With the cost of food rising, it’s more important than ever to waste less of the food we purchase.

According to the Agriculture Department, as much as 40% of our food supply ends up in the trash or compost bin. More than a third of that stems from wasteful kitchen habits, says the USDA.

We all are guilty of buying food that just hangs out in our refrigerator and we end up throwing it away: overripe bananas, broccoli stems, moldy cheese, even milk sometimes.

Or maybe it ends up there because we purchased too much or didn’t end up eating the leftovers like we planned.

It takes up space in landfills, not to mention the money we threw away. The average American (myself included) ends up spending $1,300 a year on food that ends up in the trash.

The good news is we can make a change by adopting a few simple habits in the kitchen.

» Freeze overripe bananas or use them in banana bread or a smoothie along with leftover berries.

» Toss leftover spaghetti or macaroni noodles into a soup. Repurpose meatballs into a sandwich.

» Organize your refrigerator and freezer by “first in, first out” dates. Put the oldest foods in front where you’re more likely to grab them and the newer ones toward the back.

» Keep a running list of what’s in your freezer either on your computer or on a dry-erase board. Date and label each package so you know what’s in each package.

» You can freeze hard cheeses such as Parmesan, and you can freeze yogurt, milk and even whipped cream into ice cube trays to pop into a smoothie or hot cocoa. Bread can be frozen as well; just thaw it in the same package you froze it in.

» Store your herbs, celery and asparagus cut-end down in a glass of water in the refrigerator to keep them crisp and to help them last longer.

» Before your citrus goes bad, juice it, then add it to a marinade or salad dressing or freeze it.

» Homemade vegetable soup is a great way to use up those extra bits and pieces of vegetables in the crisper: broccoli (stems, too), cauliflower (leaves, too) and corn, wilted kale and spinach, leftover winter squash, wrinkly carrots, potatoes — all can be added.

» If you prefer roasting your veggies, cut them in equal parts, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and your favorite spices, and place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes. Roasting brings out the flavors.

» Plan your menus before you go to the grocery store. That way you’ll buy what you need rather than making impulse purchases.


Q: Is it a good idea to use a salt substitute instead of salt?

A: Compared with regular salt intake, using a salt substitute was associated with better outcomes for stroke prevention and quality-adjusted life years gained, according to a new data from the Salt Substitute and Stroke Study. The study, published in the journal Circulation, looked at more than 20,000 adults living in rural China who had had a prior stroke.

The rate of stroke was 14% lower with use of a salt substitute in the cohort of adults who had a prior stroke or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

That’s pretty convincing. At least some of the time, it might be wise to switch to a salt substitute.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

Here’s a way to use those too-ripe bananas. It’s from EatingWell magazine. While I don’t typically share desserts, this one has the nutritional advantage of whole-wheat flour, which boosts the fiber.


» ¾ cup whole-wheat flour

» ¾ cup all-purpose flour

» 1½ teaspoons baking powder

» 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

» ½ teaspoon baking soda

» ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

» ¼ teaspoon salt

» 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium)

» ½ cup buttermilk or nonfat plain yogurt

» 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

» ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar

» 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

» ¼ cup canola or avocado oil

» 2 large eggs

» ¼ cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl.

In another smaller bowl, whisk, banana, buttermilk (or yogurt) and vanilla. Beat brown sugar, butter and oil with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold in the flour and banana mixtures in 2 alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Gently stir in chocolate.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake the cake 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for about 30 minutes. Invert the cake and serve.


Serves 12: 1 piece each

Per serving: 228 calories; 29 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams protein; 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated); 42 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams total sugars (9 grams added); 2 grams fiber; 195 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.