7 Tips for Cutting Down On Food Waste from Tom Colicchio

October 24, 2015

Tom Colicchio may be better known as Padma Lakshmi's smooth-headed counterpart on Top Chef or as a James Beard Award-winning chef, restauranteur, and author. Now he has a new title under his belt: protector of produce. 


Yesterday we spoke with him about food waste, a topic near and dear to him, at an event for Taste Not Waste at his flagship restaurant Craft in New York City. After a demo on roasting carrots (and tossing the chopped leaves into a wheatberry salad), he gave us a few great ideas for how to cut down on food waste at home.

  • Plan ahead. Words of wisdom. "Planning is a luxury," he admits. However, it's a step that can save money, time, and potentially wasted food. By plotting out a weekly menu, you can better budget grocery runs, don't have to rack your brain for what to make day-to-day, and buy only what you need. If you're trying to figure out meals for your weekly menu, we have a few ideas.
  • Buy less more often. Many people buy wholesale or from super centers thinking they may be saving themselves money as well as several trips to the market. However, buying produce in bulk is far from a guarantee of freshness. The best thing for your wallet (and the planet)? Buy what you need when you need it. A quick stop to your local grocer every few days for fresh produce will prove beneficial to your palate and the earth.
  • Can it! An avid home gardener and canner, Colicchio believes that a great way to resource conservation is food preservation. Using carrot roots for cake and leaves for a salad, but unsure of what to do with the stems? He says "pickle 'em!"

  • Get creative. Colicchio says it's not about following recipes, but about experimenting with what you have! He's a big fan of repourposing leftover food or ingredients that can roll over from one meal to the next. We couldn't agree more.
  • Teach them. He believes that the key for food scraps to be used as regular ingredients is to teach others (especially kids!) that food scraps are, well, food
  • Get to know your fridge/freezer. He suggests looking at your refrigerator's instruction manual to get a better sense of where certain foods should be stored, depending on humidity and temperature. Cooked more peas than you'd please? Bag and freeze them! Just like store-bought frozen vegetables, thaw them out for a future meal
  • Compost. Tossing food in the trash contributes to such a high volume of greenhouse gases that, according to Colicchio, "If food were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of methane." Don't compost yet? Start now!

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Are any of these pointers familiar to you? What do you do to prevent the waste of food at home?

Scraps by James Ransom, Carrots by Bobbi Lin, Eggshells by Anna Hezel

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Gina Ursino
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    Alice ter Meulen
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    fefe sean
  • Dana C
    Dana C
Gabi Benedit

Written by: Gabi Benedit

domestic dilettante.


Gina U. April 10, 2016
Forget global warming how about global feeding. For all the food we waste we could help others. Hunger is very real like waste and I am much more concerned about feeding another human being then what my peels do to the environment
Nance March 30, 2016
Make it a point to eat the peels of many fruits and vegies - some are more nutritious than what's inside them. (Apples, carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, etc.
Composting can be daunting for a small household garbage producer, but vermicomposting using redworms can be done in a small space and yields delicious (for plants) castings.
Alice T. October 26, 2015
First, teach your kids to serve themselves, i.e. put on their plates what they commit to eating up, and perhaps come back for seconds. Piling plates full is a bad habit kids learn in school cafetaria, where most food is wasted. Then make soup or stock from left over veggie trimmings, anything goes as long as you wash off the sand, dirt or funghi, and use that stock in a nice soup with freh veggies added or pumpkins or squash. Water in which you soaked beans makes a great stock too, as is the water in which you cooked the fresh, raw beetroots. Don't buy expensive pieces of chicken, but buy a whole one, cut it to pieces as needed or roast whole with herbs, lemon and garlic under the skin, and make a terrific chicken stock with all bones and left over skin etc. Leave to cool overnight and cook up once again in the morning, drain and use for anything. Freezes very well too.
fefe S. October 25, 2015
I am a 4th year student at Ontario College of Art and Design University and currently doing my final project about ‘Design for the kitchen: Rethinking Behaviour Around Food’.
I really want to help reduce food waste in the home through my design.

Please help me to fill this survey

Feel free to email me if you have question or any comments

[email protected]

Thank you,
Dana C. October 25, 2015
I love the ideas presented here. I was raised with the phrase, "Use it up; wear it out; make it do or do without. Our grandparents and great grandparents were "green" as a natural behavior that existed long before the hipsters. I love Food 52 and I often make the recipes. I always enjoy the beautiful photography. However, I am disappointed about the comment in this article about global warming. Food 52 does have a very liberal lean (maybe you can’t help it being I NYC). Global warming just doesn’t exist no matter how much you want it to and global warming policies will have a devastating impact on the poor in third world countries. I wonder how much the poor in countries like Indian benefit from your over-priced online catalog?
Betsey October 27, 2015
hilary October 25, 2015
I do all these things and have since I was a kid, except planning a week ahead. I don't have the time or where with all to look farther than a few days ahead and generally just pull something together from a well stocked "larder". I do though find it incredibly useful to clean, (or lets be realistic) to tidy my refrigerator every week and thus have fresh in my mind what is in it and what I DONT have to purchase. This one task above all others has limited my food waste and my compost is smaller than last year and my freezer gets rotated more thoroughly.
Smaug October 24, 2015
It would be nice if local markets were a dependable place to buy produce, but supermarket produce is hugely overpriced and generally only good cosmetically- a lot of the time you have to buy it when and where you can get it, or grow your own. Things like pickling carrot stems are cute, but pretty impractical for a home cook who might only have three of them. Composting is vital; if you can't do your own- or don't have a garden to use it in- most garbage companies (at least in my area) now collect food scraps- including things like cheesed-out pizza boxes and ice cream cartons- as green waste. They seem to feel that the salt, ink etc. are harmless; who am I to question them?
Seth C. October 25, 2015
When it comes to pickling if you only have 3 carrots you can add other vegetables to it as well. I did one with carrots, beets, and some left over ginger. Other options might include curing in a nice olive oil and using scraps for a veg medley that way which is wonderful on toasted baguette with a little shredded cheese on top.
Smaug October 25, 2015
Not inconceivable, but hardly something you could count on. We're talking carrot stems, not carrots- more likely additions are green tops from tomatoes, ribs from jalapenos, onion skins, maybe some sprouted potato eyes- I think I'll stick to the compost pile.
Bella B. October 24, 2015
Saving waste is so important! When cooking or baking you can so easily waste so much of what you used! I find planning meals for the week ahead of time really helps to organize myself but also prevent myself from wasting food!

xoxoBella |