Too-soft mango or kiwi can be frozen and later used for smoothies.

By Kathryn McLean

Each year as April approaches I start thinking of kitchen tips I can offer that are in line with Earth Day. This year I have some suggestions for reducing food waste.

The plastic containers filled with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries that we buy at the supermarket are designed for storing berries, and keeping them fresh. Most berries will stay fresh for at least five days if you keep them in those containers, in the fridge.

But don’t rinse the berries until you’re ready to use them! The sooner you run water over them, the sooner they’ll start turning mushy. To keep berries fresh, simply place them directly in the fridge in the plastic containers they came in.

When you buy boxed salad greens, spinach or arugula check the date on the package while you’re still at the store. Choose one with a best-before date at least five days ahead.

Once home, open the package and place a small kitchen cloth inside to absorb any extra moisture. You can also use a coffee filter or paper towel but, in the spirit of reducing waste, a reusable cloth is preferable to a disposable paper.

Did some fresh fruit get away from you? Don’t be so quick to toss it in the green bin. Overripe bananas can go into the freezer, just as they are, in their skins. No need to peel and chop, and don’t waste a freezer bag or other container. The banana’s skin will protect the fruit. When you’re ready to use a banana in a smoothie, simply peel away the skin with a small knife and chop into chunks for the blender.

If you want to use defrosted bananas in baking (such as a muffin or banana bread recipe), thaw your bananas on a dish on the counter for 30 minutes. Cut one end of the skin off the fruit and the bananas will slide out. Add any liquid that accumulates in the dish to the recipe as well.

Too-soft mango or kiwi, can be frozen as well. Cut off the skin and any brown spots, chop the fruit into large cubes and spread it onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer, and transfer the pieces to a freezer-safe storage container once they’re solid. Use the frozen fruit for smoothies.

Maybe your household doesn’t use up an entire loaf of bread before it starts to get mouldy. Place sliced bread (in a plastic bag) in the freezer. You can make toast with frozen slices of bread. Or place a few frozen slices, covered, on the counter for an hour until they’re soft, then continue to make your sandwich.

If you bought a few pounds of butter because it was on sale, but are concerned about it staying fresh in the fridge for longer than a few weeks, go ahead and put it in the freezer, too.

Unwrapped butter should stay fresh for eight weeks in the fridge, but the freezer will keep it safe for three months. Defrost butter in the fridge overnight, or on the counter for approximately four hours.

And what about those last bits of sauces and condiments in the bottoms of their jars? Before you rinse out the container, try to use up all the food left inside. Use a small silicone spatula, or even a regular knife or spoon, to scrape the last bits of peanut butter, mustard, mayonnaise, yogurt or jam from its jar or tub.

Try adding oil and vinegar to the last of the mustard or jam in a jar and make it into a salad dressing.

Finally, be mindful when you buy in bulk. Buy only what you need. Toilet paper won’t go bad, but can you really use all those English muffins or fresh oranges before they go bad?

Buying what you can use while it’s fresh will help cut down on waste, just as storing your fresh items properly can help, too. Even a little bit is better than nothing!