Planning ahead to reduce food waste

Tips for getting the most out of your food while cutting back on waste.

Did you know the average person wastes approximately 20 pounds of food per month? Food waste is a growing problem in the U.S. In fact, it has been estimated that household food waste contributes to 44 percent of the total U.S. food waste. What can you do to help reduce waste in your home? There are several ways to help reduce household waste in your home, including:

Avoid over preparing

Only prepare what you actually need by planning meals in advance. This strategy allows you minimize waste by only purchasing food you intend you use. What’s Cooking?, the USDA Mixing Bowl, is a great resource to get you started that allows you to create and print your own cookbook, build healthy menus, create shopping lists, browse recipes by nutrition themes and watch how-to videos of recipes.

Repurpose leftovers

Challenge yourself to a “Chopped” competition right in your own kitchen. Utilize the USDA’s What’s Cooking? website to turn leftover food items into a new meal. Try to select recipes that you already have the ingredients for. Whenever possible, it is important to use the food you already have before buying more. You can freeze leftovers into individual meals to use for lunches or have a freezer container for bits of leftover vegetables that can then be added to sauces or soups for added nutrition.

Practice food safety techniques

Use techniques such as proper storing, cooking and handling. Learn how to extend the shelf life of your food with the FoodKeeper app available for both Android and Apple devices. The FoodKeeper app provides credible information on how to make informed decisions when shopping for groceries, storing food, evaluating food product dates and preparing fresh produce.

Preserve what you don’t use

Canning, freezing and drying are great ways to preserve surplus produce anytime of the year. Learn how to preserve your favorite foods using research-based recipes. Michigan FRESH is a great resource to use if you don’t know where to start. Michigan State University Extension also has an online course available.

With Easter right around the corner, here is a quick and easy recipe from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program Cookbook to get you started using your leftovers and eliminating food waste.

Potato and Ham Skillet with Eggs

Servings: 6

Fully cooked ham is featured in this recipe. This recipe serves ham with vegetables and potatoes for a meal prepared in one skillet.


  • 2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 6 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces ham (chopped, about 1 cup)
  • 1 green pepper (chopped)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 onions (small, chopped)
  • 1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese (shredded)


  1. In a medium-size skillet, cook potatoes in oil over medium heat until just soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in onion, green peppers, and ham, and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Pour eggs and black pepper over potato mixture in pan, and sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until eggs are firm and cheese is melted.

Source: Recipe adapted from Commodity Supplemental Food Program Cookbook

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