Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That's roughly $408 billion down the drain. While many institutional practices and corporations are to blame, there are a variety of ways that individuals can limit their own food waste without spending a single additional cent. Composting is an alternative to trashing items in the landfill. Freezing food is an alternative to throwing it away. Creating shopping lists is an alternative to overbuying or impulse spending. There are truly so many ways to reduce and practice sustainable habits in the kitchen.

Create A Shopping List

On average, Americans waste one-third of all food purchases. This is roughly $1,500 per year. Creating a weekly or even monthly shopping list is a great way to save money and reduce food waste. Planning your meals ahead of time allows you to decide exactly how much produce and other ingredients you need. 

Purchase Produce That’ll Last

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Certain produce can last for weeks and even months if stored properly. Doesitgobad.com is a fantastic resource to further look at the shelf life of produce and see just how long it can last when ripe, cut, and cooked.

Beets can last about three months. Remove any green stems, place them in a perforated plastic container, and store them in the vegetable section of your refrigerator.

A cantaloupe can last two to three weeks in the refrigerator. When you cut into it, you have about three to four days before it goes bad.

Carrots can stay fresh for several weeks if moisture is removed. If the carrots come in a plastic bag, place a paper towel inside to soak up the moisture.

Celery can stay fresh for up to one week. The key to keeping celery fresh is water. Store it in a plastic or glass container and fully submerge it in water.

Grapes can last five to 10 days if stored in the refrigerator. Grapes thrive in moisture, so placing them in a plastic or glass container with a little bit of water can make them last longer and help them keep their crunch.

Refrigerating a grapefruit is the best way to keep it from spoiling. If whole, this item can last two to three weeks.

Green onions can last between one to two weeks if wrapped in plastic. You can add another week to its lifespan by wrapping it in a moist paper towel and placing it in a plastic bag.

A kiwi can last two to four weeks if stored in a refrigerator. If the kiwi starts to show dark spots and gives off a bad smell, it's time to toss it.

Whole pomegranates can last a month or two in the refrigerator. If you have pomegranate seeds they will last roughly a week.

The lifespan of tomatoes varies. Cherry tomatoes can last one to two if stored in the refrigerator. Ripe tomatoes can make it for about seven to 10 days.

When all else fails, freezing produce is the best option. Sometimes we forget we have stuff in the fridge, or we eat out too many times that week. Freezing pretty much anything will prevent food waste and allow you to squeeze just a little extra life out of your produce. These items can be heated up later in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven.

Pickle Your Produce

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Pickling might also come in handy. Most of us are pretty familiar with pickled cucumbers. Onions, cabbage, peaches, jalapeños, garlic, hot peppers, okra, and even eggs can undergo this process and taste just as good. All you need is a glass container and vinegar. Place the produce of your choosing inside the jar and add your preferred spices and seasonings such as dill, rosemary pepper, red pepper, garlic, and salt. Check out our guide here. According to the USDA, your pickled produce can last up to three months. 

Store Produce Correctly

Certain fruits and veggies do better with more moisture, while others need to be as dry as possible. When exposed to air, some produce browns pretty quickly, and while it’s still good to eat, some people are turned off. For example, avocados are notorious for browning quickly, but did you know there is a natural alternative to keeping them green? Seal the surface of the avocado with lemon juice, lime juice, or olive oil. Then wrap the item in plastic wrap to keep it fresh.

Shop With Sustainability in Mind

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Reducing food waste varies from person to person. If you're cooking for one, that big bag of produce from the grocery store just may be too much for you to eat. Reaching for a smaller bag of produce may be the better option. But sometimes it might not be as budget-friendly in the long run if you opt to freeze your extra items. Farmers markets can provide an alternative to this struggle. These markets typically use less plastic packaging, and shoppers can take more personalized amounts. Plus, supporting local farmers supports your community. 

Regenerate Your Produce

Not everyone needs a garden to grow their own food. Sometimes all you need is a cup and your kitchen. You may be asking just how you can do this and it’s pretty easy. Let’s use green onions for example. Take your veggie, and cut off the bulb — the little white part. Make sure you leave some of the green. Rinse and place in a glass jar standing up. Make sure the jar has enough water that all the roots are submerged. After a few days, you will notice fresh stalks growing.

Here's a list of some of the produce you can regenerate:

Bok choy






Green onions




Dispose of Food Packaging Easily

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Food comes in a variety of plastic and paper packaging. If your packaging is entirely paper, then you can put it in your compost (if you have one). Your paper can also be recycled, but you must ensure it has no plastic, food, juice, or stains.

When it comes to plastic packaging, there’s not just one, but seven types.

1 aka PETE

2 aka HDPE

3 aka PVC

4 aka LDPE

5 aka P

6 aka PS

7 aka other

These types of plastic offer varying durabilities and have unique uses. The plastic on your single-use water bottle is different from that of a plastic bag. These different types of plastic mean you must recycle them differently. They’re not all the same, so they cannot all be broken down the same way. 

To find the number of a plastic item, look for the recycle symbol (three arrows in the shape of a triangle) typically on the bottom. Inside, you should see a number corresponding to how to recycle it in your area. Then, you can figure out how to dispose of it. Recycling regulations vary from town to county to state. So, the best thing to do is check your local guidelines to understand what your region allows. 

Cook With Food Scraps

When you cut your carrots and celery for an afternoon snack with a side of a ranch, there may be some leftover bits that typically end in the trash. Food doesn't always need to be scrapped when it can be salvaged. Save these bits in your freezer for stock, pesto, chutney, hummus, or soup.

Looking to get more veggies in with every bite? Toss your leftover scraps into a blender or food processor when making your next batch of pesto. Stale bread doesn’t need to hit the pale. You can make bread crumbs and croutons out of your rock-hard baguettes and bagels. Overripe bananas and mushy apples don’t mean the end. You can turn these overly brown bananas into flavorful banana bread. The apples can be smashed and mashed up to make apple sauce and even apple jam.

There are numerous ways to incorporate what would be trashed into your flavor dishes. Feel free to get creative and experiment. 

Eat Your Leftovers

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I’ll admit it, I am a leftover hater. It really just depends on what it is, though. When it comes to reheating chicken, I turn my skillet on, cube it up, and try to make something new with a variety of seasonings. You can also avoid having leftovers by planning how much you're going to cook. But, if you're interested in having leftovers, it’s a great way to meal prep for the next day, or have easy quick meals for yourself after a long day of school and work.

Respect Food

Food is the essence of who we are and how we will continue to be. Understanding where the produce on your plate comes from, as well as all the hands involved, is important. Many people were involved in providing you with your food. Respect their labor, and what it took to get to you.