Reducing Food Waste

berry40% of the U.S. food supply is discarded each year. There's a lot each of us can do to reduce this staggering amount of waste. 

Use the links on this page to learn more, and, if you have questions, contact our office by sending email to recycle@FrederickCountyMD.govTrying any - or all - of the five steps on this page will lead you down the path to reducing your "waste-line!" Thanks for thinking about this topic and helping manage your community - and planet's - resources better. 

Step 1: Assess the Problem

Get started with a Food Waste Log, because the first step in reducing waste is figuring how much you're actually wasting! Take a week or two to observe your household's average waste- it's enlightening and will inspire you to action, as well as help measure your progress.

Don't have time to log waste for the recommended week or two? Here's a "10 Minute Fridge Check" to get you started.

Don't even have 10 minutes to spare? Take this quick online quiz to get started and you'll get recommended resources based on your results.

Have an upper-elementary aged student? Need to recruit some household help? Print the "Garbologist Adventure" guide to make it a family learning project.

Step 2: Know Your Inventory

These printable sheets are excellent tools to help you better manage the food in your kitchen:

Or, go modern and use the Cozzo app, a "food, home and personal supplies manager" combined with a shopping and cooking planner and bar code scanner that tracks expiration dates.

Knowing what you actually have to work with sets you up to try a "Pantry Challenge." The idea here is to use up and clean out your existing food inventory, to save money, reduce waste AND help you see how to adjust your shopping habits.

Step 3: Smart Storage

Putting food in the wrong places decreases its shelf life. Not sure what goes where? Print this handy Fruit & Veggie Storage Guide or post this "The Refrigerator Demystified" flyer right on the front of the fridge (so no one can argue about what goes where...)

Need knowledge on how to store, well, everything?! Save The Food has it covered.

Now that it's stored do you get people to actually use it?! Notify hungry eaters what most needs to be consumed by printing a "Eat This First!" sign for your fridge and pantry. Use it to label a bin and put at-risk foods inside to get the attention they need.

Not sure if you really should still eat something? Check the searchable database of food guides at or

Step 4: Smart Planning & Shopping

These two steps two go hand in hand, because it takes a plan to shop better and reduce waste. When we don't really know "what's for dinner?" we tend to make impulse purchases, overbuy, and pick up things we won't actually use later. The ideal is to have a plan that uses the ingredients you already have on-hand in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, then supplement with a few fresh, new ingredients from the store…NOT shop first then try to figure out what to do with it. "Shopping" from your pantry allows you to assess what you have, before it goes bad, and use it up! Staying focused on that plan and sticking to your list at the store reduces waste and saves you money!

If you're ready, now's the time to tackle a full-on pantry shopping challenge, so here's a beautiful guidebook on how to do that!

If you're not ready to work your way through your full pantry food stash just yet, consider implementing "Waste-Free Wednesdays" or "Thrifty Thursdays" to dedicate one or two days every week to creating a meal from ingredients on hand and/or using up leftovers!

  • Here's some starter ideas if you're new to meal planning.
  • This neat template combines a meal planner and shopping list on one easy page- plus takes into account what ingredients you already have!
  • Here's an entire website dedicated to meal planning and prep with waste reduction (use what you have!) in mind
  • Want a digital assistant to make all of this easier? Check out these 14 recommended meal planning app options(We tried and loved MealLime! Let us know which app works best for you.)

Step 5: Clever Cooking

Visit Save The Food's website and use their free app to know how much food to cook when guests are coming...and here are tips on what to do when the food is burned, wilted or stale!

Uninspired by your leftovers? Got food that's about to expire? Here are three terrific websites designed to reduce waste by letting you find recipes that include your specific ingredients, transform leftovers, and use not-quite-fresh produce: 

Consider canning! Whether it's a simple, quick refrigerator pickle process for your old veggies, or, a plan to put away produce for winter, canning can help reduce food waste and increase your fruit and vegetable intake. 

But wait, there's more!

In 2020, The Northeast Recycling Council hosted a virtual "ReCook Cafe" featuring professional chefs sharing their favorite tips, tricks, and techniques to help home cooks get the most out of their food, reducing waste while creating delicious dishes. Here are some great resources from this event:

  • Amazing Waste! Here's an entire cookbook produced by the University of Wisconsin that is dedicated to using more of the food you buy - from repurposing scraps, to preserving your produce, to reinventing what you consider "waste!"  68 pages of recipes, tips and ways to waste less in the kitchen.
  • Chef McCarthy's Food Waste Hacks One of the resources shared was a series of recipes from Chef Jim McCarthy that use "old" or "extra" produce parts as well as a fascinating worksheet that lists ways to salvage food that you might think is expired or even moldy!
  • Chef Morgan Waite's "Beetza" Recipe This expert discussed "root to stem cooking," a fancy term for fully using all the parts of a fruit or a vegetable. This recipe uses an unexpected item (beets) to make a common dish (pizza!) and wastes nothing in the process.

Ready for summer guests? Here's a guide to "How To Host A Less Waste BBQ!" 


THEN, please consider donating your excess food!