The 10-Minute Fridge Reality Check

Food Waste Revelations and New Habits to Try

As January fades, I can see that my New Year’s resolutions haven’t made it past the initial enthusiasm stage. Take my plan, for example, to incorporate more healthy greens into my diet: At the store, I eagerly pick up several bunches of crunchy, dark green kale that seem to explode with flavor and nutritional goodness. A week later, little of the healthful promise is left, as the greens sit limply, yellowing in my fridge. As I bury them in my compost bucket I am left wondering… what else might be hiding in my refrigerator that’s past its prime?

Time for a fridge reality check. Using Stop Food Waste’s guide, this shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and it’s best done the day before your green bin gets picked up, since you’ll likely find a few things to add to the compost. Start by removing all spoiled items, and don’t forget to go through the large assembly of condiments like the crusty jars of mustard and exotic chutney you haven’t touched in a year. Now check off the types of food you collected on the list in the guide.

The next step is key: Look at each item and think about why it went uneaten. Is it past the date shown on the package? Did you buy too much or shop without a cooking plan, as I did with my kale? Are there restaurant leftovers you proudly took home but then forgot about? Be honest—sometimes the foods we have just don’t appeal, even if they’re still edible.

Now scrape the no-longer-edible food items out of their packaging (unless the packaging is compostable) into a paper bag. (Soups and other liquids can be drained first.) How full is the bag? Check the right box in the guide for the amount, then place the bag and its contents into the green bin for composting.

Back to our list of reasons why food went to waste. Rather than making us feel guilty (okay, maybe a little guilty), it can help us avoid the same mistakes in the future. Looking at my kale snafu, I realize I hadn’t thought about what meal I was going to make with it and when, and what other ingredients I might need. The Stop Food Waste Shopping List with Meals in Mind is the perfect fix for that. Another example—the Chinese takeout leftovers that languished in the back of the fridge had escaped my attention. That’s less likely to happen now that an “Eat This First” sign designates a special area in my fridge.

Check out these and other food-saving tools to help remedy your food waste pitfalls! Give them a try for a month or so, then repeat the fridge reality check. You should see less food waste in your paper bag. Plus, you cleaned your fridge—and wasn’t that another New Year’s resolution on your list? And if you’re still looking for resolutions to make, take our Fridge Reality Check Challenge!

—Annalisa Belliss

To learn about the Stop Food Waste Challenge or view and download the 10-Minute Fridge Reality Check Guide and food saving tools, visit

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Minimizing food waste: Throughout the coming season, Edible East Bay’s e-newsletter will feature more tips as well as videos to help you cut back food waste in your own home. Sign up for the newsletter or search the website blog for the series.