Sneaky Kitchen Hacks and Tips to Reduce Food Waste

Biserka Stojanovic/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
Biserka Stojanovic/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

It’s happened to all of us: Something in the kitchen gets forgotten and ends up “past its prime.” We all hate to waste, but beyond banana bread, are there other ways to put less-than-perfect produce or food to use? The answer is a resounding yes! Sneaky Kitchen Hacks and Tips to Reduce Food Waste - Here are some new ways to use your bounty — and tips on what to toss no matter what.

5 Tips to Repurpose Foods

  1. Dice leftover french fries and add to an omelet.
  2. Stir sturdier salad greens like romaine, arugula and escarole into soups, stews or slow cooker recipes.
  3. Collect tired veggies in the freezer. When you have enough, simmer with water, herbs and salt for a savory stock.
  4. Use stale cereal in muffins or crisp it in the oven for trail mix.
  5. Make pesto by processing wilted spinach or kale with basil, garlic, nuts and a little olive oil.

The Truth about “Sell by,” “Use by” and “Best By” Dates

Nine out of 10 Americans have needlessly thrown away food because they’re confused about “sell by,” “use by” and “best used by” dates on products. Here’s what those labels mean: Sneaky Kitchen Hacks and Tips to Reduce Food Waste -

  • Expiration or “use by” date: For safety, throw away food once this date has passed.
  • “Best used by” date: This is an indicator of peak quality and freshness, not food safety.
  • “Sell by” date : Ensure this date hasn’t passed when grocery shopping, as it tells retailers when to pull food from the shelf.

Unsafe to Salvage

Every food has its limit, but these are a few important examples:

  • Cheeses
    Soft, shredded, crumbled or sliced cheeses that grow mold. Mold can send tough-to-see threads deep into these high-moisture foods. Sometimes invisible bacteria grow along with the mold.
  • Potatoes
    Potatoes with large green areas or new sprouts. These are signs of the toxin solanine, which is formed from light exposure. Avoid it by storing spuds in the dark. It’s OK to eat potatoes with small green spots or sprouts, as long as you trim or cut out these parts.
  • Eggs
    Raw eggs out of their shells in the fridge for more than two to four days, and egg-based casseroles or pies in the fridge more than three to four days. After this time frame, the risk increases for any salmonella present to grow to unsafe levels.
  • Ground Beef
    Ground beef that’s been in the fridge for more than two days. If harmful bacteria is present, it can multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40° F to 140° F. Use or freeze it within two days.

To see the Healthy Kitchen Hacks series, click here

Diane Quagliani
Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, is president of Quagliani Communications, Inc., a nutrition communications firm in Western Springs, Ill.