12 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste

It happens to all of us. You’re cleaning out the fridge and discover a container whose contents have started to turn into an alien life form. Or maybe you totally over ordered while dining out but can’t stomach putting your leftovers into a Styrofoam container. Food waste can feel like a fact of life, but if we become more mindful of what’s on our plates and in our pantries, we can take control of our food waste and make a big difference!

We waste one third of the food produced worldwide each year. In a world struggling to feed a population of 7 billion, that is a big problem. Luckily, we have a lot of power as consumers to curb our food waste. Here are some easy ways that you can waste less to save money and help the planet.

1. Eat those leftovers! Whether you eat them as-is or turn them into something new, don’t toss those leftovers in the trash bin.

2. Compost. All of those food scraps from prepping you meals are too valuable to throw away. Compost them instead, even if you don’t have space for a compost heap. Apartment-dwellers can still get in on the composting action.

3. Grow your own. Part of the waste in our food supply occurs because of spoilage during shipping. When you grow food yourself, you cut back on food miles and on waste. You don’t need a huge garden to grow some of your own food! If you have a small yard or live in an apartment, try growing food in containers.

4. Eat less meat. Meat production wastes food. How? Rather than eating beans and grains directly, we feed them to livestock. It’s a much less efficient way to produce food. Try eating more meatless meals to waste less.

Next>> Reducing food waste and packaging

Image Credit: Food Waste photo via Thinkstock

expiration date

Another aspect of food waste is the packaging that goes along with convenience foods and even with takeout. It’s important to be mindful not of just what you’re buying and how much but how much packaging is going straight into the bin after you eat packaged foods.

5. Bring your own doggie bag. Restaurants tend to serve notoriously large portions. Next time you’re eating out, pack some containers to bring that extra food home, and don’t forget to eat those leftovers once you get them there! You’ll be able to skip the disposable takeout container and stretch that restaurant food into another meal, reducing waste and saving you money.

6. Don’t just look at the “best by” date on packaged food. No one wants to eat food that’s spoiled, but those dates are an estimate. StillTasty has some great tips on how to tell if you can still eat food beyond the “best by” date.

7. Don’t shop without a list. Grocery shopping can be stressful if you’re wandering the aisles, trying to decide how to feed your family for the week. You also end up buying a lot of food that doesn’t get eaten. Instead, take some time to plan out what you’re going to be cooking and snacking on that week while you’re home. Inventory the pantry and fridge to see what food you need to cook in the next few days to keep it from spoiling, and go from there to plan your shopping list.

8. Don’t shop hungry. Isn’t grocery shopping the worst when you’re hungry? I tend to want to buy the whole store! Have a snack before you leave the house or grab a granola bar to eat on the way, so your list and your brain are in charge at the store, not your grumbly stomach.

Next>> Stretching food to waste less

Image Credit: Expiration Date photo via Thinkstock

pickling is an easy way to preserve food

The way that we shop for and store our food can make a big difference in terms of waste. Take a look at where your food is coming from and at your pantry to waste less food. You’ll save money in the end and make a positive impact!

9. Try preserving. Did the CSA send you WAY too many turnips? Did you accidentally buy more carrots than you needed for the week? Can, pickle, or freeze extra produce to buy yourself more time and avoid spoilage.

10. Join a CSA. What does a community supported agriculture (CSA) program have to do with food waste? Conventional food outlets reject “ugly” produce, which adds up to tons of waste. At a CSA, your farmer is most likely not going to toss a thing. You get to support a local food producer and opt out of grocery store waste at the same time. Win-win!

11. Get the most out of your produce. Did you know that you can make pesto out of the tops of carrots and that you can cook up the greens from beets, turnips, or Brussels sprouts? There are lots of ways to cook with fruit and vegetable scraps.

12. Get organized. When we grocery shop, we tend to just stick our purchases into the fridge and pantry. Instead, make sure that you put the food that’s closer to spoiling front and center, so you’ll remember to use it before it turns.

What other ways have you guys found to cut back on food waste? Share away in the comments!

Image Credit: Pickling photo by Becky Striepe

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Penny Bacon
.3 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago

good tips

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago

good tips

Louis Olivencia
Louis Olivencia3 years ago

These handy useful tips have been around for ages, But if were still talking about them means not to many people are putting them to practice?

Lets see if things start to change...

Carol M.
Carol M.3 years ago

I already do all these...they become habit after a while :)

Kerry H.
Kerry H.3 years ago

I'll definitely bring a reusable container next time we go out to a restaurant to eat--and a green bag to put it in too, of course!

Joan Mcallister
.3 years ago

Some good ideas, some I already doing others I will give a try

Stephanie S.

These are some really good tips.

Peter Mengos
Peter Mengos3 years ago


Mac C.
mac C.3 years ago

good suggestions, I do most of these. thank you.