7 Food Waste Solutions for Your Home

40% of all food in America is thrown out. You read that right, 40%! And the average American household throws away over a third of their food annually. That can cost a family of four up to $1500 a year. If you’re looking for food waste solutions that will save you money, read on.

1. Don’t get hung up on expiration dates.

Expiration dates do not actually indicate when food goes bad. The use of best befores’ and ‘use bys’ actually dates back to the ‘70s, when these dates were intended solely to indicate when the product was produced and likely to be at its freshest. Thus, expired food is still completely edible. But because we believe these dates are there to protect us, we end up throwing a lot of expired food away, contributing to America’s food waste problem. For signs on when food becomes actually unsafe to eat, consult this article from Consumer Reports.

2. Learn what to store in your refrigerator and what not to.

A lot of food is thrown away merely because there’s only so much space left in your refrigerator. But the truth is we store far more things in our refrigerator than we need to. Many food products have a great shelf life in a pantry or cellar, which frees up space in your refrigerator for products that do need to be refrigerated. Check out our food storage infographic to learn what needs to go in your fridge, and what can be safely stored outside it.

3. Learn where to store food in your refrigerator.

Certain foods are at greater risk of spoiling than others: fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, etc. Refrigerator manufacturers understand this, which is why things like the meat and crisper drawers exist. Understanding the function of each drawer helps you store your food correctly, keeping it fresher for longer. 

  • Meats and cheeses need to be stored at a colder temperature than other foods to stay fresher longer, so the meats and cheese drawer is designed to run colder than the rest of the refrigerator. Consult your manual to identify the correct drawer, then actually use it for meats and cheeses (pretty simple).
  • Vegetables are prone to wilting (becoming dry and desiccated), so they prefer a high humidity drawer. If your drawer doesn’t specify, you want the vents to be closed, trapping the moisture from the vegetables in the drawer.
  • Fruits on the other hand prefer low humidity, so they want to be in a drawer with open vents. These open vents also allow the ethylene gas produced by ripening fruits to dissipate, preventing your fruits from ripening too quickly.

Remember: when we talk about fruits and veggies, we are talking about the biological definition, not the cooking definition. Tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cucumbers, etc. are fruits, not veggies, and many of those shouldn’t even be in your refrigerator (see item #2 above). 

Higher-quality refrigerators have better crispers with gasket seals to isolate the crisper air and are usually programmable or adjustable. And some new models of refrigerators have a separate temperature control for the meat drawer to maintain a separate, colder climate for meat products. These added features help you better preserve your most at-risk food. If you don’t have a high-quality refrigerator, there are products you can buy to upgrade your crisper drawers.

4. Don’t be afraid to freeze food.

You’ll be surprised what you can freeze, we promise, so check out this complete guide. This can add months to the shelf life of your food.

5. Expand your culinary skills.

We all know a few tricks. Overripe bananas are a must for banana bread. Stale bread is perfect for french toast. But there are so many other options out there. If you have something that’s past its peak, do a quick search online to find out how to make use of it. The results can be delicious. Or better yet, if you have perishable fruits or veggies you’re sure you won’t be able to eat before they go bad, learn to pickle and ferment food. Or learn to make canned preserves

6. Buy a high-quality refrigerator.

Refrigerators were invented to stop food from spoiling and going to waste, and truly, they are remarkable machines. But not all refrigerators are created equal. Because these are complex machines, paying for precision engineering leads to better results when it comes to food preservation. Plus, they’re more reliable and often more efficient (saving you money), they offer extra useful features, they’re beautiful, and they increase the value of your home by nearly 30%. What’s not to love about a great refrigerator? 

7. Keep your refrigerator maintained.

And because these are complex machines, they need regular tune-ups like your automobile. Cleaning your condenser, the perpetually beating heart of your refrigerator, ensures that it doesn’t have to work harder to keep the interior cool. 

Humans are an inventive species, and eating is one of our most fundamental needs, so it should be no surprise that we’ve come up with every solution under the sun when it comes to not wasting a scrap of edible food. If you follow the seven food waste solutions above, you’ll make a serious dent in your own household food waste.

And if you need help with #7 and live in Omaha, Lincoln, or Des Moines, our expert technicians are highly-skilled in providing quick and effective refrigerator service.