Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food

Imagine walking out of the grocery store with four bags full of fresh food, dropping one entire bag, and not bothering to pick it up.  Seems crazy, but that’s essentially what most of us are doing all the time. Yup, the lettuce that went bad, the leftovers you never got around to eating, and the science experiment in the back of the fridge you’re hoping your housemate will clean up one day—they all add up to 15 to 25 percent of the food you buy going uneaten, and about $30 every month and all the energy, water, labor, and love that it took to get that food to you along with it. Despite a growing awareness of food waste, many well-intentioned home cooks lack the tools to change their habits. In Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, Natural Resources Defense Council scientist Dana Gunders dispels the illusion that addressing food-waste issues requires tons of your time and money. By showing how to shop smarter, portion more accurately, and simply use a refrigerator properly, Gunders gives the tools (and easy, practical “use-it-up” recipes) to produce less waste and eat more consciously. It even includes a reference section that covers details for over 85 products, such as whether the green tops of strawberries are edible and whether tomatoes belong in the refrigerator. Making a difference has never been easier or more delicious!

Praise for Waste Free Kitchen Handbook

“Gunders’ slim but indispensable new guide…offers up easy, practical tips and delicious recipes that will help reduce kitchen waste and save money.”

–Washington Post

“Gunders is…a fine coach for the growing number of chefs and consumers who regret that ‘about 40 percent of all food in the United States does not get eaten.'” 

Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Photo from: www.danagunders.com

Dana Gunders is a leading national expert on food waste reduction and was deemed “the woman who helped start the waste-free movement” by Consumer Reports. For almost a decade, she was a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and one of the first to bring to light just how much food is wasted across the country through her 2012 report Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Dana is the author of Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, has testified in Congress, is behind the (a national media campaign that has generated over $60M in donated media to date), and is a founding member of ReFED’s Steering Committee. Dana’s work to reduce food waste has been covered on CNN, NBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, NPR, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Dr. Oz, Munchies and many other outlets. After leaving NRDC in January 2018, Dana now advises companies, investors, and government agencies on food waste reduction via her new business, Next Course LLC. She also spends far too much time trying to get her two small children to throw less food on the floor. Dana on Twitter: @DGunders. Dana on Instagram: @dana.gunders. Got inspiration? Send photos, recipes, and tips to Food Waste Warrior.

Real Food Reads Recipes

Dana has chosen two of her favorite use-it-up recipes from the 20+ recipes you will find in her book. In her words “my favorites are the sour milk pancakes and the avocado chocolate mousse. Both use up things we often throw out, and taste totally delicious (contrary to how they may sound).” With recipes like these, applying that food waste warrior mindset doesn’t seem difficult at all.

Buried Chocolate Mousse 

Uses up: Overripe avocados, fruit, nuts
Optional toppings: Raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries, shredded coconut, candied citrus peel, chopped nuts, whipped cream

2 Large ripe or slightly overripe avocados
1/4 cup/60 ml milk, milk substitute, or yogurt (optional)
1/2 cup/60 ml agave nectar, maple syrup, honey or superfine sugar, plus more if desired
5 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more if desired
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt 


  1. Scoop the avocado flesh into a food processor. Add the milk (if using), agave nectar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and process until free of lumps and velvety in texture.
  2. Taste and add more sweetener if it’s not sweet enough for you; or add more cocoa powder (just 1tsp at a time) if you want a darker chocolate flavor. (Alternatively, if making by hand, mash the avocados with a fork first, then mash in the remaining ingredients.)
  3. Serve plain or with one of the toppings. The mousse will keep for at least 1 week in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but honestly it’s so delicious that the chances of it lasting that long are slim.

Note: If you have small avocados, blend them with 5 Tbsp sweetener, 3 Tbsp cocoa, 1 tsp vanilla, and a small pinch of salt. Taste, then add small amounts of cocoa and/or sweetener until you hit a balance of sweet to chocolate that you like.

Sour Milk Pancakes

Uses up: milk that is beginning to sour

Optional toppings: maple syrup, raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries, sliced banana


1 Cup/120g all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour (or use 1/2 cup/60g of each)
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup/240ml sour milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil, such as light olive, grapeseed or canola
Butter or oil for the pan


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until well combined.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, and oil.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and blend in the milk mixture until the batter is smooth.
  4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat with a little butter.
  5. Ladle 1/4 cup/60ml batter onto the pan to make 4- to 5 in or 10-12 pancakes.
  6. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbles appear and “dry out,” then flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes on the second side.
  7. Repeat with the remaining batter, using more butter for the pan as needed.

Note: Baked goods freeze very well, so you can bake them up to rescue your sour milk, then freeze them for later. You can even do this with pancakes and waffles: once they’re cooled, freeze them solid and store in an airtight container or zip-top bag. Then reheat them straight from frozen in a toaster oven or microwave for a real grab-and-go breakfast.