat–in seven years I’ve never had a chicken die from eating food gone bad, and I give them everything that I’m not willing to try. If they don’t like it, it gets buried in their bedding and composts.

    I collect the floor sweepings from the local food co-op for my hens. I had to provide a five gallon bucket with a tightly fitting screw-on lid, and now when staff sweep up the bulk food area, they dump their dust tray into my bucket. When I come to shop I collect the sweepings and then at home I just pull out things I’m worried will harm the chickens, like string (I had a hen get all tangled in fishing line from city-collected leaves once, regular string probably isn’t an issue, but she lost a toe so now I’m paranoid). I run the mixed waste through my electric chopper/shredder (actually designed to make mulch from leaves and twigs) in order to break up big nuts like brazil nuts.

    I also collect culled produce for the hens. The co-op has a marvelous produce department and although they do have an on-site kitchen and they utilize some of their imperfect produce for prepared foods, there is still a lot of waste. They fill giant black trash bags with the produce and put them in a special place on the loading dock. If I see a bag there I take it home and I’ve learned to look through it (for me and my family!) before I dump it in the chicken pen.

  27. Posted October 18, 2008 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    I just found this out! When cooking a squash don’t throw away (or compost) the seeds!

    You can eat most squash seeds – like you would pumpkin seeds.

    They can be lightly toasted, but I have been trying them raw (i’m a bit concerned over the changes to the oils with roasting). I air dried mine.

  28. indnajns
    Posted October 18, 2008 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    While I plan my meals and buy at the grocery appropriately, I often forget what dish I bought certain items for. So I keep a list on the front of the fridge reminding me what main dishes I have ingredients on hand to make. This list also allows me to identify and cook meals with more perishable ingredients first.

    If there are leftovers, they go on the list too, so I won’t forget them in the back of the fridge. I write the date when it was originally cooked beside it so I know how long it’s safe to keep re-eating the leftovers. There’s only my son and me, so after a couple days of the same thing, I give him a break and freeze the rest. (At least that’s the theory. I still slack and find fuzzy things waving at me from the back of the fridge from time to time. But we are doing better and wasting less.)

  29. Jessica
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh Man! I love this thread!
    I’m pretty good about eating up little bits and leftovers. A dog helps with this a lot.

    One tip to add:

    When I’m making a casserole or soup I always look in the fridge to find any little sad bits and think about how I could roll them into the fresh recipe. Sometimes it works out great (a little bit of butternut squash in the chili last night! great idea!). Sometimes it turns out odd (white wine in the potato/cabbage gratin? not so great).

    I’m getting better at figuring out what’ll be a big miss. But, on the whole, I find that a little bit of anything in a soup will just disappear and be gobbled up.

  30. Jessica
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh Yeah…

    another tip:

    Freeze cooked beans and veggies in individual pieces or tablespoon sized chunks on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a bag. Then you can add them in the amount you want to whatever you’ve got cooking. (I never have time to defrost a 2 c. brick of beans but often can use a handful of beans added to my soup–just throw ‘em in frozen and they’ll thaw out in no time).

    I saw in a magazine once that someone made 1/2 cup sized ice cube trays for freezing measured amounts of broth, sauce, etc. I thought that was genius (but never got beyond just using the old fashioned size for this sort of thing).

    And one more thing: tomato paste! If you can find a tube, freeze the leftovers from the can in 1 T. plops on a cookie sheet and then put them in a baggie.

  31. Vickie
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I have always had problems wasting tomato paste… even if I froze leftovers. Now I freeze 1tbsp sized blobs on a plate, then move them to a container after frozen. I can use what a need and the rest doesn’t go bad.

  32. Recato Cristiano Eberwein
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    We own a 31-room guesthouse in South Africa. So you can imagine how much food we have to throw away.

    Fortunately I have a 100+ animals also on the premises. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, various ducks, rabbits and doves.

    I just gime them all the leftovers. I also take out all the food the guests drops in the bin and give them that as well. More space in the garbage bags and less rats attracted to the smell.

    And these animals eat anything.

  33. Posted April 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Some great ideas here! This is one of my pet peeves. Wasted food! Now that I’m a raw foodist I don’t cook a lot, but do keep plastic containers of cooked beans, restaurant left-overs, and raw vegetables or fruit that I can’t use right away in the freezer. When I’m packing my lunch for work I make a salad and grab a fruit and a container of ?whatever?. Quick, easy, and uses up something I might waste otherwise. Or a container of beans, drained, goes on our dinner salad for a tasty and high protein addition. And raw vegetables or fruit that have been frozen go into smoothies or pates.

    But my biggest tip is not to overbuy! I just keep a few veggies at a time in the fridge for salads, and two or three types of fruit. Then the next time I buy I buy different veggies and fruit-for variety in flavors as well as nutrients.

    And a huge tip with restaurant meals, for those who have ever had a problem with weight, is to ask for the carryout container as soon as your meal comes. Then I pack away 40-70% of the meal for later, so I don’t overeat. Then at home I repack it in small containers and freeze. And, of course, label everything well.

    Dollars are too hard to come by anytime to waste them throwing away food!

  34. Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I’ve always been mindful of trying not to let ingredients or leftovers go bad, but what’s made it even easier for me is having a small, magnetic dry erase board on the fridge. It reminds me what needs to be used quickly, and is also a good place for notes about what’s in the freezer.

    I frequently buy a large package of meat, use half of it immediately and freeze the rest, which means that the meat is now in a container without the original date or weight. Having a note on the outside of the fridge about what’s in the freezer helps keep track of things without needing to root through the freezer to see what might be in there, which as a bonus reduces energy usage from standing there with the freezer door open.

  35. Jess
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I started a vermicompost bin in my pantry for those little bits and scraps that we don’t eat (veggie peelings and spent coffee grounds). It’s not a huge capacity bin. Right now it’s just a pound of worms, but they can process about a half pound of food waste per day. I do almost all of my own cooking from scratch, so in addition to a steady supply of spent coffee grounds, they also get carrot ends, celery and the papery bits of onions and garlic. I really try not to waste food, but when you cook from scratch, some prep waste is inevitable. At least the worm bin keeps it all from going to the landfill.

  36. Shoshi
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Homemade veggie or meat stock: Keep a big yogurt cup or a freezer bag in the freezer. Throw in all those carrot tops and scrapings, the stringy ends of your onions and all the onion & garlic skins, the greens of your leeks, and any and all bones from chicken, pork chops and/or fish bones, old celery, ginger skins and stems from your cilantro or parsley. Voila – the flavor is there in all your food scraps. Cook ‘em up once you’ve got a quart’s worth and cover in 4 quarts of water, cook all day on low heat. Strain and compost your scraps as normal. (Thanks to Daniel for teaching me this. I love you forever.)

  37. Posted November 7, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    1. Compost unusable scraps, like egg shells, tea bags. Use compost to grow beautiful vegetables next year. This is SO easy to do, you won’t believe it.
    2. Use up usable scraps like onion peels, celery ends, carrot tops, fresh herb stems to make vegetable stock. Keep a ziploc bag in your freezer and make deposits often. Make stock (don’t boil, just simmer for an hour or so), strain stock, solids into compost, stock into freezer in 1 qt containers.
    3. Make sure you can see the back wall of your refrigerator at all times. If you can’t, you’ve purchased too many things. Having a smaller rather than larger refrigerator helps.
    4. Just about any leftover can be used in a soup, a stew, an omelette.
    5. Peel and freeze bananas (separately) then keep in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Use to make smoothies.
    6. On Sunday night, remove anything from your fridge that is questionable and compost or toss it. Give the shelves a quick spritz of Windex or vinegar dilution on a paper towel (don’t spray it in the fridge). Start the week fresh.

  38. pluto
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    The practice of coring cabbage should really be abolished. The core of the cabbage, when properly cooked, tastes absolutely great.

  39. Posted December 28, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I used to think leftovers were limited to amounts that could be meals later. Now I have learned that if you immediately freeze any leftover it will be eaten. If you have an entree for dinner tonight you may or may not feel like eating it in the next couple of days. But if you freeze it immediately in a few days or weeks it becomes a real treat when you don’t have time to cook or you don’t want to put a lot of effort into cooking!

    I also think that I throw the same foods away regularly – i.e. cilantro, mushrooms, celery, lemons/limes, green onions, deli meat. So after I identify these items I try to be more deliberate about using them. When I purchase cilantro, I need to think about choosing more meals or foods that I can use cilantro in. Expired deli meats usually mean I need to purchase smaller amounts. offers me the opportunity to buy only what I need when I need it. It helps me plan my meals and menus so that I am not purchasing food that I have no need for or plan to use. With four children I find that I just want to get as much as possible so I don’t have to return to the grocery store later. This is not a concept that lessens our food waste issue.

  40. Posted January 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I try to only buy enough fresh produce to last for a couple days at a time so it will get used. In the summer I stock up on local produce and freeze for use in the winter.

    Also when cooking I make a large pot, put enough in the fridge for a day or two, and freeze the rest in single servings for homemade “frozen dinner” lunches.

    I also make throw together meals using up whatever bits and pieces I have leftover.

  41. Susan Lee - Florida
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Clear, glass leftover containers are the bomb! No wasted leftover “mystery” containers any more!! And no more leaching chemicals from plastic either! Spending about $50 for various size containers will save me hundreds upon hundreds in spoiled food! No more waste!

  42. janes'_kid
    Posted April 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink has an interesting article. I do something a bit like this to some extent as I eat alone a lot and have quite a few leftovers.

  43. Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    1. Pre-prep entire batch of something, especially things like leeks that takes long time to clean and prep. By having all leeks chopped and sauteed, some refrigerated, some frozen thin in zip lock bag, you can use it any time you want, save time, money and waste.

    2.If you buy more than you need (on sale etc), freeze in individual sizes. That way, you can only use the amount you need, and save the rest.

    3. Learn to mix and match with what you pre-prepped and create variety. This is a great time saving tip, and save you a lot of food. (When someone have to eat same thing over and over, they get bored, and end up throwing away.) Most of recipes don’t fit with each other, yet by cooking this way, your confidence in the kitchen will explode as well.

    4. Buy spices etc. in bulk section, only a small amount. Keep them in baby food jars.

    5. Label everything with what it is and the date, organize them so that you can see the label right away.(especially when freezing something). so that you know when you need to use something by. If you have perishables that need to be consumed soon, put them in front of the fridge so that you’d see it right away.

  44. Paul G
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Try to walk or bike to the grocery store. You will more than likely purchase less (and waste less) and avoid the impulse buys. Prevoiding food waste.

  45. Diane from Conn.
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    About two years ago I looked at my pantry and said, “Huh.” I know I’m preaching to the choir here but it took me over six months to actually use everything on my shelves without buying anything beyond fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh dairy, and fresh meat (the latter less frequently as I’m trying to trend more to meatless meals more often). I am very careful to use what I have and to prepare food that is a reasonable portion size. When I think about what I would serve on one plate ten years ago v. what I serve now – it’s got to be 60% less actual food. It’s rare that I buy processed food (although we’re still too fond of potato chips). And I’m proud to say that our food bill AND CHOLESTEROL numbers are way way down from two years ago. We started a vegetable garden this year – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, herbs, some peppers – in a 10′ x 10′ space. This made a HUGE difference for us for fresh vegetables and lower grocery costs, not to mention the enjoyment I had tending to this manageable little green space.

  46. Barbara
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    I am visiting my daughter and her family in their city home with a garden too tiny for a compost pile and am distressed by the amount of food they waste. My daughter didn’t grow up that way but my son-in-law did, and the whole family has adopted his habits. Their big freezer under their refrigerator is almost empty so that’s not the problem. Last night they took me out to dinner at a wonderful middle Eastern restaurant and there was a lot of food left. My grandson wanted some more of the flatbread. When the owner saw me trying to wrap it in a paper napkin for him she gave me a paper bag, and I put it all in there. This morning I am enjoying some with a cheese spread for breakfast. Yum. The rest of the family is still asleep. I have decided that they are getting your book as a holiday gift!

    At home my husband and I have backyard chickens who get our leftovers other than chicken (my sensibilities, not theirs). They love weeds–I have learned the edible ones, such as chickweed, pigweed, dandelion, clover, lambs quarter. Their egg yolks are bright orange and full of flavor and vitamins. If we have too many vegetable thinnings for ourselves in our garden, they get those too. The compost pile gets doubtful or poisonous weeds, leaves, moldy food, citrus, coffee grounds and tea. Only grease and some bones and skin get thrown away, because of skunks, raccoons, coyotes and stray dogs. Our cat, who was raised in the city, disdains all leftovers, even tuna and hamburger!

  47. Gayle
    Posted November 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I used to waste a lot. But having worked in a school kitchen, I learned to label all leftovers with the date. This way when I am looking for lunch or tonights dinner, I can tell when I made the leftovers. Now,I rarely throw out anything. I try to only make enough food so that I have dinner and then lunch tomorrow. I also buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale and freeze in dinner size packages.

  48. Stephanie Ronnebeck
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I think the most obvious solution is to purchase less. It is amazing how little creativity it takes to put a decent meal on the table even when you think there is ‘nothing’ in the fridge. Also, soup is a great way to use up vegetables in particular, that are nearing the end of their prime. Fry up an onion with a bit of olive oil, add water, a couple of boullion cubes, spices, and any cut up vegetables you have left…viola!…a healthy dinner is served. You can also freeze what you don’t finish, for an easy lunch.

  49. Bea
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday I had to use up almost three pounds of carrots, stored in a perforated grocery bag in the produce drawer of my refrigerator, that were potentially contaminated from above by a leak in the bag of a defrosting turkey (a post-Thanksgiving bird bought for $1.50!) Rather than sending these pricey organic carrots to the compost heap, I decided to make a carrot puree! I peeled the carrots (yes, they may have been exposed to raw poultry drippings), cut them into one inch rounds, covered with water and a few TBSP’s sugar and 1 TBSP salt, and cooked for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I melted half a stick of butter, and mixed in the juice of one orange and a bit of old lemon, a tsp of ground ginger, a pinch cayenne pepper, another TBSP sugar, and some salt and pepper to taste. After draining the tender carrots, I pureed the carrots with the butter mixture in the food processor until smooth. I served this beautiful, slightly sweet side with the roasted turkey, risotto, and cranberry/pumpkin muffins. This mostly pantry scrounged meal was almost better than the original Thanksgiving day dinner. I was glad to serve a meal scrounged from bits and pieces in my kitchen, not to waste the carrots, and I’ll definitely make a carrot puree again!

    P.S. Loving the book, Jonathan!

  50. Neil
    Posted December 30, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    I do not like to freeze too much leftovers because I know I can forget things in there just as easily as in the fridge. Two of the things I do (along with many of the suggestions already given) is make homemade leather and bouillon.

    Many have suggested freezing leftover tomato paste, but instead of using tomato paste, I now use tomato leather. I blend 1 part tomato sauce with 1 part green apples and spread 1/8″ thick on a silicone sheet and dehydrate until no longer moist and sticky. I then roll it up with wax paper and every time I need a bit of tomato flavor (e.g., sandwich, soup, stew, pizza, etc.), I tear off a piece and add it. It dissolves in soups and stews and starts dissolving on moist sandwiches. I like to also do this with leftover cranberries–there is only so much cranberry sauce I can eat–wrinkly apples, leftover pumpkin puree, etc. Spices and herbs can also be added.

    I also make my own vegetable bouillon now (I do not like the commercially made stuff and I have only so much room for broth in the freezer). Because I usually only cook for two or one, I get tired of having leftover herbs and vegetables that I cannot eat before they go bad (and I cannot buy only one or two pieces). Using a food grinder (or food processor), I mix together and grind about 3 to 4.5 lbs of herbs, greens, and vegetables to 1 lb salt. For example, up to 1 lb each of things like leeks, tomatoes, onions, parsley, chervil, turnips, spinach, thyme, rosemary (not too much!), carrots, celeriac, chard, celery, and mushrooms. Adding mushrooms makes a nice “meaty” broth–I used it to make tasty onion soup. If you do not mind a couple of jars in your fridge, you can keep it in your fridge for a year and add up to a few tablespoons to soups and stews and the like. It is not too salty at all. I have also dehydrated it (on a sheet as described above), blended to a powder when dry, and kept it in my pantry. I got this basic recipe from a French traditional methods of preservation book. The comments on little bits left over got me thinking that using those little bits (chopped and frozen until enough) to make this is a good idea.

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] of our diets, and the connection between our food and the global water picture. There are smart choices we can make that will help reduce food waste. If possible, compost leftovers instead of throwing [...]

  2. [...] of our diets, and the connection between our food and the global water picture. There are smart choices we can make that will help reduce food waste. If possible, compost leftovers instead of throwing [...]

  3. By What a Waste « Raxa Collective on August 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    [...] world’s current diet would help connect the food and the world’s limited resources.  There are smart choices that can help reduce food waste, and hopefully as these choices become the new norm, disasters such [...]

  4. [...] of our diets, and the connection between our food and the global water picture. There are smart choices we can make that will help reduce food waste. If possible, compost leftovers instead of throwing [...]

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