8 Essential Tips for Avoiding Food Waste

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None of us like wasting food. We definitely don't set out to do it. But, as hard as we try it inevitably seems to happen in one way or another. We've talked a lot about food waste here on The Kitchn. Like, ways to avoid it, great habits to to help you prevent it, the useful tips to minimize it. And each and every time you guys come back to us with tons of your own smart and amazing tips!

Here are our eight favorite reader tips on how to avoid food waste and make full use of the good food you buy.

1. When in doubt, freeze it.

We freeze! All the time. Even a small amount of stew in the freezer is the beginning of a great shepherds pie! - cecilia g

Being mindful about freezing items nice and early on is important, too; if you think you may not finish it in time, just freeze it! You can always defrost later. Leftover pizza, cooked veggies, some leftover sauces (i.e. pesto) etc....you can freeze more than you think. - lesleyrocket

I have been freezing milk for years. My friends think it's weird but it works. We buy milk in bulk when it is on sale, freeze the extra. I have never had it go sour. - Melizza

2. Keep perishables at eye level in the refrigerator.

One trick I learned is to put some produce at eye level instead of hiding it in the drawer. Then rotate it. - Emmi

I put a small plastic tray on the top shelf of the fridge. It's called The Triage Box. If it's there, count on using it. It currently holds the last of the blueberries, leftover sliced strawberries, the last of the berry coulis, simple syrup that won't go bad soon but I know I'll forget, and the last of the red miso that should get used before it dries up. I just realized I have tamarind paste and olivada that need to find their way to that box, stat. - cmcinnyc

I've tried rearranging the stuff in my fridge so that the most perishable items are the most "in your face" when you open the door. Condiments are on the bottom shelf while produce is front and center. That way its a bit harder to forget that you have that head of lettuce and you're reminded to use it. - elissa

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3. Store condiments in the crisper.

I use the freshener drawers to keep condiments in. They're not going to wilt if I forget they're there. Other items are in clear plastic bags and good quality clear plastic containers. - shotsi

4. Plan ahead... but not too far ahead.

I've started making meal plans, and they have really worked! I plan for usually three days in advance. I found that if I plan further out than that we end up wasting food due to an impromptu invite to dinner, etc.! - Dionna

A trick I find useful is to buy less and more often. I can't come up with a meal plan for the whole week, and stick to it. So what I do is buy for 2 or 3 days, which makes it easier to stick to the plan, and if something unexpected comes up food won't go bad and you can make it the following day. - chispita

I also agree on not overplanning. If I plan out all the meals for a week, often times stuff comes up (late home from work, last minute going out with a friend, etc.) and I don't have time to cook everything I bought to eat. I think it's good to leave a few gaps in your meal plan and a pantry stocked with goods (pasta, canned or frozen food) that can be used to fill the gaps if needed. - illuminatedpst

5. Repurpose leftovers.

I often turn leftovers into new meals...leftover taco-fixings become omelets or breakfast burritos the next morning. Leftover beef or pork roast becomes chopped bbq or stew the next day. Small portions of meats or cheeses get added into new casseroles, fritters, empanadas or stuffed into homemade biscuits. Leftover pasta becomes baked ziti or spaghetti pie the next day. Leftover roasted veggies make great soups and pot pies. - marymccreery

I make a clear-out-the-fridge vegetarian soup and freeze it in 2 oz containers. Something I learned from justbento.com is to make the soup with almost no water to create a concentrate. The frozen concentrate thaws in my lunchbox so, when it's time to eat, all that's needed is some boiling water to warm up the vegetables and dilute the seasonings. Takes up half the room in the freezer, which is great since space is at a premium. - Chinadoll

Never underestimate the power of pizza! We use leftovers all the time as pizza toppings. Those are some of my family's favorite meals. If you don't eat wheat products, use a cauliflower crust instead! - meganvanfleet

I make preserves out of rinds of melons. I also make a greens gumbo out of greens like carrot tops, radish tops, beet greens, mustard, etc. - makeroux10

6. Make an "eat this soon" list.

We keep a "eat this soon" list on corner the kitchen whiteboard. It really helps, especially when you can quickly see something to pack for lunch. - MaryCooksalot

Put a white board on your fridge and keep an inventory of everything you have in there. As you eat the items, erase them and consult the board before going shopping. Helps with both using things that may have been overlooked, as well making sure you don't overbuy when you go to the grocery store. - ecandle96

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7. Keep a broth bag in the freezer.

I always keep a 'broth bag' in the freezer. In the bag go: carrot ends, the knobs and peelings from most veggies, mushroom stalks, herb stems (when all I needed was the leaves), the occasional potato peels, the garlic scapes that are about to go bad, even the papery garlic shells. Just anything that would be good in broth. Then when the bag's full, I make a nice stock, adding whatever's still necessary. - if1hadwords

8. Store food properly.

Fresh herbs can really invigorate your cooking, but it can be truly frustrating to buy a big bunch of parsley, use 25% of it. But my wife taught me a surprisingly simple way to dramatically extend the shelf life of fresh herbs (and other types of produce as well) in our fridge: Place the herbs in the plastic bag, add a couple of tablespoons of water into the bag, and then tie the bag with a loose knot. - Daniel Koontz

More Tips on Avoiding Food Waste

What are you best tips for preventing food waste?

(Image credits: Gina Biancaniello; Faith Durand; Emily Ho)

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