5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

The typical American family wastes between 25 and 50 percent of the food they purchase, and that’s just when you’re looking at the food itself. Add in the bulky packaging that goes along with many convenience foods, and that number shoots up even more. Food waste might seem like a fact of life, but with some careful planning and savvy shopping, you can help reduce the amount of food waste that you send to the landfill!

>>Next: Order and cook less

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too much food

1. Order and Cook Less

Whether you’re eating out or cooking at home, take a hard look at what you’re planning for your meals. Of course, you want to make sure you have enough food prepared for you and your family, but over ordering or cooking way too much just leads to waste. This might take some observation as you get a feel for how much you guys actually eat, but the reduction in waste is not only good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet!

It’s important to balance this out. You don’t want to feel guilted into the clean plate club. Remember: food you eat after you’re full is just as wasted as food you throw away.

>>Next: Eat those leftovers

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Chinese Take Out Container

2. Eat Those Leftovers

Whether you planned to have leftovers or accidentally ordered or cooked too much food, making sure you eat them before they go bad is key to reducing food waste. You can try revamping those leftovers into a whole new meal or just plan to eat them later on in the week on a night that you don’t feel like cooking. Either way, it’s important not to shove that leftover food into the back of the fridge to rot. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat them before they go bad, why not portion that leftover food into servings and stick them in the freezer?

>>Next: Cut the packaging

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packaged food

3. Cut the Packaging

You might not think of that take out container or the bag your pre-washed lettuce came in as food waste, but all of that packaging really adds up. Next time you’re ordering take out, see how the restaurant feels about you bringing it home in your own, clean, reusable container. At the grocery store, just being more conscious of packaging can make a big difference. Instead of pre-cut broccoli florets in a plastic bag, for example, you can pick up a head of broccoli and cut it up youself. Voila! You’ve dodged a bit of waste and probably saved a buck at the same time.

For something like broccoli, you can probably get away without using a produce bag, but for dry goods like beans or more delicate produce like lettuces, you do need some kind of bag. In those situations, why not try toting your own reusable produce bags?

>>Next: Don’t shop hungry

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grocery carts

4. Don’t Shop Hungry

This might seem like a no-brainer, but how many times have you bought far too much at the grocery store because you were shopping on an empty stomach? Hungry shopping leads to impulse buys, often of packaging-heavy, processed foods. Even if you just end up with way too many fruits and veggies, are you going to be able to eat all of that food before it spoils? A quickie snack before you head to the store can go a long way toward preventing waste in your kitchen.

>>Next: Get composting

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holding out a handful of compost

5. Compost Your Food Scraps

One of the biggest problems with food waste is that all of that organic material breaks down into methane, a greenhouse gas many times more harmful than CO2, in the landfill. Rather than tossing veggie scraps into the trash, toss them into your compost bin where they can break down into nutrient-rich dirt.

Even apartment dwellers can get in on the composting action! You might think a small space would make composting too hard, but it’s easy as pie to get a bin going even in a tiny apartment. If you don’t have a garden to benefit from all of that good compost, you can use it to nourish potted plants or just dump it outside.

I bet there are even more ways to cut back on food waste. What are some ways that you’re lightening your footprint in the kitchen?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by normanack

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Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Jenna W.
jen b5 years ago

great tips!

Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Lisa D'arcangelis
Lisa Plunkett5 years ago

Thanks for this! This is a very important issue and is one that we are working on in my household! :-)

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie6 years ago


jessica w.
jessica w6 years ago

Thanks for the info

John S.
Past Member 6 years ago

I read the stats and just can't help thinking, do people have that kind of money to waste?

Jenna Brennan
Jennifer B6 years ago

You can always feed your leftovers to the dog, if you have one. Dogs will eat just about anything. Just be careful not to give them foods that will poison them (check with your local vet or do a bit of googling to learn what not to let them eat.) This will cut down on wasted food as well as keeping your dogs happy -- I never met a dog who wasn't happy to get a cut of leftover meat. :)

DeRae S.
Mr. & Mrs. Wm. S6 years ago

Thanks for the info