Tips to make more, waste less food

Do you ever look in your pantry or refrigerator and think: “Where did that come from?” Then you look at the product and notice there is no way you can use that in a meal at your house; there is mold or it’s past its best-use-by date. Proper meal planning, along with utilizing what’s in your house before it goes bad, is an important way to decrease food waste.

Did you know that, on average, each American is throwing away 20 pounds of food waste per month? An important way to decrease this would be by creating a meal plan for you and your family to follow. You can start with these three easy steps:

1. Long Live Leftovers. Leftovers are a great way to use foods in your fridge that would otherwise go to waste. Try to plan one meal per week that involves leftovers. Here’s an example: Take leftover chicken breast from dinner earlier this week, combine it with pasta from the fridge and sautéed zucchini and mushrooms that were on their last leg. This will be a quick and easy meal your whole family will enjoy. You can then pair it with leftover hotdog or hamburger buns in the cheese toast recipe below.

2. Freeze Forgotten Foods. Sometimes foods we fully intend on using can get pushed to the back of our fridge, and when we find them again, they’re one day away from going in the trash. Instead of throwing them away, put them in the freezer! This can include things like hotdog or hamburger buns, bananas, berries, spinach, and other greens. One great way to use these foods again is in a protein smoothie with the Dietitian Pick of the Month, Performance Inspired Whey Protein.

3. Save Scraps. Every piece of our food is something we can make use of. This can include potato peels, carrot and celery ends and even chicken bones. Potato peels can be turned into homemade potato chips that are fun for kids to make and eat. Combining vegetable scraps or chicken bones with water and herbs can create a fantastic vegetable broth that you can use to create soup for your family. Scraps can also be turned into compost for your garden!

Decreasing food waste can be a fun way for you and your family to get creative with what meals you make for dinner. Take inventory of your fridge every night to make sure you’re having the least amount of food waste you can. Leftovers are perfect ingredients for soups. Gather up some leftovers to create this recipe!

Chicken-Broccoli Orzo Soup

Serves 4

All you need:

1 Tbsp. Hy-Vee Select olive oil

½ cup chopped fennel

½ cup chopped carrots

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups Hy-Vee 33%-less-sodium chicken broth

½ cup uncooked orzo

2 bay leaves

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts (¾ lb.)

1 cup steamed broccoli florets

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Juice of ½ lemon

Hy-Vee sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1 recipe Cheese Toasts, below

All you do:

1. Heat oil over medium heat in stock pot. Add fennel, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir until softened.

2. Stir in chicken broth, orzo and bay leaves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until orzo is tender.

3. Stir in chicken, broccoli and thyme. Cook until heated through. Just before serving, remove bay leaf and add lemon juice. Season to taste. Serve with Cheese Toasts.

Cheese Toasts: Preheat broiler. Spread 8 (½-in.) Hy-Vee Bakery baguette slices with 3 Tbsp. garlic butter spread. Sprinkle with ½ cup Hy-Vee shredded Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler, 4 to 6 in. from heat, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Dietitian Tip: Use leftover hotdog or hamburger buns in place of baguette in the Cheese Toast recipe to help reduce food waste.


Nutrition Facts per serving: 280 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 650mg sodium, 27g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 28g protein.

Daily Values: 70% vitamin A, 50% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 10% iron

Source: Hy-Vee Balance, March 2017 Issue


The information is not intended as medical advice.

Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.