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Preventing Wasted Food

Preventing Wasted Food 

Wasted food is a much larger problem than most people are aware of. Basket of FoodEvery year, wasted food costs billions of dollars, wastes huge amounts of natural resources, and contributes to climate change. Get the facts and see what you can do to stop wasting food and money. Did you know...

  • The average family of four spends $1,600 per year on food that goes uneaten.
  • 25% of all the freshwater supplies in America are used to produce food that is wasted.
  • Wasted food produces 25% of America's methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Wasted Food vs. Food Waste 

Food makes up the largest material portion of the waste stream in America. It is also the least recovered portion of our waste. They may seem similar, but the difference between wasted food and food waste is important.

Wasted Food 


Wasted food is avoidable. It is food that was once edible but was not eaten. Think: leftovers, moldy and expired food.



  Wasted Food

Food Waste


Food waste is unavoidable. It is the part of food that was never edible. Think: egg shells, grape stems, bones, coffee grounds and peelings.


Food waste can be recycled into compost. It is also a potential source for producing biogas to fuel our vehicles. 

Food Waste

Preventing Wasted Food at Home


Attend a Workshop or Event

Interested in learning more about food waste and preventing wasted food? Call (253) 591-5172 or email us to schedule a free presentation for your group or organization!
The City of Tacoma's EnviroHouse (3510 S. Mullen St., Tacoma) often hosts workshops related to food preservation, gardening, and compost. Check out upcoming workshops and RSVP at the EnviroHouse website.



SMART Planning

SMART Planning
  • Plan ahead by choosing the meals you will make each week.
  • Know your schedule and plan for nights you will eat out.
  • Plan to make a double recipe some nights to freeze an easy meal for later.
  • Serve smaller first portions and allow for seconds.

SMART Shopping

  • Make a shopping list based onSMART Shopping your meal plan for the week, and include quantities for needed items.
  • Shop your fridge, freezer, and pantry first to see what you already have.
  • Choose grains, pasta, and beans from the bulk section to control quantities.
  • Don't overbuy - stick to your list!


  • Try prepping your food immediately after you get home from shopping.
  • Marinate your food or brown ground beef while prepping fresh foods.
  • Make double portions of rice and beans.SMART Prep
  • Freeze the extra portions as ingredients for a future meal.
  • Let kids help! They are more likely to eat a meal they helped cook or prepare.

SMART Storage

Smart Storage image
  • Put an "Eat First" box in your fridge for fresh items and leftovers that need to be eaten soon.
  • Freeze fruits and greens that are about to go bad for smoothies and soups.
  • Tidy your fridge and freezer regularly.
  • Know the difference between "use-by", "sell-by", and other dates.


Food Safety

How do you know if food is safe to eat? Sometimes it's obvious - moldy or rotten food has gone bad. Other times it's hard to tell. The more time your food spends in the temperature "danger zone" (40 - 120 degrees F), the more likely it will be unsafe to eat. If you leave food out on the counter or in a hot car, it could be unsafe even before the date on the package. Keeping food properly stored and using it before it becomes unsafe will go a long way to reducing wasted food.


Dates stamped on food packages are helpful, but what do these dates really mean? Savethefood.com has useful information about food safety and product dating. Here are the basics:Food Safety

  • "Sell by" dates tell the store how long to display a product for sale. Food past this date is generally still safe to eat.
  • "Best before" dates are about food quality. After these dates foods are safe to eat, but they are past their peak flavor or quality.
  • "Use by" dates are the last dates that foods are at peak quality. These dates are set by the manufacturer and are usually about quality, not safety. After this date, food should be safe if it has been stored properly.
  • Cans: Dates stamped on cans do not have to do with food safety. As long as the can is not damaged and has not been frozen or above 90 degrees F, the canned food should be safe to eat.
  • Eggs: Even if the date stamped on eggs has passed, eat them within three to five weeks of purchasing. If they are properly stored in the refrigerator, they are safe to eat.

Remember, proper storage is key! We can't say for sure how long after "use by" dates food will be good, but if you store the food properly it should last longer. 


Donate Your Extra Food

"There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Today nearly 50 million Americans have inconsistent or unreliable access to food. This means that roughly one out of six adults and one out of five children are food insecure. Reducing food loss in the U.S. by just 15% could help feed more than 25 million Americans.


One step you can take towards reducing wasted food in your home is to donate food you no longer want or think you won't eat. It is easiest to donate commercially packaged goods that do not need refrigeration. 

Mobile Apps and Web Tools

There are numerous free and low-cost mobile apps and web tools that can help you make the most of your groceries. Try these free apps and see how much of a difference they can have in your daily life.

Cozi Cozi
Features: shopping list, meal planner, recipes, storage
Compatible with: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Love food hate waste Love Food Hate Waste
Features: portion planner, recipe "blender", hints and tips, meal planner, shopping list
Compatible with: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Grocery IQ Grocery iQ
Features: food database, coupons, barcode scanning, grocery list
Compatible with: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Food on the table Food on the Table
Features: sales/discounts by store location, recipes, meal planner, shopping list
Compatible with: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Cozi 222 Million Tons
Features: meal planner, shopping list
Compatible with: iPad


What You Can't Use, Compost!

Reducing the amount of food you waste is important, but so is what you do with your scraps and spoiled food. Consider compost. Keeping a compost bin or pile is easy. You can also put uneaten food in your City of Tacoma food/yard waste bin for composting at a local facility. Composting is a great way to put food waste to use, improve soil quality, and reduce the amount of waste that goes to the landfill. To see a helpful infographic about composting,visit the website of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a national nonprofit organization working to strengthen local economies, and redirect waste into local recycling, composting, and reuse industries.


Additional Resources

Want to learn more about the movement to prevent wasted food? These videos, articles, and related campaigns will help you stay engaged.




Good News


Reading List


Research, Articles, and Documents


Other Wasted Food Campaigns