Resolved: 5 Tips to Stop Wasting Food

It’s a new year and you are resolved! Maybe you’ve already decided to exercise more, spend less, read more or learn a new skill.

Well, here’s a goal you might not have thought of. One that’s easy to accomplish and could make the world a better place.

Cut back on wasting food!

That’s right, food waste is a huge problem — a problem you can help change. Consider these statistics from the National Resources Defense Council.

  • Every year, 40 percent of all the food in the U.S. is wasted, most often by being tossed out as trash into landfills, even as many Americans don’t have enough to eat.
  • Foods tossed into landfills create methane, a greenhouse gas pollutant reported to be 20 to 40 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and that can contribute to climate change.
  • Households throw out more food than restaurants.
  • The average four-person household spends $1,500 a year on food they toss out.

How can you help? It’s easy. The County’s Live Well San Diego Food System Initiative has a few tips to help you stop wasting food.

Plan and Shop Wisely

You can’t really know what food you need if you don’t know what you plan to eat or what you already have at home. So before you run to the market, plan menus and meals ahead of time. Figure out what ingredients you have and what you’ll need. It will save you money and time, and cut down on having to toss out food that goes bad before you eat it, or just plain doesn’t get eaten. has a “Guest-imater” that can help you calculate how much food you need to prepare, based on how many people you’re serving and how much they typically eat. It can even calculate having leftovers if you want them!

Freeze or Find Ways to Re-use Leftovers

Even the best planners end up with leftovers sometimes. But you don’t have to let them languish in the fridge until they go bad. You can freeze leftovers to use in future meals. You can pack them in to-go containers for lunches. Or, you can re-think your leftovers as ingredients to be used in different meals. Leftover pasta and cooked vegetables can help make a mean frittata. Leftover rice, meat and vegetables can make a great soup, burritos or a casserole.

Got Fruit Trees to Glean?

So those fruit trees in the yard just churn out more fruit than you and the family can eat. Don’t let it go to waste. Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food System Alliance have links to “gleaner” groups that can collect your extra crop and feed someone else’s family. The San Diego Food Bank has information about how you can start your own food drive.

Compost It!

When you do end up with leftover food and/or food scraps, a lot of it doesn’t have to go in the trash and end up in a landfill — it can go into a compost or worm bin instead. That way you can turn that leftover food into healthy organic compost and fertilizer that can re-inject helpful nutrients and organisms back into your garden or lawn’s soil. Using compost can also cut water use, improve crop production and save gardeners money by not having to buy soil amendments. Learn what can go into your compost.


The website has tips galore, from “Five Ways to Revive Food,” to “10 Easy Tips for Meal Planning,” and “Cooking with Food Scraps.” It’s also filled with information about how to shop for, cook and store food.

So, resolve yourself today. Cut back on wasting food!


Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact