25 Ways to Reduce Food-Related Waste

Americans waste a lot of food. I mean a lot. In fact, we throw away around 40 percent of the food that we produce. That’s pretty crazy, especially considering how many people go hungry every day here in the U.S. Beyond the food itself, when you factor in the trash we produce from food packaging, our kitchens start to feel like big ol’ waste machines, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

What if we all took control of the waste surrounding our food choices? Imagine the impact if everyone cut back on food packaging and made an effort to reduce the amount of food that hits their trash bins each week? Not only is reducing waste good for the planet and for people, it’s easy on the wallet! You can save a lot of cash by wasting less.

Ready to cut back on the waste surrounding your food choices? Read on!

Next>> Waste Less Food

waste less food

Waste Less Food

Cutting back on food waste is one of the best ways that you can save money and help the planet at the same time. When we send food waste to the landfill, it breaks down to produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Here are some ways to make a difference.

1. Don’t shop hungry. I know, I probably sound like your mother, but this is great advice. When you hit the grocery store on an empty stomach, you’re much more likely to buy more food than you need and have to toss spoiled food down the road.

2. Plan your meals and make a list. This goes hand in hand with that first tip. Instead of heading to the store without a plan, take some time to decide what you’re going to cook in the next week. Inventory your cabinets to see what you have, so you don’t end up picking something up that was already in the pantry.

3. Get organized. When you get back from the store, don’t just shove everything into the pantry and the fridge. Take this opportunity to move things that are expiring soon so they’re front and center. You’ll be more likely to use them before they spoil that way.

4. Don’t worry so much about “best by” dates. Often, those are more to cover the producers than for your own safety. I highly recommend the StillTasty database to see if your food is still good. Of course, if something smells funny, has turned a disturbing color, or the packaging is puffed up, it’s better to toss it.

5. Compost. If you do have food that spoils, don’t throw it in the trash! Compost it instead and transform your waste into precious food for your plants.. There are so many surprising things that can go to the compost bin instead of the landfill.

Next>> Waste Less Water

waste less water

Waste Less Water

We waste a lot of food in the kitchen, but what about water? Don’t send excess water down the drain! Try out a few of these waste-reducing tips instead!

6. Use a dipping bowl. How many times do you turn on the tap to rinse your fingers while you’re prepping food? Instead of running the faucet, keep a small bowl of water to dip your fingers in between tasks. Of course, you still need to wash your hands before you start cooking, and you’ll want to rinse them under the tap then, but for just getting a bit of tomato goop off your fingers before you dice the onions, a small bowl will do the trick.

7. Turn off the faucet when you wash your hands. Speaking of washing your hands! Do you really need to run the water while you scrub? Instead of running water the whole time, wet your hands under the faucet, then turn it off while you soap up. You can turn it back on to rinse and save a few gallons of water while you’re at it!

8. Use less power. Did you know that it takes billions of gallons a year to keep a power plant running? By skipping unnecessary electric appliances, you can indirectly cut back on water waste in your kitchen. For example, do you really need an electric mixer to stir up that cookie dough? Grab a spoon and save some power (and water!) instead!

9. Reuse your water. We dump a lot of usable water down the drain in the kitchen. When you finish boiling a pot of pasta or beans, don’t pour the water into the sink. Instead, drain it into a large bowl. When it cools, you can use it to water plants in your garden.

10. Wash smart. Instead of washing your dishes under a running faucet, fill the sink up with water to wash them instead. If you have a dishwasher, make sure it’s totally full, rather than running a wasteful half load.

Next>> Reduce Cooking Waste

cooking waste

Reduce Cooking Waste

Food and water are pretty obvious when you think about the kitchen, but what about packaging waste? Here are some ways to cut back on the food packaging that you’re sending to the landfill.

11. Buy whole foods. Processed foods often come in a lot of crazy packaging, like plastic bags inside of cardboard boxes, or disposable plastic trays wrapped in cellophane. Opt for whole foods like nuts, grains, fruits, and veggies to cut back on packaging waste.

12. Bring your own bag. By now, I bet most of you bring a shopping bag to the store, but what about when you hit that produce aisle or the bulk bins? Skip a bag all together for items like apples and potatoes. If you’re picking up items that do need a bag, like rice or dried beans, opt for a reusable bulk bag instead.

13. Consider the packaging. No one expects you to completely give up convenience foods. We live in the real world, and sometimes quickie convenience items can save the day when you need to put a quick meal together. When you’re buying convenience foods, take a look at the packaging. Is it recyclable? Compostable? Are there unnecessary bags within bags within boxes? Opt for convenience products that come in minimal or reusable packaging.

14. Choose reusable food storage. Instead of wasteful plastic baggies and aluminum foil, store your food in reusable containers. Think glass Mason jars or glass jars that used to hold juice or pasta sauce. To get residual smell out of a glass jar, put two tablespoons of baking soda and 1/4 cup water into the jar and shake well. Follow that up by putting 1/4 cup water in the jar and shaking again to get any baking soda off. Let the jar dry, and you’re ready to store your food waste free!

15. Ditch the paper. Instead of paper napkins, invest in a set of cloth napkins that you can use over and over. You can also ditch the paper towels and clean up spills with rags instead.

Next>> Reducing Waste with Food on the Go

food on the go

Reducing Waste with Food on the Go

Whether you’re packing your lunch or putting together snacks for a road trip, there are lots of little ways that you can waste less!

16. Pack a waste free lunch. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, reusable utensils instead of plastic ones, and go for a bag and lunchbox that you can use over and over. Want more waste-free lunch tips? Check out more details here!

17. Snacks without the waste. I always like to have some kind of little snack on me when I’m out and about. That way, if I get hungry on the go I’m not tempted to pick up a bag of chips. Choose snacks that come in natural wrapping, like apples and bananas. If fresh fruit isn’t practical to stash in your bag or your car, put your snacky foods into a reusable container, like an old jelly jar.

18. Bring a bottle. We all know that bottled water is not ideal from an environmental standpoint, so be proactive when you’re out and about. Stash a reusable bottle of water in your bag that you can refill instead.

19. Keep a napkin on you. So many food places only offer up paper napkins, so be prepared! Keep a cloth napkin in your bag or your car, so when you’re eating out you don’t have to go for disposable paper.

20. Bring a box. Restaurants are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste, and those giant portions are partly to blame. Next time you’re dining out, bring an empty container to take home your leftovers so you can say no to the Styrofoam containers that most restaurants offer as to go packaging.

Next>> Waste Less When You’re Cleaning

cleaning waste

Waste Less When You’re Cleaning

Cleaning the kitchen comes with a whole other set of waste. From chemicals down the drain to the packaging itself, there’s lots of waste associated with cleaning up the kitchen.

21. Stretch that soap. Before tossing that empty dish soap container, see if you can’t make that soap last for a few more dishes by just adding water!

22. Make sponges last. If your sponge starts to smell a little bit funky, you don’t necessarily have to toss it! Use your microwave or dishwasher to clean a sponge and prolong its life.

23. Make your own cleaning supplies. Kitchen cleaning supplies usually come in disposable, single-use plastic containers. You can cut way back on the waste by whipping up your own cleaning supplies from natural ingredients. You’ll save on money and materials!

24. Opt for natural cleaning supplies. If you are going to buy cleaning supplies, it’s a good idea to opt for natural, biodegradable ones. You don’t want to wash your dishes in harmful chemicals that pollute our water and aren’t so hot for us, either!

25. Use less. So many people use far more cleaning supplies than they really need. It only takes a tiny bit of dish soap to clean a pot and probably fewer squirts than you’d think to clean off the counter. Be a miser with your cleaning supplies. You’ll replace them less often and reduce waste in the process.

What other ways are you guys reducing your food-related waste? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!


Sonia M

Great article with useful tips thanks for sharing

Erin H.
Erin H4 years ago

Thank you for this article, excellent tips!

I like to wait until the water from steaming my veggies cools then pour it on my plants, they love it!

I live in the city and don't have composting facilities, but when I do a big cook up I wrap up the veggie peelings and bring them in to my work colleague who has chickens.

Karen Everton
Karen E4 years ago

great tips, thank you

Sharon Stein
Sharon Stein4 years ago

I have been "rich" and poor, and fortunately I learned not to waste anything BEFORE I became "money challenged"...So even on a very meager sum we eat very well!

Renee M.
Renee M4 years ago

Some great tips, thanks.

Leila D.
Leila D5 years ago

I check out my veggies. I make a lot of soups, so I don't have to waste veggies. Right now I have 1/2 a cabbage, so it's soup or cole slaw. I don't have too many left over veggies. It takes a lot of planning living alone. Worth it. Remember the freezer, lots of thing we can freeze.

Denise Morley
Denise Morley5 years ago

Also when boiling the kettle only heat as much water as you need. It will boil much quicker and use less power.

Denise Morley
Denise Morley5 years ago

I do many of these, and there's a few ideas I hadn't thought of that I will be using. I love my reusable produce and shopping bags. The plastic bags that do come into the house get taken to the recycling depot. Thanks for sharing :)

Melania Padilla
Melania P6 years ago

I do most of these, thanks for posting, re-shared!

Lynn C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Do most of these, but like the idea of a dipping bowl for cleaning hands while cooking. Have learned to steam broccoli and other fragile veg as soon as I come home from the store (or at least that day) and store it in glass containers. This way it always gets eaten before it turns yellow.
We are also fortunate to live where there are wild critters that appreciate the trimmings from veg and most plate scraps. Javelina will eat almost anything and have become our four-legged garbage disposals, as well as a joy to watch.