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Food Waste Survival Guide for Back to School

By Dylan Bailey, MS

With the new school year comes new excitement and opportunity, as well as new challenges. Saving time and creating valuable family memories may be at the forefront of your mind especially with summer vacation in the rear-view mirror and backpacks filled with homework replacing beach bags filled with sunscreen. 

With the little available time you have this back-to-school season, Libby’s challenges you to do something easy and great for your family, with a strong educational lesson at its heart. We’re talking about minimizing food waste

Currently, it is estimated that 31% to 40% of food is thrown away after it has been harvested, which equates to more than 1,200 calories per person per day – those are some alarming numbers! We have some simple solutions, recipes and tips that you and your family can start to implement this new school year to reduce food waste. 

Never Waste a Dilla

southwestern chicken quesadillas

Finish the first day of school with this quick, easy, and inexpensive meal that is sure to get the whole family running to the dinner table. These Southwestern Chicken Quesadillas use full cans of Libby’s® Mixed Vegetables. Pop leftovers into an air-tight storage container and place into the fridge so you and your family can enjoy this tasty creation for lunch the next day. 

Meet your Meatloaf

mediterranean meatloaf

As summer moves to fall, you may want to think about a hearty meal to fuel all those after school activities. This flavorful Mediterranean Meatloaf made with Libby’s® Peas and Carrots is sure to provide everyone with a boost of energy and protein to keep muscles strong (including your brain!). Plan this meal a week in advance of shopping so you buy only the ingredients needed. 

Dish Some Casserole

cornbread chicken casserole

Casserole dishes are a great way to limit food waste and use leftovers. This Cornbread Chicken Casserole uses full cans of sweet corn, black beans, and tomato sauce to provide a bold, satisfying recipe the whole family will love. To use any leftovers of this recipe, try serving with Brown Butter Green Beans With Garlic Almond Bread Crumbs the next day. 

Some other tips we have to reduce food waste include:

  1. Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals.
  2. Consider your food packaging. Cans are 100% recyclable, which can limit waste to landfills and be re-used to make new products. 
  3. Find out how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer inside or outside your refrigerator.
  4. Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
  5. Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.
  6. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers too.


Source: Reducing Wasted Food At Home. (2017, April 17). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from



Creative Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving gives us the chance to spend time with our family, be thankful for all of the good things in our lives, and, of course, eat delicious food. From turkey to stuffing to pies, there is always enough food to last for days! Here are some ways to make Thanksgiving leftovers just as exciting the second time around.

Grilled Turkey Reuben Wraps

Most families have plenty of leftover turkey to go around—it’s a matter of finding creative ways to use it! Use fresh turkey here to make this twist on the classic deli sandwich; it’s so much better than cold cuts. Give the sandwich its trademark kick with Libby’s® Sauerkraut and enjoy!

Leftover Stuffing Veggie Bites

Stuffing always takes center stage as far as side dishes go, but there’s only so much of it you can eat after Thanksgiving has come and gone. These tasty veggie bites combine stuffing, along with half a can of Libby’s® Peas and half a can of Carrots to give the holiday side dish new life—and makes them the perfect complement to any leftover dinner.   

Day-After Turkey Soup

Nothing beats a warm, hearty soup on a cold day. This recipe gives you the chance to mix Thanksgiving turkey with some vegetables that didn’t grace the holiday table. To make this recipe even easier to prepare, substitute one can of Libby’s® Cut Green Beans in place of fresh, a can of Sliced Carrots instead of sweet potatoes, and a can of Whole Kernel Sweet Corn instead of frozen.  Feel free to add more or less of each veggie to your liking! 

Keep Your Family Happy and Healthy – Never Hungry

Getting a healthy dinner on the table that your family will eat can be a daily stressor – probably because we have to do it day in and day out. Even those of us who love food and enjoying cooking (that would be me) can get worn out from the constant task (that would be me, too.)

So, this past month, I was eager to work with Libby’s on their Dinner Dilemma initiative to help answer the timeless question, “what’s for dinner?” Here are a few solutions that have worked for me:

Schedule Supper: It almost sounds silly but putting a family meal (when everyone can be around the table) on the calendar makes it more likely that you will get a plan in place. Menu planning is my Achilles heel – I’m more of a “see what we’re in the mood for” cook – but I find if I schedule weekly dinners in advance, I’m less stressed and my family is, too.

Cook Once, Eat Twice: Leftovers are time savers but are even better when you can transform them into a completely new meal. One of my favorite repurposed recipes is to make a big batch of tomato sauce with extra lean ground turkey. I serve it over pasta and then the next night, add some beans and spices for a chili dinner. Or if I make grilled chicken with brown rice one night, I use the leftovers to stuff whole wheat tortillas for burritos the next night.


Do a Dinner Flip: As a kid, I loved when we had breakfast for dinner and as an adult, I realize it was my mom’s way of whipping up a quick, no-brainer meal (usually scrambled eggs with bacon.) In my house, we do multi-grain pancakes or even oatmeal for dinner, paired with cut fruit, veggie sticks and slices of cheese. Sometimes, I’ll even serve dessert first in the form of parfaits layered with nonfat Greek yogurt, sliced fruit, crushed whole grain cereal and nuts.

Upgrade Take-Out: There’s nothing wrong with pizza night (a Friday night staple for my family) especially when you load on the veggie toppings. Pair with a jazzed up salad and you got a nutritious and easy meal (plus Ieftover pizza is a great grab-and-go breakfast the next day!)

Check out Libby’s “What’s for Dinner?” board on Pinterest for more tasty solutions to mealtime.

And for more creative mealtime tips and ideas, click over to my post on Family Meals Matter and this Multitask Cooking post.