American consumers waste nearly 40% of the food they buy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s about 100 million tons and, by all accounts, way too much. There are simple ways to tag in as part of the solution and not the problem, and wasting less food in your own home is ground zero.
Being a savvy consumer and not overbuying is one way to curb your kitchen’s carbon footprint. Meal kits can also help with food waste since they send only the ingredients you need for cooking a lunch or dinner recipe in the correct portion sizes. But there are other ways to keep perfectly edible food from spoiling and out of trashcans and landfills.
Simple household items promote sustainability, such as reusable baggies and airtight canisters since they’ll extend the life of most food. Other, more high-tech fixes for food waste include compost bins, vacuum sealers and canning systems.
Well intended as we may be, we could all stand to waste a little less. Below you’ll find a few of the best tools and kitchen appliances to fight food waste in 2023.
Read more: These kitchen gadgets will save you time
Are you overambitious about organic fruits and vegetables? Maybe you stock up on fresh foods because you intend to eat healthier, but you don’t always get to that fridge drawer full of produce before those foods start to go bad. A great way to tackle these challenges is to get yourself a juicer to reduce the excess food.
If space is an issue, something like this quiet and powerful Hurom juicer takes up a smaller countertop footprint than most. With a high-quality juicer, everything from apples to zucchini can be salvaged before they brown and wilt. Toss in all those overripe fruits (remove the really bad parts first), or turn a large, daunting bunch of leafy greens into just a little bit of potent, green juice — perfect for those pears you forgot about or that bag of kale you have no energy to cook. Mix with your milk or alt-milk of choice (almond and coconut are nice options) or balance out with other milder juices like that from cucumber, celery or apples.
A compost bin
For some, a juicer is the gateway appliance to composting. With all that dried out, vitamin-stripped leftover pulp it’s hard not to notice how much edible food matter you throw away. Even if you don’t juice, you’re likely tossing onion skins, carrot tops, herb stems, eggshells and more into the garbage from everyday cooking. If you’re looking to lessen your impact on landfills, a compost bin is the way to go. Obviously, this is only doable if you have some outdoor space to work with or if you’re lucky enough to live in a city like San Francisco, which provides a curbside composting program.
For those with a yard, investing in a big, basic compost bin or a space-saving rotating tumbler bin will get you started on returning your food scraps from whence they came, creating nutrient-rich soil. Check out CNET’s guide to composting for tips on what and what not to put into your bin.
Whether you DIY or have your compost picked up for composting facilities, you can either freeze your fresh food scraps until you take them out or you can get real fancy with pretty countertop bins like this sleek wooden one or this cream metal model. Or get cute with this classic bucket design in eco-friendly bamboo. Practical and a great conversation piece for pushing your sustainable, environmental agenda on friends and family.
A vacuum sealer
If your main problem is that you so want to use that meat and produce in meals, but you can never get to cooking before it all goes bad, a vacuum sealer might be your new best friend.
The Anova vacuum sealer, for example, is designed for sous vide cooking, but also helps you out with preventing food waste in a few different ways. The most obvious use of a vacuum sealer is to remove oxygen from food — this slows down the growth of mold and bacteria, extending the life of your groceries. Another way a vacuum sealer can help cut down on solid waste is by enabling better meal prep. The vacuum bags allow you to pack more individually sealed meals in the freezer than you can with unwieldy containers, making it easier to tackle that big bag of vegetables or the meat you buy in bulk (Costco steak, for example). Cook it all in one fell swoop, and store it away with those space-saving food-preserving bags.
Large freezer trays
Leftover wine, extra sauce and unused herbs shouldn’t be wasted. In fact, the next time a recipe calls for some dry red or a muddle of mint, you’ll be glad you stocked up on these silicone trays.
For food storage, you’ll want freezer trays with more capacity than your average ice tray. Also, spring for a tray with a lid since spilling leftover braising liquid is a much more involved cleanup than water. Silicone is the best material since it’s easy to get clean and won’t crack in the cold.
Canning and fermenting kits
Maybe you’re the type that likes vinyl records, hand-brewed coffee and homemade gifts. You want to prolong the life of your food, but a vacuum sealer seems too high-tech. The solution could be starting up a new hobby rooted in the olden days: canning.
Get this multiuse water bath canner and you’ll nearly everything you need to dip into this historical preservation process. (At-home canning typically uses jars, so you will need to buy these separately.) This kit uses a water bath to heat the jar contents, killing off bacteria and creating a vacuum seal to keep out air. Make preserves, salsas and more with your surplus fruits and veggies and store these all without taking up any precious refrigerator space.
If you like tangy flavors from live cultures, you can use the above kit for fermenting foods, but you’ll have a simpler time with this Easy Fermenter Kit. Make fermented pickles, kimchi or any other probiotic-packed foods with this kit, which has special lids that let the fermentation gases out of jars. With a regular canning kit, you would need to “burp” the jars to prevent that gas from building up — otherwise, you run the risk of an exploding-jar situation! With either kit, you’re able to store up fruits and veggies before they go bad in a wonderfully folksy way and you might just turn into that person who always has a gift of pickles or preserves ready to go for birthdays or the holidays.
Food storage containers
It could be that you don’t want any new gadgets or hobbies — you just need a little help storing and using your groceries more effectively. For these situations, a new set of storage containers might be all you need.
Ideal for dry goods, air-tight OXO Pop containers help you keep cereal, snacks and pasta organized and fresh. Storing foods in containers like these help you steer clear of those contentious conversations about this roommate that forgot to use the chip clip, or that family member who thinks rolling the bag top is good enough to prevent stale cereal (yeah, right!). And, with clear, neat containers, foods will stay visible and front of mind, making it more likely that you’ll remember to use them.
If you have good heavy-duty storage bags on hand, you’re more like to make a habit of keeping extra food and leftovers versus tossing it. Stasher bags are made from silicone so they’re washable and reusable, and have a leak-proof seal. You can use them in the fridge or freezer and even cook in them (sous vide, steam or microwave), and they’re dishwasher safe.
Instead of just telling yourself to “do better” with food waste disposal, equip yourself with tools that’ll help you fight the good fight when it comes to waste and recycling solutions. Figure out which products will work best for you and make the biggest global impact, and incorporate them into your organization and food-prep routine — you’ll find you’re tossing less organic waste into the garbage and maybe even upping your fruit and veggie intake.