20 ways to stop wasting food

Stop food waste and save money with these tips.

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
1 of 21 Alina Bradford/CNET

How many times have you thrown out leftovers, rotten vegetables and… well, something fuzzy that used to be food? Food waste not only creates stinky trash, it also wastes money. Here are some ways to make sure your food makes it to your mouth and not the landfill.

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Wait! Those leftovers may still be good

Sometimes leftovers are thrown out prematurely. According to the Mayo Clinic, most leftovers stay fresh for three to four days. Just be sure to heat the leftovers until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) to kill any bacteria that may have grown.

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Track your leftovers

So three to four days sounds OK, but the big problem is it's hard to remember just how long something has been in the fridge.

Make it easy on yourself by putting a magnetic dry erase board on your fridge door. Every time you put something new in the refrigerator, be sure to mark down the item's name and the date on the dry erase board.

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Freeze it up

If you know you're not going to eat a certain foods after three days, go ahead and freeze it. Here are some tips for freezing foods and preventing freezer burn.

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Make a grocery list

Plan out your shopping trips and only buy what you need. Ahead of your trip, decide on the foods you need for each meal. Write those foods down on your list and stick to it.

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Don't go shopping, yet

Before you go shopping, though, use up what you already have. Sites like SuperCook and BigOven help you brainstorm yummy dishes out of leftovers and other items you can't seem to get rid of.

For example, just tell the SuperCook site what items you have available using the menu on the left side of the homepage and it will come up with a list of recipes you can make with the ingredients.

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Use up leftovers

At BigOven, click on the Ideas > Use up leftovers options, then pick three ingredients that you have on hand. Then, click on BigOven, what can I make? The site will come up with a recipe to use up your ingredients.

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Bacon roll

Do you only eat a few slices of bacon at a time? Freeze bacon into a roll that dispenses slices one strip at a time with this how-to.

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Make single servings of soup

If you have leftover soup, freeze it in a muffin tin to make individual servings that can be heated up in the microwave. Here's how.

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Keep meat cold

Fresh meat that you plan on cooking in the next couple of days should be kept wrapped in the meat drawer or on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This is the coldest area and will keep your meat fresher, longer.

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Move the meats

Remember, raw poultry and ground meats should only stay in the fridge one to two days. Move them to the freezer if you won't be preparing them right away.

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Some foods go in the fridge...

Chances are, you aren't storing your foods in the right areas of your kitchen and that's why they're going bad before you get to them. Here are 31 foods that should always be kept in the fridge, like avocados, corn and ripe bananas.

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And some don't

There are other foods that stay much fresher when you store them in your pantry or on the kitchen counter. Here are 25 things you don't actually need to keep in the fridge.

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Make sure foods are dry

Dampness can make fruits and veggies ruin faster. To keep them in peak condition longer, make sure  the vegetable drawer or crisper is lined with dry, clean paper towels before you add the produce.

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Don't toss squishy veggies

Squishy veggies may not seem very appetizing, but don't throw them out. If they have no signs of mold, chop them up and make soup, a casserole or another dish where soft vegetables are A-OK.

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Unbag it

Also, don't leave fruits and vegetables in their plastic grocery bags. This will make them spoil faster. Put them in an open mesh bag, a plastic organizing basket or just leave them loose in the crisper drawer.

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Forget fresh

If you always seem to let fruits and vegetables ruin no matter how hard you try, consider buying canned or frozen. According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, a nonprofit in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, produce canned in water (not syrup) and frozen items are healthy choices.

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Revamp bread

You don't need to throw out bread just because it's stale. Try putting it in the microwave with a glass of water for 30 seconds on high. The steam will soften the bread.

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Perk up wilted salad

If your salad is a little limp, don't toss it. You can perk it up by soaking it in cold water for around 30 minutes. Then drain the water and dry the veggies in a salad spinner.

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Keep herbs perky

Wilted fresh herbs are a bummer. To keep them perky, skip rinsing them right away. Water will make the leaves rot. Instead, trim the stems and put them in a glass of water on a window sill. Just remember to rinse the herbs before you use them.

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Keep track of expiration dates with an app

If you've ever come across lumpy milk or cheese with mold growing on it, you probably have a hard time keeping up with your foods' expiration dates. Luckily, there's an app for that. Fridgely on iOS, for example, will scan your grocery receipt or barcodes and will alert you when a food is about to spoil. Expired & Grocery Monitor for Android also lets you scan bar codes with your phone to keep track of your foods' freshness.

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