Avoiding Food Waste at Home

— Written By and last updated by
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Over one-third of all available food in the United States goes uneaten due to loss or
waste. It’s estimated that each person could save about $370 a year by reducing food waste. That would be a savings of close to $1500 a year for the average family of four.

Most of us really don’t realize how much food we waste. Consumer food waste usually happens when we buy more food than we can use, cook more than needed or store it improperly.

Here are 15 tips to help keep food safe, edible, and out of the trash can:

  1. Shop your refrigerator before going to the store or ordering on-line. Make sure
    to use the food at home before buying more. Allow one night a week to be a
    ‘Clean Up Meal’, using any leftovers you have before they become waste.
  2. Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Make a
    list so you don’t buy more than you need.
  3. Move older food products to the front of the refrigerator, freezer and pantry.
    Keeping the older items in plain sight helps ensure they are used before they go bad. Check your fridge and freezer often to see what needs to be used or frozen.
  4. Keep your refrigerator at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below to maintain food
    safety. Frozen foods can last indefinitely, if kept below 0 degrees Fahrenheit,
    although the quality of the food will decrease over time.
  5. Properly store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness. They’ll taste better and last longer, helping us to eat more of them before they go bad. Produce that is past its prime may still be fine for cooking and often these foods can be repurposed into soups, casseroles, baked goods and smoothies.
  6. Buying in large quantities (BOGO or large box stores) only saves money if you use all the food before it spoils. Freeze, can or dry surplus fresh produce using safe, up-to-date food preservation methods.
  7. Love your leftovers. Don’t order big meals in restaurants unless you’re sure you’ll be able to eat them or the “doggy bag”. Take restaurant leftovers home and refrigerate within two hours of being served. Eat or freeze leftovers within 3-4 days.
  8. Dish up reasonable amounts of food at buffets. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. Portion control is good for both your waistline and for reducing plate waste.
  9. Compost food scraps for use in the garden. This takes your food waste and turns it into soil enhancers. Check with our N.C. Cooperative Extension website and Master Gardeners for information on backyard composting.
  10. Check product date labels on foods but don’t just automatically pitch food that is past the date. Confusion over date labeling accounts for over 20 percent of food waste. Most dates on food are for quality not safety. Most items should still be safe and wholesome after those dates if the food is handled properly until spoilage is evident. Spoiled foods will develop an off-odor, flavor, or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. Obviously, if a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.
  11. Buy misshapen fruits or vegetables at farmer’s markets. Fruits and vegetables that have a less desirable shape are often the first to be thrown away.
  12. Rather than buying an ingredient for one recipe, check to see if a substitute is available from items, you already have.
  13. Look in your garbage can! What items are you often tossing out? Do you need to eat them sooner or buy less of them?
  14. Donate safe, nutritious food to food banks, food pantries and food rescue programs. Safe and wholesome food that is currently thrown away could help feed hungry people and reduce food insecurity.
  15. Look for recipes on websites that can be searched for by ingredient to use up what you have at home.

When food is wasted, so too is the land, water, labor, energy, and other inputs that
were used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of the discarded food. Managing food waste can make a difference in your refrigerator, trash can and pocket book as well as impact food security and the environment. Take time to look at your food choices today!

Sources: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States Department of Agriculture,
United States Food and Drug Association and United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at