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How to Reduce Food Waste at Home

Posted by Jean Buzby, USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety
Jun 08, 2020
A refrigerator
A clean, well-organized refrigerator is one way to help prevent food waste. Photo credit: Lance Cheung, USDA

Each of us has the power to reduce food waste in our homes. As the USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison, I would like to share with you three of my favorite ways to keep food waste at home to a minimum.

  1. Know and reorganize your fridge and pantry. Keep your refrigerator and pantry clean and organized so you can see what needs to be eaten first. If fresh food is “out of sight, out of mind,” it may be forgotten and ultimately wasted. Food is less likely to go bad when you use the more perishable and older items first. Also, storing food in clear containers can help you see what you have available in your fridge and pantry and can help you avoid buying food you already have. In the fridge, extend the life of your food by putting it in the right place. For example, the temperature in the refrigerator door fluctuates more than the cabinets or the back of the unit so don’t store perishable foods like milk in the door.
  2. Download the FoodKeeper App. FoodKeeper provides guidance on safe handling, preparation, and storage of more than 650 food and beverage items. With the app, you can track storage times for different foods, learn cooking tips, watch helpful videos, and get information on food recalls. Users can set up calendar reminders for when products are nearing their recommended storage date. The USDA, the Food Marketing Institute, and Cornell University jointly created FoodKeeper, which is available free at the Google Play or iTunes stores, or via desktop at
  3. Love your leftovers! Give leftovers a makeover when you reuse them in recipes. Add broccoli stems to a salad or omelet or blend overripe fruit and peels into a low-fat smoothie. My favorite all-time smoothie was made from about-to-expire chocolate yogurt and wilting blueberries and raspberries. Make broth from vegetable and/or meat trimmings, and freeze what you don’t plan to eat right away. Be creative while keeping leftover safety in mind. If you cook often and typically have loads of leftovers, consider having one dinner a week designated as Leftover Night. Many foods can also be safely frozen indefinitely, so if you can’t use something perishable before it may spoil, pop it in the freezer. Check the FoodKeeper to see if your item may be frozen.

Mindfulness about food and food waste prevention in general can also help save you time and money. USDA estimates that each year at the consumer level, around $1,500 of food goes uneaten per family of four. Imagine what a family of four could do with that money.

For more information on how to shop smarter and reduce household waste, see USDA Food Loss and Waste tips for consumers.