How to stop wasting food in 2014
January 17th, 2014
11:45 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

It makes me absolutely crazy when I hear how much good food regularly gets tossed out. A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that America discards up to 40% of its food, or about 20 pounds per person per month; the study notes that it’s basically “Farm to Fork to Landfill.” If you crunch the numbers, a family of four might easily chuck more than $1,500 worth of food per year.

My motto this year is “Don’t throw that out.” Several smart chefs and food professionals are way ahead of me. Let's all learn from their smart choices.

Grocery Store for Expired Goods
Daily Table, a grocery store scheduled to open in early 2014 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, will offer at low prices food that’s past its sell-by date and produce that’s cosmetically blemished. The project, from a former Trader Joe’s president, Doug Rauch, will also sell prepared foods made with excess ingredients from other grocery stores. At Direct Table, gallons of milk will go for as low as $1, and loaves of whole-grain bread for between 50 and 75 cents.

Rauch argues that expired food can be perfectly safe: “I’ve been in the grocery industry since the early ’70s—most products didn’t have a sell-by date back then. In the old days, you’d smell the milk; it smelled good or smelled bad. Virtually all of the known food-related deaths in America have been caused by food that was in code.”

Super Bowl French Fries for Fuel
The Bronx-based company Tri-State Biodiesel will convert used cooking oil from cooking french fries during events at MetLife Stadium - presumably at Giants and Jets home games - into heating oil to warm tents outside the stadium during Super Bowl XLVIII. They’ve been working for a year to recycle enough oil to prepare for the event. So if you were eating french fries during Taylor Swift’s Red concert last summer at MetLife Stadium, you’ve done your part.

Brewery Byproducts Become Bread
In Colorado, chef Steven Redzikowski incorporates spent grain from the local Avery Brewery into his bread flour at both Acorn in Denver and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder. In Washington, DC, chef Kyle Bailey is using spent grain from the new Bluejacket Brewery for flour for pastas used in dishes such as the mac and cheese, and dinner rolls at the brewery’s restaurant The Arsenal.

Food Waste Is Electric
In England, Grundon Waste Management has recently submitted an application to the Gloucestershire County Council to build a food waste recycling facility at Wingmoor Farm, which would recycle more than 37,000 tons of food waste each year into methane to be burned to generate electricity. The amount of energy could potentially generate enough power to supply 4,000 local homes.

Compost Cooking
Last fall, a San Francisco Chronicle food writer, Tara Duggan, published a new cookbook, Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable. Her husband calls it “compost cookery,” focusing on employing underutilized parts of fruits and vegetables. She recommends using apple peels and cores to infuse bourbon, drying lemon peels to zest into salad dressings, chopping carrot tops as a parsley substitute and tossing peppery radish leaves into salads

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90% of Americans throw out food prematurely
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Leftovers • Waste

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Ally

    I love the idea of this article. It's so sad to see how much food waste (and waste in general!) goes on in my area. I've been recycling and generating as little waste as possible since I was a child. My problem is with food. I freeze all leftovers, but I don't label well and because I love to cook my freezer tends to become a death-zone for old meals.

    This year I need to focus on cooking fewer portions so less leftovers even need to see the freezer....let alone take their last gasp in freezer-burn.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
  2. Thought+Food

    To all the those who objected to the "reblogging" information: that is displayed here by this site, not by those of us who have found this piece important and decided to share it. And if you don't care, we don't want to know either.

    January 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Thought+Food

    Reblogged this on Thought + Food.

    January 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
    • Carn E. Vore

      No one cares.

      January 22, 2014 at 8:27 am |
      • Thought+Food

        Time to start caring and make this something everyone needs to care about.

        January 22, 2014 at 11:06 am |
        • Carn E. Vore

          No one cares about you advertising your site by saying you "re-blogged" this there.

          January 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
        • Who Cares

          I second that emotion, Carn.

          January 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  4. Two Peas & A Wad

    Great post. I just made a post about how to waste less food and use up leftovers- I NEVER throw anything out, everything can be reused or re-purposed. Besides just wasting money we are just very wasteful as a society- animals made the ultimate sacrifice to be our food and we throw the remains we didn't get around to away? Ridiculous.

    January 20, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  5. Arturo Féliz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Mr. Feliz's Blog (Teacher Arturo) and commented:
    Food wasting?

    January 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • Carn E. Vore

      No one cares.

      January 22, 2014 at 8:27 am |
      • Arturo Féliz-Camilo

        Maybe you're not aware that when I reblog an interesting article for my students to read the system automatically marks it as a "comment". I don't need or want advertisement. But then again you "don't care". Too busy judging what you don't understand I guess...trolls will be trolls...

        January 22, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • Sue Storm

          Why do you tell us here that you're re-blogged it somewhere else?

          January 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • Arturo Féliz-Camilo

          Let me pretend you read what I wrote above but didn't understand. Eatocracy is a wordpress based site. As such, whe you reblog it will say it. I don't. Don't need for anyone to know, for I reblog for my students.

          Now if I did, and I was making money or advertising, I still feel this should not be an issue. (As in "is not anyone's problem")


          January 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • Sue Storm

          You can stop pretending. I did read your comment and I didn't understand. Now I do. Thank you for explaining.

          January 23, 2014 at 7:31 am |
  6. Landlover

    There is always a solution to not being wasteful – DON'T BUY SO MUCH! I think it has become a habit of many people to buy whatever they feel like and toss what they decide later they don't want. I often wonder how many people on food stamps, who should be even more conscience about their waste, throw out food,. .. Many items can be frozen and eaten later, Food in the trash can be limited by making fruit drinks in the blender with produce that may not look so great individually, concocting new dishes with meats that would be overcooked by reheating, etc. . Most dogs just love anything other than dog food (and can be perfectly healthy eating it), The wildlife can benefit from old vegetables, along with the comp-poster.

    January 18, 2014 at 10:39 am |
  7. marisab67

    THIS should be the biggest food trend of the year.
    When we got poor, I turned into my grandmother who lived through the Depression and Dust Bowl. Short of turning plastic grocery bags into pillows, like she did, we waste next to nothing. I go to the food bank and the amount of bread alone is staggering. As a chef I used to lament all the extra bread in my kitchens. There are only so many croutons, breadcrumbs, and bread puddings that you can make, and I wondered if somehow a chef's collaborative could be formed to re-purpose these and have the profits go to charity. I live in Sacramento where we have an organization that picks thousands of pounds of produce that is wasting on trees and in fields and some of this is preserved and sold to benefit local food pantries. I loved this article. It's the first, I hope, in a year that celebrates the person on a lower food budget, instead of the food blogger with unlimited access to all things culinary.

    January 18, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  8. marv

    More than anyone, companies and corporations can make a HUGE difference. A friend of mine is the produce manager at one of our local Walmart Supercenters. Up until a few years ago, he could (sometimes heavily) discount produce that wasn't moving well, or make donations to charitable organizations that asked for produce that was getting close to its expiration.
    Then Walmart decided to take those decisions out of human's hands, and came up with a terrific computer program, that follows stock, re-orders when it deems necessary, and tracks waste. The problem is, there's a LOT more waste than before, because it's no good at the "human factor", and would rather allow produce that's a slow mover to rot, than discount it. And forget giving anything away! My friend says it breaks his heart, because they throw away a LOT more produce than they used to, and he has no other choice but to toss it.

    January 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
  9. Waste = Money

    Part of the problem is people buy the industrial size at some of these big box retailers and end up throwing away half of it. They think they are saving money even though most is thrown away. Do you really need 2 gallons of mustard or 50 lbs of potatoes?

    January 17, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
  10. ucantgohomeagain

    In my area, we have a great program called Manna Market. The expired goods are picked up by Manna Market trucks and taken to food shelters at area churches for distribution. It's a great program. I am a recipient as well as a volunteer.

    January 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm |
  11. Walker

    Part of me thinks this is some decent advice as we all can be better at controlling waste/recylcing etc... The other part thinks the author should keep it to herself. Don't tell me what to do. I paid for it and it goes to compost (I live in Portland, OR where compost is picked up everyweek, garbage bi-weekly. I'm a pretty liberal guy but tired of people always telling me what to do... Generation of cry babies and tattle tales...

    January 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • chuckrhymeswith

      Yeah, Walker. The mature thing to post is "stop telling me what to do" and then collectively name call this generation "cry babies." You RULE!

      January 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
    • asdrel

      I didn't get the impression that the author was telling anyone "what to do"; rather it was suggestions of possible alternatives to just throwing things away. So I suggest (not telling) that people lighten up; if you don't mind wasting money on wasted food just pass on by.

      January 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
  12. Waste = Money

    I have become much more conscious about wasting food. If you look at it the right way it saves you time and money. By not wasting food you have less food to drag home from the grocery store, less food to put away, and less food to throw away and drag out to the garbage can. The garbage can is your enemy! Don't feed this beast unless you have to.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
  13. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    I'm guilty of wasting food. It's usually because I am too lazy to cook after work and it eventually expires. And I don't eat breakfast so eggs don't always get used. Mostly, though it is leftovers that get tossed. I am actually a little ashamed of it. =(

    January 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • Doc in Highland

      Same for me, and probably many others. I have no good solution.

      January 17, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
  14. Burbank

    One of the biggest culprits, I think, are these pig-trough sized portions served in restaurants nowadays. Half of it usually ends up going home and a doggie bag and then forgotten in the fridge and gets thrown out when it turns into a science experiment. Back in the days when restaurant portitons were about one third to one half the size, it was correstpondingly cheaper to order a meal (you could always order a second meal if your were still hungry) and we didn't have an obesity epidemic. Second orders of soft drinks were also not free, you had to pay for it. Very few morbidly obese people in those days. Very few.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
  15. AngelaD

    I know I will get attacked for saying this: But food is simply too cheap. Nobody would throw it away if it would cost more. The same applies to other resources. Make the plastic bag at checkout 25 cent and nobody would forget their shopping bags. The argument that people would protest and boycott the store is not valid. Same with recyclable bottles. Here in MA the refund is 5cent and most don't even have any. Make it 30 cents and nobody will throw a bottle in the trash. We have to start thinking about smart, resourceful and sustainable growth.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
    • BagBanned

      I live in a bag ban city. You'd be surprised by the number of people who forget their bags and will pay for $1 new ones. Personally, I just put everything back in my cart, and don't bother with bags anymore.

      January 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
      • AngelaD

        I agree the system is not perfect and it will take a while for people to get used to it. I grew up and lived in Germany where these practices started many decades ago. After a while it becomes second nature to just bring your bag along. I have a small one in my purse all the time. There are other ways as well, like you do it and bring it straight to the car. What amazes me is that it seems that the older generation is resisting change here. Your kids will never know a different way and wont protest. So maybe there is hope for all of us yet.

        January 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
      • Ally

        @bagbanned: That's a great idea! I use green bags and very occasionally I get to the store and find I don't have any left in my trunk (they tend to pile up in the house as I use them). I hated walking out of the store using plastic bags...but just putting everything back into the cart never occurred to me. thanks!

        January 23, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
  16. smartaz

    I have four kids and 2 dogs. There is no such thing as wasted food in my home.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
    • Pablo

      4 kids as well. Nothing goes to waste and there is always room for improvement family efficiency.

      January 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
      • johnbo

        And chickens too. They will eat anything, and you can turn around and eat them or their eggs.

        January 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
  17. Sigi

    Gratitude is attitude. My family survived fleeing the Soviets during WWII with only what we could carry. That experience is a powerful teacher not to be greedy and wasteful with food, etc. EVER.

    January 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
  18. J. T.

    I feel like most of the food that gets wasted in my house was given to me, usually not at my request. Family will basically force me out the door with several full containers of left overs (maybe to spare them the guilt of not eating it themselvs?) Likewise with fruit – they will make me take half a dozen oranges/pomegrantes with me when I only want 1 or 2. I know they don't think I eat them every single day, so I think some of it is so they don't have to throw it out themselves. At least it goes into the compost bin when it does go bad.

    I don't mind eating left overs, but I'm not going to eat the same dish 3-4 nights a week.

    Also, my girlfriend has a habit of buying like 2-3 bottles of dressing at once, even though we eat maybe 1 salad a week at home. That's not to say she wastes them – quite the contrary, as my refridgerator door is full of salad dressings, most of which are at least 2 years past the "best by" date.

    Pretty much the only thing that gets thrown out is spoiled milk, rancid meat, and fruit with mold/flies coming out of it.

    January 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • Ally

      I suggest printing out your post and having your family/friends read it. Then maybe they'll understand how their generosity is giving you a headache. :-)

      January 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Karen J

    We've practically eliminated food waste at our house by doing two things: Composting what little we don't use (like carrot peelings for example) and then keeping a running pot of soup going at all times. It just evolves with whatever leftover meat, vegetables and starches we have. Sometimes it's chicken and rice, and evolves to be beef and potatoes. We'll even throw in leftover milk/cream sometimes. We'll also throw in cabbage, kale, spinach, etc. With creative seasoning, it's delicious and takes care of work lunches!

    January 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  20. James

    Weird article, I thought it was going to be about how consumers can reduce food waste. If you want my opinion about that, then look no further than the grocery stores and restaurants. Most things in the grocery store seem to be packaged for families of 3 or 4, not individuals. I actually find myself not buying much of anything at the grocery store because most of it I can't eat in time before it goes bad.

    Then at restaurants, the typical meal is enough to feed 2 or 3 people. I often find myself ordering appetizers because I don't want to waste most of the meal (I don't eat leftovers due to the food poisoning risk).

    January 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
    • murthy

      I completely agree with James. Buy what you need, don't convert your kitchen into mini grocery store.

      As James had mentioned restaurants should cut the portion size, most often lot of cooked food wasted in restaurants as the customer can’t consume the huge portion size..

      January 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
  21. Sustainuality

    Google Harvest Power. They're doing some pretty cool stuff with food waste. But, yes, the fact that it happens at all drives me crazy.

    January 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
  22. rbudl

    You can bet the first time someone gets ill, there will be a law suit. I used to work for a restaurant chain and they were forced to stop sending cooked meat that was left over to the local homeless shelter.

    January 17, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
  23. Clarity

    Most deplorable is the colossal amounts of raw and prepared foods that are discarded every day in restaurants, schools and cafeterias. They should have the concept of first and (free) second servings in such places, where only half or 2/3 of the regular portion is served as the first serving and the second serving is given only to those who ask for it. This may not work in some fancy restaurants or for infrequently ordered items, but might work well in cafeterias, schools, etc., reducing the amount of left-over food discarded at each table and eventually reducing the amount that gets prepared in the first place.

    January 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • S Michaels

      I agree completely about the waste of food in our schools. I worked several years as a lunch lady in both elementary and high school. If portions were made smaller and students were allowed to come back for seconds, that would take care of a lot of the waste. Now we aren't even allowed to have food banks come and take the leftovers (which are packaged and perfectly good to eat) so there is even more waste with all that food being thrown out.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
    • I'd throw it out too

      I would throw out the school food too. My daughter complains about how disgusting it is. She finally wised up and started brown bagging her lunch every day rather that eat the crap served at school. School food here was good 20 years ago – now it's prepackaged crap! Half the kids order it and don't eat it. What a waste. Serve fresh food and give the left overs to the local shelters...problem solved. At school anyway......

      January 17, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • JSB

      I would estimate the biggest portion of waste that we have in this country is related more to having food go out of date or become a liability issue (food poisoning) than people just not eating what is prepared though there is some of that as well. There is a reason massive amounts of food is recalled, and there is a reason that many 'good' restaurants throw out food. They 1 don't want to face a lawsuit if you get sick off eating their food (or die as the outbreak in melons caused a couple of years ago). That family declared bankruptcy and the brothers that owned and operated it went to jail. Some of that could have been avoided if the food had been properly discarded. They secondly don't want to make you sick so that you decide to never come back after having experienced their location.

      January 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
    • eeyore

      To "I'd Throw It Out Too": The reason that school cafeterias serve "prepackaged crap" is that the majority of taxpayers, like YOU, won't pony up what it costs to do better. If you won't pay more in taxes, don't expect better quality.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm |
  24. kzooresident

    This article is almost amusing when taken in following a read of rantings on the evil conservatives stealing food from the mouths of babies & forcing people to survive on $4 a day (since food assistance precludes people actually paying for some of their food), and a trip to the store no less than 45 minutes ago where I again watched all the liquor, deli, cigarettes being separated out from what was to be purchased with the bridge card.

    Topping it all off was the fumbling with incoming call on her iPhone 5 while pealing-off $50 bills to pay for the other stuff.

    Yep, we do indeed have a food problem in this country.

    January 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
    • marsilius

      The situation that you describe is very far from being typical, for food stamp recipients. And you present a very misleading picture also in a second way, for the article doesn't even describe food being wasted by food stamp recipients, anyway.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
    • LESLIE

      The person who said this is not typical needs to open their eyes, I just left the Dollar Store and had to wait 20 minutes while the lady in front of me piled her candy, chips, sodas and other junk on the counter for her child's birthday, I did not say they should not celebrate a birthday, but not with my dollar.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • S Michaels

        Exactly. Saw a woman at the line ahead of me last week at our grocery store with a beautiful birthday cake for her child. She paid for it with food stamps. I can't afford to buy my children store-made cakes, I make them myself. Somethings wrong here. No one should go hungry but this type of waste has to stop. And yes, I do realize this is totally off topic.

        January 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • marissafriedcj

          Geez, you do not know other peoples' circumstances so please do not judge them either! This person and their family may have rationed necessities with their food stamps in order to save up for a celebratory purchase. There is nothing wrong with that! Just because you earn more and a store bought cake is not in your budget does not mean that someone else can not fit it in theirs...

          January 17, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
        • Liz

          While it's true making your own is more economical than buying-which I'm trying to do myself-It has to be understood that it takes certain means to even be able to do this.Many working poor live in conditions where they are unable to cook or refrigerate.It has to be understood that many live in their cars or a hotel room or a room that does not allow cooking,which is of course a more expensive way to live.This has been found to be a Catch 22 with the working poor.I personally would have bought that birthday cake for the woman & let her save her foodstamps for something else.Your comment saddened & disturbed me.

          January 18, 2014 at 7:13 am |
  25. Julia

    It would help if more food came in smaller packages for single people or small families.

    January 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
    • Little Johnny

      How can you put more food in smaller packages? Wouldn't more food mean larger packages?

      January 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • Nearwater

      I totally agree. We are a family of 3. I am sick of buying 8 piece hamburger and hot dog buns and an entire full loaf of bread.

      January 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
      • DHG

        Solution; Freeze it. It's just my husband and I at home now, so I freeze half loaves of bread and half packages of buns, etc.

        January 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
      • ohioan

        Some stores are starting to sell 1/2 loaves of bread and 4 packs of buns. Kroger stores have this option for the buns in their store brand and they carry a whole wheat read brand that comes in a half loaf. I've got a bigger family (6) but sometimes only need a half loaf of the whole wheat or maybe had a few leftover buns and only need 4 more. I like it!

        January 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • Nate in CA

      I concur, but at the same time, we'd see another article on how excessive packaging is drowning the Earth in plastic refuse.

      January 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
      • Corn Fed

        If more companies used the corn-based packaging, we'd have less waste – eventually.

        January 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      ding, ding, ding!

      As a single guy, I have no use for 5 pounds of chicken breasts/thighs/wings/whatever. Though I will buy them once in a while and divide it up in to several ziplock bags and put it in the freezer.

      January 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  26. Captain Obviousman

    I've got a tip: don't buy in larger quantities than you can consume between shopping trips.

    January 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
  27. Arsh

    I stopped buying fresh and only buy frozen foods. I also make sure that if I buy "fresh" meat that I freeze it, and I have a small chest freezer. science has proven that frozen veggies are actually healthier (unless you grow your own garden).

    January 17, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  28. Rod Averbuch

    The large amount of food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. We should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of perishable food items close to their expiration on supermarket shelves causes waste.
    The consumer “Last In First Out” shopping behavior might be one of the weakest links of the fresh food supply chain.
    Why not encourage efficient consumer shopping by offering him automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill?
    The new open GS1 DataBar standard enables automatic applications that offer dynamic incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates.
    The “End Grocery Waste” application, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint. You can look this application up at EndGroceryWaste site.

    Chicago, IL

    January 17, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
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