Reduce Your Food Waste

In 2017, the Natural Resources ­Defense Council conducted a study, Estimating Types and Quantities of Food Waste at the City Level (PDF), to assess the amount of food wasted; why food was wasted; and to assess the amount of edible food that could have potentially been donated to food insecure populations.  The study revealed:

  • The average American household throws out between $1,350 and $2,275 in food each year.  
  • A total of 8.7 pounds of food was wasted per household per week.  Edible food wasted was 6.0 pounds per household per week.
  • The most common reason given for wasting edible food was that the food was moldy or spoiled, followed by residents not wanting to eat leftovers.

The below information can help you prevent/divert food waste in your household or business.  

EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy

The Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions to prevent and divert food waste.   Each tier focuses on different management strategies for wasted food.  "The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy." 

EPA Food Recovery Heirarchy

For more information on the Food Recovery Hierarchy and each tier, visit EPA's Sustainable Management of Food.  

In addition, the EPA provides the following tools to prevent and reduce wasted food: 

  • Excess Food Opportunities Map 
  • Food Waste Assessment Guidebook
  • Toolkit for Reducing Wasted Food and Packaging-  
  • Paper Tracking Waste Logs 
  • Waste Reduction Model (WARM)   
  • Training Webinars 

For more information visit  EPA's Tools for Preventing and Diverting Food Waste.  

EPA's Food: Too Good to Waste

EPA's Food: Too Good to Waste consists of an implementation guide and toolkit that aims to reduce wasteful household food management practices.

For more information, visit EPA's Food: Too Good to Waste.

FDA's Tips to Reduce Food Waste

The FDA suggests the following simple steps to reduce food waste and save money:  

Planning & Shopping

  • Preplan and write your shopping list before going to the grocery store. As you write your list, think about what meals you will be preparing the following week, and check your fridge to see what items you already have.
  • When at the store, buy only what you need and stick to your shopping list. Be careful when buying in bulk, especially with items that have a limited shelf life. 

In the Kitchen & Storage Tips

  • Use the FoodKeeper App for information on how to safely store different foods to maintain freshness and quality.
  • Create a designated space in your fridge for foods that my go bad within a few days.
  • Check your fridge often to keep track of what you have and what needs to be used. Eat or freeze items before you need to throw them away.
  • Check the temperature setting of your fridge. Keep the temperature at 40° F or below to keep foods safe. The temperature of your freezer should be 0° F.
  • If you have more food on hand than you can use or you need, consider donating your extra supply of packaged foods to a local food pantry or a food drive.
  • Learn about food product dating – Many consumers misunderstand the purpose and meaning of the date labels that often appear on packaged foods. Confusion over date labeling accounts for an estimated 20 percent of consumer food waste.

Cooking & Serving

  • Be creative and have fun! Create new dishes and snacks with leftovers or items you think will go bad if not eaten soon. Have a cook off to find out who can come up with the best dish.
  • Follow the 2-Hour Rule. For safety reasons, don’t leave perishables out at room temperature for more than two hours, unless you're keeping it hot or cold. If the temperature is above 90° F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than one hour. Also, remember to refrigerate leftovers within two hours.
  • Use serving size information on the Nutrition Facts label to help you portion meals or snacks. You can always add more to your plate after finishing off the first helping.
  • Prepared too much food for a party at your home? Pack extras in containers for guests to take home or take some over to a neighbor as a nice gesture.


1. Hoover, Darby. "Estimating Quantities and Types of Food Waste at the City Level." (2017)

2. Tips to Reduce Food Waste (2017, December 7) Retrieved from