Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen

Woman in kitchen pouring oil onto salad greens
Photo: Thinkstock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by making a plan to go further with food in your own kitchen. It’s estimated that we throw away nearly a quarter of the food we buy, costing us hundreds of dollars each year. Additionally, wasted food makes up a large portion of our landfills. With a few simple strategies we can reduce the amount of food we waste and encourage others to do the same. Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen -


  • To ensure what you have gets used before expiring, take an inventory of your cabinets and refrigerator before going to the grocery store. Keep this list handy and updated on your phone or refrigerator. It also can serve as a guide when building meals.
  • Plan meals around what you already have, aiming to incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein in each meal. Your menu should feature your most perishable foods earlier in the week.
  • Work leftovers into the menu by having yesterday’s dinner for lunch or throwing your breakfast scramble into an Asian stir-fry.
  • Try to incorporate some ingredients into multiple meals.


  • Your grocery list should include only the items you need for your weekly menu after taking your inventory list into consideration.
  • Use caution when buying in bulk. Consider the shelf life of what you are buying and have a plan for how you will use the item. If you cannot use it all, ask yourself if you can share it, donate it or freeze it.
  • If possible, shop at stores that have “ugly” produce that is not damaged or rotten, but may have physical imperfections.


  • When organizing your pantry and refrigerator, keep perishable foods visible. We are more likely to remember what we bought if we can see it, so utilize the first few shelves of your refrigerator to store food that goes bad the quickest.
  • Get in the habit of using the first-in, first-out rule by placing newer food behind the older.
  • Learn the best practices for storing food to extend its shelf life. Download the Academy’s Is My Food Safe? app, or go to to find the typical shelf life of a food.
  • Freeze food that you have too much of that you think might spoil before you have a chance to eat it.

Before you Throw Food Out

  • If possible, donate what will not be used.
  • Make a broth by simmering water with vegetable stalks, peels and skins. Save the broth to use in soups and sauces.
  • Learn to compost. More information at
Amber Spencley
Amber Spencley, MS, is a dietetic intern at Michigan Medicine. She earned her master’s in nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is passionate about whole foods nutrition, making plant-based meals and shaping food policy.