November 20, 2020


   About 40 percent of the United States food supply (1,500 calories/ person/day) goes uneaten. Discarded food in homes and foodservice accounts for 60 percent of this total food loss and is mostly avoidable. The remaining portion is lost or wasted during food production.  Here are 14 ways consumers can help reduce the amount of food wasted:

   1. Shop the refrigerator before going to the store.  Use food at home before buying more. Designate at least one meal weekly as a "use-it-up" meal.

   2. Move older food products to the front of the fridge/cupboard/freezer and just-purchased ones to the back. This makes it more likely foods will be consumed before they go bad.

   3. Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below to prolong the life of foods. Foods frozen at 0 degrees F or lower will remain safe indefinitely but the quality will go down over time.

   4. Freeze or can surplus fresh produce using safe, up-to-date food preservation methods. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website ( for freezing and canning instructions.

   5. Take restaurant leftovers home and refrigerate within two hours of being served. Eat within three to four days or freeze. Or, choose a smaller size and/or split a dish with a fellow diner.

   6. Compost food scraps for use in the garden. Visit Nebraska Extension for directions on creating compost for your garden (

   7. Check product dates on foods. The United States Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) defines them as:

  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A "Best if Used By (or before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product. Do not buy or use baby formula after its "use-by" date.

   8. Look for recipes on websites that can be searched for by ingredients to use up food at home. USDA's "What's Cooking: USDA Mixing Bowl" site ( offers several tools for searching for recipes with specific ingredients, nutrition themes and meal course.

   9. Buy misshapen fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets and elsewhere. They taste just as good and are just as nutritious as those with a "perfect" shape but are more likely to get thrown away.

   10. Rather than buy a food for use in only one recipe, check if there might be a suitable substitute already in the home. The Cook's Thesaurus website ( gives thousands of ingredient substitutions.

   11. Check the garbage can. If the same foods are constantly being tossed: Eat them sooner, buy less of them, incorporate them into more recipes or freeze them.

   12. Donate safe, nutritious food to food banks, food pantries and food rescue programs.

   13. If you have several foods that might go to waste at the same time, try adding them to such adaptable recipes as salads, soups, pasta, and casseroles.