Live Consciously

3 Ways to Waste Less Food, According to Chef and Activist Tom Colicchio


Tom Colicchio knows a thing or two about food waste.

“My wife likes to joke that I’m a Depression-era housewife,” Colicchio shared at Food Tank’s Food Waste Summit. The celebrity chef and activist, who is owner of Crafted Hospitality restaurant group, was referring to his obsession with not wasting food, which is a topic that’s been getting more and more attention due to some staggering stats. In the U.S., the USDA estimates that 30% to 40% of food produced is wasted. That added up to 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010, when the USDA last offered stats. (And you thought Sweetgreen was expensive.)

Why should you care, though? After all, you’re now old enough to know that clearing your dinner plate won’t, in fact, help feed starving children in Ethiopia, despite what your mother told you.

First, you’re basically throwing your money in the garbage. The most recent stats from Nutrition Connect, an initiative of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), found the average American family spends more than $1,600 a year (that’s a vacation!) on uneaten produce alone. Most importantly, food waste is the largest category of garbage filling landfills. Once in the landfill, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change. It’s also bad for the planet since it’s not just wasted food, it’s a waste of all of the resources (like water and transportation) that go into its production.

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“The real cost of food isn’t understood,” Colicchio said, referencing how cheap the end cost of food can be in America, a fact that confuses our perception. “We don’t value food.”

Ready to start trying? Here are a few simple tips from Colicchio that will help you cut food waste, save the planet, and put money back in your pockets. Win-win-win!

3 Tips to Cut Food Waste

1. FIFO your fridge.

Eat Food from this shelf first handmade sign in fridge, eat food first area to help reduce food waste, know where to look first, simple reduce food waste concept.
There’s a rule in restaurant kitchens referred to as FIFO, and it stands for “first in, first out.” Every time you stock the fridge, you take the older stuff out and move it to the front, putting the newer, fresher foods behind. This prevents you from forgetting about things that are hidden before they go bad. It’s a super simple strategy that adds a couple of extra minutes to your post-grocery routine but makes a huge difference.

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2. Get to know your freezer.

Our collective obsession with fresh ingredients in restaurants might have steered us a little too far from our freezers, according to Colicchio. Everything fresh all of the time is “a great strategy for restaurants, but not necessarily for home,” he said, where it’s often hard to finish foods in the quantities they’re sold in. His tip: Freeze stuff! When he buys too much kale, for example, he blanches it and freezes it. When tomatoes are popping at the farmers’ market, he freezes a bunch and then turns them into sauce at a later date.

3. Eat out.

This may sound a little self-serving coming from a chef, but it’s true. While we recommend cooking at home as much as possible to ensure healthy ingredients, restaurants are better at managing food waste than consumers are. (Makes sense since every food item purchased equals dollars on a spreadsheet for restaurants). So, consider this your one good excuse to dine out a little more often than you should.

Tell your friends about how you’re working on reducing food waste, too. “We’ve got to get this message out to more people,” Colicchio said. “Nobody wants to waste money. Nobody wants to waste food.”

(Images: Shutterstock)

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