Do you want to save money on your food budget and help the planet? Reducing food waste can do both. In this article we’ll look at 19 easy ways to reduce food waste at home.
These ideas include:
- what to do before grocery shopping
- what to do while grocery shopping
- and what to do with food you already have at home
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Table of Contents
Why reduce food waste?
I recently learned that reducing food waste is one of the top 3 things we can do to prevent and reverse climate change according to the Project Drawdown book.
I knew it was important, but I guess I didn’t realize it was that important.
In developed, industrialized countries most of the food waste occurs at the grocery store and individual home level.
Whereas in developing nations the waste can occur there too, but also at the farms and distribution centers that lack proper refrigeration.
When it comes to big issues like climate change we often think, “Well what can I do as just one individual?”
Reducing food waste in your home is a great start.
How to reduce food waste – 19 ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home
Want to save money on your monthly food budget and help the environment at the same time?
Reducing food waste at your home is a great place to start.
Below are various ways that you can cut down on the amount of food your household is throwing in the trash.
1) Do some meal planning
Plan your meals ahead of time so you can buy what you’ll need to make those meals… and it’ll help stop you from going overboard at the grocery store.
I have created this printable weekly meal planner template with snacks to help you out.
But make sure to do the next step below before you rush to the store to buy new products.
2) Check your Pantry and Fridge to see what you already have
After you’ve created your meal plan and determined the ingredients for those meals, have a look through your pantry and fridge to see if you already have some of those ingredients.
If you do , then cross them off your grocery list.
So many times I haven’t followed this advice, and ended up buying stuff that I already had double or triple of at home already.
3) Stick to your grocery list
Once you go to the store try to stick to your refined grocery list.
You’ll not only save money but reduce food waste too.
It can be tricky sticking to your list because grocery stores are designed to try and separate you from your money: impulse buys that catch your eye and trigger cravings.
But the following two tips may help.
4) Grocery Shop with a time limit so you don’t linger
This may not work for everyone, but I find that if I only have a set period of time to grocery shop – such as having somewhere to be in half an hour – I stick to my grocery list and get out of there quickly.
The argument to this approach is that you may rush and not check prices carefully. But if you try to do these price comparisons online or with flyers before you get to the store – then only buy what you’ve written down – I think you’ll be fine.
5) Don’t grocery shop when hungry
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry.
Usually this is said within the context of eating healthy, so you don’t buy junk food.
But this advice can help you stick to your grocery list too, so you only buy the food on your list. And buying less food usually results in less food waste too.
6) Prepare Veggies snacks for yourself while making kids’ lunches
How many times have you purchased veggies and fruits with the intent of eating healthier, only to have them rot in your fridge.
A way to combat this is to wash and cut up some veggies for yourself while you’re making your kid’s lunch. If you don’t have children, or don’t make lunch for them, try to get in the habit of prepping yourself some veggie snacks every morning.
I put veggies in my daughter’s lunch every day, and it dawned on me, why I don’t I cut some up for myself too?
So I’ve started doing this. It has reduced the amount of vegetables that go bad in our fridge, and I’ve been eating healthier too.
You could cut up come broccoli, cauliflower and other veggies to make yourself a delicious “fast food” snack plate.
7) Store your Food in the right spots to maximize freshness
So often we buy groceries and then don’t store them in the right spots to maximize freshness and extend their shelf life.
I found this article from SELF that lists how to properly store some common fruits and vegetables.
Check it out to learn how to best store your food.
8) Learn to read Expiration dates and best before labels on Foods
Did you know that not many foods actually have “expiration dates”?
According to the Washington State University Extension (WSUE), only some food products have actual expiration dates – where you shouldn’t eat the food beyond that date. Examples they gave of items with expiration dates are infant formulas and baby food.
These you don’t want to serve a child after the expiration date listed on the label.
Most other food products have “Sell by” dates to let retailers know how long they should have the products for sale, or “Best Before” type of dates.
These “best before” dates are what the WSUE calls Quality Assurance Dates. So the food manufacturer is stating that their food product will taste the same up to that date…it is NOT about safety, it is about taste.
Many people treat these “sell by” or “best before” dates as if they are expiration dates and they must discard the item after this date. This isn’t the case. These dates are not an indicator of whether a food product is still safe for consumption. (Reference)
Click here to read more about expiration dates.
9) Eat the food that will spoil first
Look through your fridge to see what ingredients will spoil first and then eat these before eating better-dated items.
And a great way to do this is the step below.
10) Learn how to make soups and stews to use use up foods
Making a soup or stew is a great way to throw in a bunch of food items that are close to their “end date.”
I’m not talking about rotten vegetables, but I am talking about using those ripe vegetables BEFORE they spoil.
Learn to make a few basic soups and stews and you’ll be able to use up those veggies before they go bad. You’ll have hearty dinners while saving money and reducing food waste.
11) Learn how to make Pesto
To be honest I haven’t done this myself, but while researching this article I discovered that you can make pesto from food scraps that otherwise would be tossed out.
As an example, here is a link to a recipe for a pesto made from carrot tops! (Yes, the green leafy carrot tops that most of us toss out. I haven’t tried this carrot top pesto but it sounds interesting.)
And here is a pumpkin seed pesto you may want to try after carving your pumpkins this Halloween.
12) Freeze fruits or vegetables before they spoil
If you’ve bought some fruit and it is ripe and going to spoil soon, put it into the freezer BEFORE it spoils.
I regularly freeze bananas and berries that are at risk of spoiling before I can eat them. Then once they’re frozen I add them to my smoothies for added creaminess, sweetness and nutrition.
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13) Freeze meats or leftovers in Meal-sized portions
If you have leftovers from dinner, and you don’t want them in the next couple days, you can freeze them.
I prefer to freeze them in meal-sized portions so I can take out one frozen container and get a meal from it with little waste.
If I freeze a large amount of it in one container, then I may waste food after it’s thawed because I don’t want to eat it all.
14) Donate Extra Crops from your Garden to a Local organization
If you have extra garden crops that you won’t be able to eat by yourself, check to see if a local organization accepts donations.
Or even put a notice to your friends on Facebook that you have extras.
15) Donate extra food to your local food bank before it goes bad
Do you have canned goods in your pantry that you still have eaten…and in all likelihood won’t eat?
If so, round them up and donate them to your local food bank.
Hopefully this way someone can benefit from them and they won’t go bad sitting in your cupboard.
16) Contact a food rescue organization in your area
There are many non-profit organizations that will help you reduce food waste by transferring food you won’t eat, to those who will eat it.
Want to find one of these food rescue organizations in your area? Try this food rescue locator website.
17) Dehydrate fruits and vegetables before they spoil
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables can extend their shelf life and make it easier to store them.
We have an Excalibur Food Dehydrator.
It does take electricity to dry the food using this dehydrator, but where I live we produce electricity through hydroelectric dams (not fossil fuels).
You could also look into building your own solar food dehydrators.
You can check out my article on how to make apple chips using the Excalibur food dehydrator.
Do you toss out dry, stale bread then go to the store to buy breadcrumbs?
Well you can stop this cycle by making your own breadcrumbs. This article explains how to make breadcrumbs at home.
19) Compost your Food scraps
Ideally you’ll minimize food waste by following the above steps in this list but what about food scraps or food that unfortunately spoils?
You can compost them at home or put them in a municipal compost bin if your city offers such a service.
Composting kitchen scraps can help reduce greenhouse gas emission by diverting organic waste from the landfill. When food is dumped into a landfill and smothered with garbage, in about a year or so it creates an anaerobic environment (no oxygen around it). (Reference)
This oxygen-poor environment leads to methane-producing bacteria feasting on the food scraps. (Reference) So, as you can guess, they produce a lot of methane during this process.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that municipal solid-waste landfills contributed about 15% of the human-related methane production in 2020. And methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Composting at home is an aerobic process, meaning there is more oxygen, hence there is considerably LESS methane produced. (Reference) The methane-producing bacteria don’t like having oxygen around so they aren’t as active in a home compost bin.
Plus, the compost you create at home can be added back to your garden as a soil amendment to improve soil fertility and structure.
You May Want to Check out our article on Compost grinders (grind up scraps to increase surface area).
When you Waste Food you also Waste –
When food is wasted you also waste all the resources, energy and water that went in to growing the food, manufacturing, packaging and transporting the food to your house.
So not only are you wasting the actual food product, you are wasting all the resources that went into creating that product.
And you’re wasting money
Food takes up a large portion of most people’s income.
Imagine just letting that money spoil. Or just tossing it in the garbage.
That is essentially what you’re doing when you waste food.
Thanks for checking out this article on ways to reduce food waste at home.
I hope some of these ideas will help you save money and cut down on your home’s food waste.
The less food waste we throw into the garbage, the less methane produced at our landfills.
And you can keep more of your money in your wallet instead of tossing it in the trash.
One of the big takeaways from this list is buy what you need to make your meals, and keep a close eye on the food you buy to see what food needs to be cooked first or preserved in some way. (Such as freezing or dehydrating.)
You May Also Like:
How to freeze blueberries (great thing to do before they go bad)
How to Freeze Bananas for Smoothies (never toss out a banana again)
Easy Ways to reduce paper clutter in your home
Check out these cool ways to repurpose mason jars. (Put those old jars to good use.)