Don’t Cry Over Spoiled Milk: Tips for Reducing Your Food Waste

It is estimated that 25 to 40 percent of all food in the United States is never eaten. This means that much of the food we purchase ends up in the garbage, resulting in wasted money and environmental harm. According to the Journal of Dairy Science, dairy products are the second most frequently wasted food by consumers, behind fruits and vegetables. The issue of food waste appears to be growing, with the average American consumer now wasting over 50 percent more food than the average consumer in the 1970s. Individuals and organizations around the United States are teaming up to fight this growing food waste problem during Food Waste Prevention Week taking place April 10-16, 2023. All are invited to join the cause and make simple changes to reduce food waste while saving money and the planet. 

Planning Ahead

One of the best ways to prevent wasting food in our homes is planning ahead and not buying more than we need at the grocery store. Planning meals out ahead of time and making a grocery list can help ensure that the items purchased will be used for a specific recipe. It is also recommended to first “shop your pantry” by taking a look in the pantry and refrigerator when making a grocery list to double check if any of the recipe ingredients are already in your home. Of course, there will always be leftovers or impulse buys, but meal planning and making a list ahead of time can help reduce unnecessary purchases and wasted food.

Storing and Repurposing Dairy Foods

Storing foods properly is important to prevent foodborne illness, but it also reduces food waste by making sure that foods are eaten before they go bad. Check out the tips below for safely storing and using your favorite dairy foods:

  • Store dairy products at a temperature of 32°– 40° F. 
  • Refrigerate dairy products as soon as you arrive home after grocery shopping. 
  • Don’t let foods sit out for more than two hours unrefrigerated. 
  • Past the sell-by or best-by date? Check for signs of mold or an “off” smell. Otherwise, many foods can be used a week or two beyond the sell-by or best-by date. 
  • Milk, yogurt, and most cheeses can be frozen and later thawed for use. 

Not sure how to use up that last bit of milk, yogurt, or cheese? Try these tasty Food Hero recipes to use up your extra dairy foods:




We can all do our part to reduce food waste by being more conscious about using what we already have in the pantry and fridge and getting creative with leftover foods. Food Hero is an excellent resource for delicious, budget-friendly recipes and helpful nutrition tips. For more ideas on using up specific ingredients before they go bad, click here. Join the fight against food waste and take the Food Waste Prevention Week pledge by clicking here

Author Kali Anderson is a dietetic intern at Oregon State University. 


Taste Not Waste