40 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

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Food waste is a bigger issue than most people realize. Although agricultural production accounts for most of it, there are ways to reduce food waste in your home that you can easily implement into your routine. 

Key Takeaways

  • I hope this list has inspired you to start reducing food waste in your home. We encourage you to do your best and remember that your actions count. The more people start caring about saving food, the more companies, supermarkets, restaurants, and governments will as well. 
  • In the end, every organization is made of people. And, although it may seem like we don’t have that much power or say in how food is produced, we can make more of a difference than we think. Save money and food, and help the planet by following some of these simple tips and tricks above. 

Almost one-third of all food produced worldwide is discarded or wasted for multiple reasons. This amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons of food waste every year. 

You may not be surprised to hear that developed countries such as the USA waste significantly more food than developing countries. According to the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) in 2010, 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food gets thrown away each year. 

Why is this concerning? Tossing edible food is not only a waste of money. Food waste is dumped in landfills, where it rots and emits methane gas – the second most prevalent greenhouse gas. By wasting food, we’re harming the planet. 

It also wastes a significant amount of water. A shocking 24% of agricultural water is lost every year due to food waste. That’s about 45 trillion gallons (enough water to quench the thirst of the entire world population for 31 years). 

Now, the point of these statistics isn’t to get you all riled up and hopeless about the effects we humans have on the planet. But I do hope we’ve got your attention.

This article aims to provide you with valuable information to help you minimize food waste at home. Just stick to as many tips as you can manage and be compassionate with yourself. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. 

40 Strategies for Reducing Food Waste

We have compiled 40 effective strategies to help you reduce food waste at every stage of the food supply chain. From simple tips for households to innovative solutions for businesses and policymakers, we’ve got you covered. So, join us on the journey towards a more sustainable future, one plate at a time.

Store Vegetables Properly

One of the biggest reasons for food waste is that most people don’t know how to store food properly. Here’s a simple guide for veggies and fruit storage:

Squash and root vegetables should be stored in a cool, dark, dry spot outside of the fridge, such as a cupboard or cellar. This is also a great way to store garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and rutabaga.

Store herbs in a sealed bag in the fridge or a glass of water by the windowsill. Or, if you can, keep small pots with herbs on your windowsill for easy access to fresh herbs.

For leafy greens, rinse, wrap them in paper towels or tea towels, and refrigerate them in a container or sealed plastic bag. This also makes them more convenient to eat.

Store tomatoes at room temperature away from direct sunlight for the best flavor and storage life. I, for one, didn’t know this one!

Store foods that produce more ethylene gas away from other foods: bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, and green onions.

Keep mushrooms in a paper or cloth bag. This helps absorb any excess moisture and prevents the mushrooms from molding.

Make A Shopping List And Don’t Go To The Store Hungry

Making a shopping list and sticking to it will ensure that you don’t buy what you don’t need. Eating before going shopping will also help a lot against impulse purchases. 

Instead of shopping in bulk, make smaller trips to the store every few days. And make a habit of using up all the foods in your fridge and pantry before buying new items.

Create A Meal Plan

This tip stems from the last one. Create a meal plan for the next few days so that you know which foods you will consume. If you stick to a plan, you’re less likely to buy foods that will simply end up rotting in your fridge. 

You can even create a book of frequently used recipes with possible variations to help use up all the foods in your fridge and pantry. You’ll learn a lot about flavor combinations by experimenting and learning while cooking.

Buy “Ugly” Vegetables And Fruits From The Supermarket Or Market

Most people rummaging through a pile of tomatoes “cherry pick” the perfect-looking ones. This has led supermarkets to buy only aesthetically pleasing produce from farmers. 

This means that all those weirdly shaped, bruised, or scratched fruits and veggies that are perfectly edible, get wrongfully thrown away. 

Check to see if your supermarket has a “misfit” fruit and vegetable section or go to the farmers market and choose the weird-looking produce. You’ll be casting your vote for the inclusion of all fruits and veggies, no matter their shape, size, or appearance.

Do A Monthly Cupboard Sweep

Organize your cupboards each month to make sure you use foods that are approaching their expiration date. This takes a few minutes but can save pounds of food.

Clean Out Your Fridge Every Week Or Month

Similarly, try to clean out your fridge every week or at least every month if you have a large family. Often, if we don’t see a product, we can forget about it and it’ll sadly go bad.

Create A Fridge System

Creating a fridge system will help you use the foods that may go to waste sooner. If you buy a new bottle of milk, place it behind the bottle that’s already open. 

Make produce that needs to be consumed more quickly visible. Because that saying “out of sight, out of mind” certainly applies to foods in your fridge.

Become A Better Butcher

Nowadays, we walk into the grocery store and buy carefully selected cuts of meat without considering where the animal’s other parts end up. Go to a butcher, buy a whole animal and get the most out of the meat instead. 

Bone marrow is highly nutritious and can also be deliciously savory and slightly sweet when prepared well. You can roast it and eat it with a spoon, or add it to broths and stews for a rich flavor.

Offal or organ meat is also packed with nutrients and can be transformed into tasty meals. If you enjoy organ meat, try this tripe and tomatoes recipe or make beef heart skewers

Animal fat can be used in cooking just as you’d use oil or butter. You can even render the fat to make fuel for torches or use it as a lubricant for machinery. 

If you plan on consuming the organs of wild game, make sure to check with your local wildlife department and see if there are any known illnesses or parasites in the area.

Learn recipes beyond bone broth so that you use all the parts of an animal. Avoid buying cuts of meat like breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, and instead opt for whole animals to reduce food waste.

Mostly Ignore Best-By And Sell-By Dates

More often than not these dates are overly cautious and the foods are still good passed the date. Use your judgment and senses instead – if a fruit smells good and looks okay, chances are it’s safe to eat. But, of course, always be cautious.

Eat The Peels

Instead of peeling off the skin of your vegetables and fruits (where lots of nutrients are stored), opt for scrubbing them well. You’d be surprised how much you’re wasting by pealing veggies. 

You can even turn potato and carrot peels into chips by baking them in the oven at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and any other seasonings of choice before baking. 

Revive Your Vegetables In Ice Water

If you find wilted vegetables, lettuce, or herbs in the fridge, it’s not too late. Remove any parts that are absolutely too wilted or bruised and then submerge your veggies in ice-cold water for 15-20 minutes. Pat dry and consume as you wish. 

Use any revived produce within 2 days to prevent deterioration. 

Make Veggie Broth With Your Vegetable Scraps

If you dislike the skins of certain vegetables, you can use them to make a vegetable broth. Add onion and garlic skins, and the ends of vegetables like carrots, zucchini, broccoli, and turnips, for a surprisingly flavorful veggie stock. 

Use Your Freezer Wisely

This is another one of those simple ways to reduce food waste. You can cook and store vegetables that are going bad in the freezer. Or, if you have leftovers, place them in containers and into the freezer to have an easy meal ready at any time.

Remember to label the foods you freeze with a packaging date and an expiration date so that you know which containers to consume first.

When storing soups and other liquid foods in the freezer, only fill ¾ to allow room for expansion. Water expands when frozen and if you don’t leave enough room, it can cause the container to crack, compromising the storage life.

Make Soup Or Vegetable Pate With The Veggies That Are Getting Soft

Just because a veggie is getting mushy, doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. As long as it doesn’t smell bad, chances are you can still eat it. Use them in soups (like this simple homemade Mexican shrimp soup) or make a delicious veggie hummus or pate. 

Turn Mushy Fruit Into Yummy Treats

Fruit that is a bit overripe is also perfectly edible. You can blend multiple fruits with some water, milk, or fruit juice and freeze them as popsicles. Or add them to smoothies for a quick and healthy breakfast or snack.

Transform Your Apples

If you’re lucky enough to have apple trees or know someone who does, you probably know how easy it is to let them go to waste.

Make apple butter or apple chips with any excess apples. You can even make apple cider vinegar with the scraps. It’s a little time-consuming, but so worth it!

Prep Your Veggies So That You’re More Likely To Use Them

Pre-washing and cutting your veggies a couple of days in advance will increase the chances of using them in meals. It makes it so much easier and also makes veggies an accessible snack. 

Save Your Seeds

This year, instead of throwing out all those pumpkin seeds from your Jack-o’-lantern, season and roast them in the oven for a yummy and healthy snack. 

If you have a garden, you can save seeds and plant them. There’s no need to buy seeds at the store. Talk about saving money and food.

Soak And Cook Dried Beans Longer

Did you know that the longer you keep beans in the cupboard, the longer they need to soak and cook? You may be throwing away perfectly good beans just because they turned out too hard and chewy.

Soak them for 12 hours and cook them for up to 2 hours to get nice and soft beans. You can make a big batch and store them in the freezer for less hassle. 

Freeze Overly Ripe Bananas

Overly ripe bananas are not only sweeter but also higher in antioxidants and great for your digestion. You can add them to smoothies (like this delicious avocado smoothie bowl) or don’t freeze them and make banana bread (or even double chocolate banana bread) right away.

Pack Your Lunch

An easy way to reduce food waste at home is to pack your leftovers to take for lunch at work or school. This way you’ll not only save money but also ensure that those leftovers get eaten. 

Freeze portions of leftovers to have meals always ready to go. At lunchtime, you’ll just need to heat it up in the microwave for a few minutes and voila, you’ve got a home-cooked meal. I like to pack a fresh salad or some veggies on the side.

Stop Wasting Ginger Peel

Use the ginger peel to make ginger tea. Simply pour boiling water over the peel and let it steep for 15-20 minutes. Add a little honey for sweetness if you’d like and enjoy!

Or, if you don’t like ginger tea, use a spoon to peel your ginger. It’s just as easy as with a knife, but it causes minimal waste.

Support Local, Organic Farms

Whenever you can, shop at local, organic farms instead of supermarkets. Here, you’ll be able to find locally grown produce without pesticides that haven’t been transported from across the seas, contributing to more greenhouse gases and pollution. 

Remember to pick the “ugly” and “damaged” fruits and vegetables because they’re the least likely to be bought. And they’re still perfectly edible once you caught off any bruises.

Make Vegan Mayo With Aquafaba

Aquafaba is the liquid from a can of drained chickpeas and it’s like magical vegan egg whites. You can use it to make vegan meringues or vegan mayonnaise. 

Turn Stale Bread Into Breadcrumbs, Croutons & More

There are so many ways to give stale bread a second life. Cut it into pieces and grind it in the food processor to make breadcrumbs. You can use it in so many recipes like this authentic milanesa de pollo (pan-fried breaded chicken).

You can also use stale bread to make French toast, like in this breakfast lasagna recipe. Just soak the bread a bit longer in the egg and milk mixture. 

Stale bread can also be turned into croutons to serve with soup or on salads. Or slice it and bake it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper to make bruschetta.

Freeze Your Citrus Peels To Use In Baking And Cooking

If juicing a lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime, don’t throw away the peels, but turn them into candied citrus peels or freeze them for later. You can add citrus peel to cakes, cookies, stews, and soups, or make a sticky sweet sauce. They bring so much flavor and zing to any dish.

Dry Your Herbs

Another way to lessen food waste is to dry herbs that you’re not going to use right away. Simply hang and expose the leaves, flowers, or seeds to warm, dry air, in a well-ventilated area. Sun drying is not recommended because it can cause a loss of flavor and color. 

Use Spent Coffee Grounds

Stop throwing out your coffee grounds, use them as a fertilizer, or make a luscious body scrub by adding some granulated sugar and coconut oil.

Coffee grounds contain several valuable minerals for plant growth — nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and chromium. They can also help absorb heavy metals that contaminate the soil. 

Make Bone Broth

Instead of throwing out chicken bones or other animal bones and scraps, use them to make a tasty and nutritious broth. Bone marrow has anti-inflammatory properties and also helps maintain a strong immune system

You can use any bones like necks, legs, backs, and thighs to make broth at home. Check out our low FODMAP bone broth recipe for some inspiration. You can then use it in soups, stews, or to make this interesting Brazilian side dish Pirao.

Use The Stems Of Herbs & Vegetables

Did you know that you can eat the stems of coriander, basil, and parsley? They’re just as flavorful and nutritious. If you don’t like the appearance, turn them into pesto with some nuts and olive oil, like this creamy cashew pesto

The stems of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, leeks, and chard are good in soups or stews. You can even add them to stir-fries if cut thinly.

Eat The Leaves Of Veggies

There are many more types of leafy greens than just spinach and kale. You can eat carrot tops, beetroot tops, cauliflower leaves, radish tops, broccoli leaves, sweet potato leaves, and squash shoots. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals.

Learn How To Can

Canning has been regaining its popularity lately and not without reason. It’s an amazing way to preserve food for years. Yes, you heard that, for years! 

Imagine sending a jar of summer salsa through time and then opening it on a cold winter day. And it tastes, looks, and smells the same as it did when you made it. Learn how to can properly with our details Canning 101 guide.

Buy End Stock And Transform It Into Sauce Or Preserves

Once you’ve learned how to can, you can save a lot of money and the lives of fruits and veggies that may have gone to waste. At the farmer’s market, you can often buy end-stock produce for a fraction of the price.

Turn this produce into sauces or preserves as soon as you get home, and you’ll be rewarded with canned goods all year round. 

Don’t Eat With Your Eyes

A lot of the time, we tend to serve ourselves more than we’re capable of eating. Practice portion control and only serve as much as you’re certain you’ll finish.

This way you’ll become more mindful of your food and how you eat, and also reduce food waste. You won’t have to throw away anything on the plate if it’s scraped clean. 

Leave Your Nut Butter And Jam Jars Spick And Span

A fantastic way to use the last bits of nut butter stuck to the jar is to make overnight oats or chia pudding straight in the jar. This simple potato milk chia pudding would be great with traces of almond butter. 

As for jam jars, pour some milk and shake it for delicious flavored milk. You can then use the milk to make a shake by adding frozen bananas, berries, and ice cream (and maybe even some sneaky greens?). Yum!

Support Upcycled Food Companies

Upcycled food is mainly what we’ve been talking about in this article – using parts of produce that would usually get tossed but are perfectly edible. Luckily, more and more people are caring about how their food is produced and whether it’s environmentally friendly.

Companies have started to utilize foods that would normally be considered waste products to make nutritious and tasty products. For example, vegetable chips from “ugly” vegetables. You can find a list of upcycling food providers here, and learn more about upcycled food. 

Keep A Food Waste Journal

If you find that none of the tips above are working and you’re still throwing out a lot of food, keep a food waste journal. Dot down whenever you throw any produce out and add the date. 

Then you can see if there are any patterns and adjust your shopping list or storage methods accordingly. Maybe it’s always that pack of spinach that ends up wilting when you could’ve put it in soups, stews, or made a simple spinach feta pizza.

Use Apps Like Olio To Donate Food That Otherwise May Go To Waste

The Olio app is available worldwide and food has been shared in over 51 countries so far. Some other apps include Food Cowboy, Food Rescue Hero, Misfits Market, and more. It’s such a great way to share your excess food that could feed others

Learn Simple Cooking Techniques And Flavor Combos

Knowing that your meal will taste good is a comforting feeling. Learning simple cooking techniques and flavor combos will prevent you from having to throw away food because it didn’t turn out well.

Check out Riverford’s Instagram account, their “veg hacks” highlight is full of tips for how to prepare multiple vegetables without any waste.

Consider How Lucky You Are To Be Able To Afford All These Foods

Take a moment to be grateful for what you have every day and you’ll notice that you naturally want to honor the food as fully as possible. The mind is powerful and remembering how blessed you are can help prevent you from wasting food.

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