Workin’ it From Home: Chopping food waste.

Workin’ it From Home: Chopping food waste.

WFH: Workin’ it From Home! This series is about supporting our environmental efforts at work by taking sustainable actions at home. Through interviews with members of the Making Moves community, we’ll learn to:

» Host zero-waste events.

» Produce pollinator-friendly yards.

» Lower our energy consumption.

» Reduce food waste.

Chopping food waste.

I’m excited to close out the WFH series with a topic becoming nearer and dearer to my heart and household: reducing food waste.

Preventing and redirecting food waste is critical across all junctures of the supply chain, from farms to grocery stores to restaurants. It is also a hugely impactful step we can take at home, as demonstrated by Project Drawdown’s chart below.

Unfortunately, reducing food waste is not as easy as repeating the “waste not, want not” mantra to ourselves. Instead, it requires shifting how we shop, plan, prep, store, and eat our meals.

For the final post, I invited Michelle Balz, a Solid Waste Manager for Hamilton County ReSource in Ohio, to help us start on a journey of saving food.

Hi Michelle! Thank you for joining the series to help us trim, stem, and chop our food waste at home (puns very much intended). I always feel pangs of guilt when I put neglected and forgotten veggies and fruit in the compost bin, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. How can we get started on a journey to reduce food waste?

The good news is, with a few small shifts in behavior we can reduce how much food we waste at home while also saving money. Start with these two easy-to-adopt behaviors:

1. Shop Intentionally. Create a grocery list to plan what you will cook before your next trip to the store. Shop your pantry and refrigerator first. What items do you need to buy, and what do you have already that needs to be prepared?

2. Store Food to Last. Learn how to store your food, especially produce, to keep it fresh longer. Did you know storing potatoes and onions next to each other makes them both go bad faster? We have a guide on our website:

My food waste nemeses are herbs and tender greens, like a Spring Mix blend. What are the most common culprits of food waste in a household?

Lettuce is a big one in my house, too. Produce is definitely the most wasted type of food. Simply placing a paper towel in with the lettuce will help absorb extra moisture and extend the life by a week.

Many people shop with healthy intentions and buy extra greens at the store that don’t end up on their plates. I used to waste a lot of cilantro until I learned that if you put the cut stems in a small glass with water and cover them with a plastic bag, it will last for weeks.

[Hold my coffee, I need to go save the cilantro in my fridge!]

Should we avoid buying items that are more “fragile” and likely to wilt before we get to them, or are there better buying, storing, and eating practices we should be using?

If you plan your meals to eat the more fragile or most likely to spoil items first (like fish or delicate salad greens), you can enjoy those items with no problem. You can also “revive” some foods; for example, placing wilted lettuce in an ice water bath will bring it back to life.

What tools or devices are helpful to have in the kitchen to properly store ingredients so they last longer or to repurpose ingredients?

Clear storage containers make it easy to see what leftovers or ingredients you placed in them, making it more likely you will eat them.

For repurposing, I love turning leftover cooked lentils or roasted veggies into a healthy sauce with a blender (regular or immersion). This is a sneaky way to get extra protein and veggies into my family’s dinner.

Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to magically preserving foods to be able to eat them later.

I get frustrated every time I see a recipe that suggests peeling carrots before cooking them, which is usually unnecessary. How can we outsmart these instructions, which contribute to food waste?

The more people cook, the more confidence they will gain in making decisions independently. “Improv” cooking classes are a great way to teach people how to make substitutions with items they have on hand or to create their own dish independent of a recipe.

I think about my grandma every time I make broth from veggie scraps or repurpose ingredients, so they don’t go to waste. Do today’s food waste reduction techniques bring us back to traditional foodways?

Yes, 100%. I love seeing the old advertisements from World War II when the government encouraged citizens to reduce their wasted food. Techniques like canning and dehydrating were used decades ago but are now coming back “en vogue” as ways to combat food waste. I think people are looking for ways to not only reduce food waste but also use less single-use packaging, and these older techniques provide great solutions.

What tips or cooking hacks do you have for those folks who dislike eating leftovers? (I often try to convert leftovers into omelets!)

Mmm, yeah, omelets are tasty! I like to use old meats and veggies in fried rice, chicken salad, or pasta dishes. Often adding just one “new” element, like fresh bread or a new vegetable, can make the dish interesting again.

Sometimes I make too much soup or chili and just cannot bear to eat it for one more meal. In those cases, I will freeze individual portions and have easy-to-grab lunches a month or two in the future. Just be sure to label it with the dish name and the date.

Where can we get additional information and resources on reducing food waste at home?

We have a super informative website at


That’s a wrap!

→ You can revisit all 4 Workin’ it From Home posts here at any time.