Posts Tagged ‘food waste’

a plate of food scraps arranged to spell "love food hate waste"

Did you know that food waste takes up more space in our landfills than anything else? According to the 2018 Wasted Food Report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste accounts for 24% –almost a quarter – of all municipal solid waste sent to landfills. The majority of this food waste comes from consumers and households. As such, the EPA has created a Food Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize strategies to reduce food waste. This hierarchy follows the 3 Rs of solid waste reduction: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Source reduction, or reducing the volume of surplus food generated, is the most preferred strategy, followed by feeding hungry people, feeding animals, using food for industrial purposes (all ways to reuse food), and composting (recycling). Sending food to the landfill or to be incinerated is the least preferred waste reduction strategy.

So, what can you as a consumer do to reduce the amount of surplus food you generate?

  • Shop your fridge first and use the ingredients you have on hand before they spoil.
  • Plan your meals and shop using a list of needed ingredients to avoid buying excess.
  • Learn how to read food labels and don’t misinterpret expiration dates on food that is perfectly good to eat.
  • Store food properly, keeping your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees F and your freezer at or below 0 degrees F. Make sure to chill perishable foods and leftovers properly by refrigerating or freezing them within 2 hours of being out at room temperature, and consume them within days. Store fruits and vegetables separately in moisture-proof bags and wash them just prior to use. Know which fruits and vegetables to store in the refrigerator and which ones to leave out.
  • Use an app like the USDA’s Food Keeper to help keep track of what is in your fridge and when it needs to be used.

To learn more about food waste, test your knowledge with this quiz from the Save More than Food campaign or watch this video featuring Ohio State University Professor Brian Roe. 

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County.

Reviewed by Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension, Warren County.


Werling, R. & Nwadike, L. (2020). Working Together to Reduce Food Waste. Kansas State University. https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3482.pdf

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2022). Sustainable Management of Food. https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2020). 2018 Wasted Food Report. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-11/documents/2018_wasted_food_report.pdf

Read Full Post »

Picture of Trash

I can remember growing up in Michigan in the 70s and 80s, we would get our first snowfall around Thanksgiving, and we wouldn’t see grass until late March. Every year here in southern Ohio, it seems the idea of a white Christmas is a thing of the past. The past decade has seen the warmest average temperatures on record. Climate experts paint an ominous picture for our planets’ future and our overall quality of life. Issues such as plastic pollution and food waste contribute to climate warming and also immediate wellbeing.

If you are looking to set a New Years resolution, consider some ideas that are eco-friendly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy and use reusable straws. Keep them on hand and refuse single use straws at restaurants.
  • Stop using single use plastic bags. Keep reusable bags in your cars so you don’t forget them when running into the grocery store.
  • Freeze left overs and use ingredients later in smoothies, soups, etc.
  • Start a compost pile for food waste. Keep an old coffee bin in the kitchen to discard food scraps.
  • Start using bar soap or refill soap containers to avoid purchasing plastic bottles.
  • Reuse glass jars, Tupperware, and beeswax wrap to store food and leftovers instead of single use plastic sandwich bags.
  • Refill a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
  • Participate in a neighborhood clean up or roadside garbage pick up.

These are just a few ideas. Small changes can really add up over a lifetime. The actions of millions of people can can collectively reduce the amount of plastic and food going into landfills and contributing to climate change.

Author: Dan Remley, Ph.D., M.S.P.H. Associate Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, M.P.H., Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension


Beyond Plastics. (2021). THE NEW COAL: PLASTICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. REPORT: The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change — Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.). Sustainability in the Kitchen. Left-overs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlDXy80yraY

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.). Sustainability in the Kitchen: Single Use Plastics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CangcvETxk

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.).Composting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lOMPTRj7eE

Read Full Post »

Soups, stews, casseroles, and stuffing. There are many popular recipes this time of year that call for the use of broths and stocks. Not sure of the difference between broths and stocks? One of our blogs has the answer. While not too expensive, you probably have everything you need to make your own broth at home- you might even be throwing it away! 

At home, we keep a freezer bag for storing our cooking scraps. The bottom and tops of celery, red and white onions, carrots, green onions, leftover herbs, a small piece of shriveling bell pepper that wasn’t used. When the bag becomes full, we dump it all into our pressure cooker, cover it with water, and in a short time, we have stock. This is also a wonderful time to look in the fridge and pantry for other items that might be good additions: garlic cloves, a knob of ginger, I’ve even added a softening apple to the pot. 

There are hundreds of recipes online promising the perfect proportion of ingredients to make the best vegetable broth. As a sustainable alternative, here’s my method for making vegetable broth at home from things you already have. Put fresh and/or frozen vegetables and herbs into a pot, cover with water, simmer for about an hour. If you’d like to speed up the process you could use a stove or countertop pressure cooker. Once the broth is to color and flavor you like, strain, and use in your favorite recipe. While not an exact science, this method allows for simple, free, clean-out the kitchen broth.

Another benefit of storing scraps in a freezer is that it allows flexibility to use the items when it fits into your schedule. In addition to the cost-savings, convenience, and eco-friendly benefits of making broth at home, there are health benefits as well. You can control the amount of salt going into the broth, and by doing so, into the final dish. So next time you are slicing and dicing your way to a delicious meal, consider saving your scraps to give them new life!


Christensen, E. (2020, October 24). How to make vegetable stock (it’s so easy!). Kitchn. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-vegetable-stock-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-136725.

Riley, J. (2020, January 8). Broth versus stock. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/02/03/broth-versus-stock/.

USDA. (n.d.). Recipes- Soups and Stews. MyPlate. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen/recipes?f%5B0%5D=course%3A127.

Author: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, woelfl.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Katie Schlagheck, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator Ottawa and Sandusky Counties, Ohio State University Extension

Read Full Post »

A recent study has shown that more than 200 pounds of food per American is wasted every year in the U.S.  Stocking up on good buys at the supermarket and whole sale clubs can save you money, but not if the food goes bad before you use it and it is thrown away.   Whether it’s from the dairy, deli, bakery or meat and seafood departments, keeping food fresh not only saves you money, but it may also help prevent foodborne illness.

To help keep your food tasting  fresh and last longer, follow these tips:


  • Berries are often piled up in containers on top of each other causing some of the bottom containers to get crushed.  To check for condition of the berries, turn the container to see if the berries move freely.  If they don’t, they could be crushed together.  Also check berries for mold.  Store in refrigerator and wash only before using them.  Water can cause spoilage.
  • Melons including honeydew or cantaloupe should not have a stem; otherwise it will be underripe.  Ripe melons pull easily from the vine.  Sweet melons will smell fragrant and feel heavy for their size.   Ripe melons should be stored in the refrigerator and used within two weeks.  Cut melons should be stored in an airtight container and eaten within three to four days.
  • Onions and potatoes should not have sprouts which can cause spoilage.  They should be stored separately in a dark area away from heat and sunlight.  They should never be refrigerated.
  • Leafy greens should be purchased only when brightly colored and stored loosely in a plastic bag on a refrigerator shelf.  Avoid cramming them into produce drawers as this can cause bruising.
  • Tomatoes should be fragrant and feel heavy for their size.  Refrigeration changes the flavor; store them on the counter.

Deli Department:

  • Cheese should be cut when you’re ready to eat it.  Purchase cheese in blocks so it doesn’t dry out.  Rewrap cheese when you store it in the refrigerator to avoid picking up other flavors.
  • Deli meats are best purchased cut-to-order and should have a fresh bright color.  If purchasing packaged meat, watch for signs of spoilage such as sliminess.  Most deli meats should be eaten with three to four days.  Don’t leave any deli meat at room temperature longer than two hours; otherwise it should be thrown away.
  • Deli Salads should look fresh and not have a crust around the edge.  Ask the clerk if the salad was made fresh that day; if not, don’t purchase it.

Meat and Seafood:

  • Meat should not show signs of spoilage, such as an off odor or slimy appearance.  Always check the sell-by and use-by date, and avoid any meat with a package that leaks.  Store a cooler in your car during hot summer months to bring home perishables like meat and seafood.
  • Fish should be brightly colored and not have an off odor.  If using within a day, store in its wrapper in the refrigerator with a pan underneath to catch any drippings.


  • Milk or yogurt  should be checked for best-by dates; puchase those with later dates.  Never buy products with bulging packages, which may indicate signs of spoilage.  Most dairy foods will last at least a week after opening the container.  Vitamins can be destroyed by light and heat, so be sure to put the products back in the refrigerator as soon as possible. If yogurt isn’t used by the use by date, freeze it to use in smoothies or cooking.
  • Eggs should not be cracked when purchased.  USDA grades, such as AA, refer to best quality with high, round yolks.  Grade A eggs will have whites that are less firm than Grade AA eggs.  Keep eggs in their original container to avoid picking up odors on a low or middle shelf towards the back of the refrigerator.

Frozen Foods:

  • Frozen fruits or vegetables should not be in one large frozen chunk; they may not have been handled properly.  When shopping for frozen foods, store them in an insulated bag to maintin their temperature until you get them home to the freezer.
  • Ice cream should be selected from the back of the freezer.  Be sure to select a cold container!

Don’t throw out food that is past its prime, but still safe to eat.  That stale bread (without mold) will be great as french toast for tomorrow’s breakfast, and overripe bananas taste great in smoothies!  However, don’t overlook signs of spoilage including slimy meat or colorful spots on cottage cheese.  Remember nothing is worth you or your families health and well-being.  The best rule of eating well may be when in doubt, throw it out!

Submitted by:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County. 

Source:  ConsumerReports ShopSmart, September, 2011.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross & Vinton Counties.

Read Full Post »

Did you know that the average American family throws away approximately $1600 worth of food each year?  If you’re like most people, you probably buy things you don’t need at the grocery store, or you may end up with leftovers that don’t appeal to family members.  However, just by following a few simple tips, your family can eat healthy AND save money at the same time!

  • Plan and buy only what you need:  Saving money begins at the supermarket.  Always plan and make a list before you go grocery shopping.  Be sure to check your foods on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Buy just what you need.
  • Stock up:  By having a well-stocked pantry, you can create delicious meals from foods that might otherwise go to waste.  Toss cooked vegetables with whole grain pasta and salad dressing for a refreshing meal on a hot day.  Mix canned beans with rice, toss with a salad, or mash and spread on a tortilla for a tasty burrito.
  • Buy fresh produce every week:  Fresh fruits and vegetables are great any time of day, including snacks.  Don’t purchase produce in bulk, however, if it will go bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Before you toss bruised or discolored fruit, cut off the bad spots and cook it in cobblers, pies, muffins, pancakes or breads.
  • Add vegetables to soups or stews, or casseroles.  You’ll add nutrients, color and texture to your meal while stretching your food dollar!
  • Freeze foods, such as bread or baked goods if you won’t use them right away.  Use it later in casseroles or for breading on poultry or fish.  Leftover vegetables can be added to stir fries, sauces, pasta or omelettes.
  • Cook with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables:  Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a healthy alternative to fresh since they’re flash frozen when harvested.  They are often more affordable and may be more nutritious, depending on several factors.
  • Adjust your recipes to meet your family needs.  Make changes according to your preferences and what foods you have on hand.  Mix it up with different meats, vegetables or beans, seasonings or spices.  Add nuts,  rice or a whole-grain to stretch your food dollar.  Substitute low-fat cheese in place of regular full-fat cheese.

Source:  Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, Top 10 Tips to Waste Less Food.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Hamilton County


Read Full Post »