This post explains the 17 ways to reduce food waste. Reducing food waste will not only lessen the waste in the landfills but will also save consumers some money by not spending more than what they should be spending for food. This post contains affiliate links/ads. See disclosure policy.
When I was a little kid, my mom would always remind me to finish all my food. She’d tell me that there were a lot of people who couldn’t even afford to put food on the table. This thought stuck with me during my childhood days and I have carried this thought up to now.
I never waste food and I don’t like food getting wasted and thrown into the trash. Every time I see food in the trash, I always think of not only the story my mom used to tell me but also the money that goes under the drain by wasting food.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commission study, about one third of produced food in the world – approximately 1.3 billion tons – for human consumption gets lost or wasted ever year. This is a staggering figure.
The study distinguished food loss and food waste. According to the report, food loss, which occurs from the production to the processing process, is mostly seen in low-income countries due to financial, managerial, and technical limitations in effective harvesting techniques, storage, packaging, and climate control capabilities, infrastructure, and marketing systems.
Food waste, on the other hand, refers to perfectly edible food thrown into the trash by retailers and consumers. Food waste is a problem more evident with developed or industrialized countries like the U.S.
According to the study conducted by National Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away as high as 40% of food every year, which is valued at about $165 billion and that an average American family of 4 throws away up to $2,275/year on food waste.
17 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Having said all these bad statistics, there are ways to reduce food waste and to reduce wasting money in the process. If you are looking at trying to save more, the first place to look into is in your grocery. You’ll be surprised of the food waste that you may be doing consciously and subconsciously.
Here are ways that you can do to lessen, if not, completely eliminate food waste:
1. Buy what you only need
It is tempting to buy and stack up on grocery especially when products are on deep discounts. Unless, the items are non-perishable, it is better if you stick with what you need. Even if you buy in bulk due to deep discounts, you may not really be saving if you can’t use most of the items you bought and, in turn, they just go to waste.
By buying only what you need, you are both reducing food waste and saving money. You are basically hitting two birds with one stone.
2. Avoid throwing leftovers
Don’t throw leftovers just because you think they’re no longer good to eat. Unless they are spoiled, you can always pack your leftovers as lunch or snack. This way, you’re not only preventing food from going to waste, you are saving money by not purchasing your lunch or snack.
One of the things I recommend is to look for lefotver or easy recipes that you can use those leftovers. Here are some books you may consider checking out:
- 30 Minute Meals – Quick and Easy Recipes
- 5 Ingredient Recipes – Recipes in 5 or Less Ingredients
- 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes– Budget Meals to Slash Your Budget
3. Change your fridge temperature setting
According to Associate Professor Angela Fraser of Clemson University setting the fridge at 39 degrees can help in keeping foods safe. Foods stored in a fridge with warmer temperature can spoil foods faster.
You may be saving a couple of dollars because you up the temperature of your refrigerator, but you may also be spending more money or wasting more money because the foods in your refrigerator are getting spoiled or are spoiled.
If you happen to have an old refrigerator, you may consider buying a new one if it's not energy-efficient. Your refrigerator may not be registering the right temperature and may cause you more money in electric bills simply because it's not energy-efficient.
4. Exercise first-in, first-out
My wife likes doing this and it’s really a great idea to do.
One of the reasons that food is wasted is because it gets spoiled. If you happen to buy an item and that item is already in your refrigerator, use the one in your refrigerator first before using the new one. Move all the old items from your refrigerator in front and the new ones to the back.
I know a couple of friends who tend to just stick foods in front not knowing what they have at the back. The result? They tend to get a lot of wasted food.
5. Reinvent your food
If you have leftovers and you dread eating the same exact leftovers, find ways to use them to make other dishes out of them. My wife and I always have a way to re-invent our leftovers. We re-use the leftovers for some other dishes or to create other dishes.
For example, if you have leftover of baked chicken, you can use that to make chicken pot pie. With regard to overripe fruits, you can always use them for smoothies. Food reinvention can really reduce food waste.
I recommend the following cookbooks with recipes that can easily be created:
- Fast and Easy Five-Ingredient Recipes: A Cookbook for Busy People
- Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Delicious And Easy Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes For Burning Fat
- Instant Pot Cookbook: Quick and Easy Recipes For You and Your Family
6. Use spare ingredients
You may find yourself in a situation where you only have a few pieces of ingredients (left).
Rather than throwing them out, find ways to use them. You can either put the ingredients in a dish that you’re about to make even the dish doesn’t call for those items. If those ingredients happen to be vegetables, then, you can throw them together in a pan and make stir-fry.
7. Use the date labels as gauge
Sometimes, when the food is expired (based on the food label), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s already spoiled.
If the product is still good, use it right away to avoid the chance of that product getting spoiled and wasted. WebMD has a great definition of what the expiration labels mean and what food is past the label date.
I'll tell you that we have saved thousands of dollars by not throwing expired food (again based on the food label).
8. Don’t over-serve
The idea of serving a mountain of food may be a good idea to save time, effort, and utility cost but it may cost you to discard a lot of food later on. If you’re planning to feed 4 people, for example, don’t create meals that are good for 6-7 people. You may have a lot of leftovers that you cannot consume before they spoil.
9. Watch what you trash
One of the best ways to reduce food waste is by observing what you put in your trash. You may even take notes just to make sure you’re not missing anything. Use the information you obtained to assess which ones you need to cut down. If you see that you discard 5 bananas a week on average, then, you know you only need to fewer than that.
I once had the habit of “I'll buy this much because I'll save more”. But the reality was that I ended up wasting foods that I didn't eat.
Don't fall into this problem. I highly suggest that you buy what you only need. One of the best ways to start doing this is by looking at what you throw in the trash.
10. Plan your meal
Before going to the grocery, decide which meals you want to make, create a grocery list, and stick to it when you shop. This will prevent you from buying ingredients you won’t need. It will save you money as well.
Don't go to the grocery store without a list because chances are you will get more food than what you need for a week.
Every week, my wife and I sit down and do our meal planning. It only takes us an hour to figure out what we want to eat for the following week and what ingredients we need. Since we both work and the only ones who stay home are my parents-in-law and our daughter, we needed to learn and have learned how to exactly know what we need to buy and how much of those ingredients we need to buy.
We use different strategies to help our make sure that our meal plan works. We use the following products as part of our meal planning strategies:
- Compartment Food Containers (We use these for our lunch at work and for storing leftovers)
- Meal Prep: Cookbook & Guide: Over 100 Quick and Easy Recipes for Batch Cooking & Plan Ahead Meals (This is our food resource for meal planning. It's a savior.)
11. Buy local (especially on fruits and vegetables)
By that time they get to you, they are no longer that fresh and will go bad in the next few days. Buy local since these products are fresher and will last longer.
12. Share a meal
Sharing a meal is one way to reduce food waste. Meal portion in restaurant is what I consider a meal-for-two-people. When going out to eat with another person, share a meal instead of ordering two separate meals. You’ll be surprised how big the portion is and how much money you will save by doing this.
13. Blanch and freeze vegetables
If you’re one of those people who buy vegetables and forget to use them before they become spoiled, two extra steps you can do is to blanch and to freeze the vegetables.
There are reasons and ways to perform blanching and it really only takes only 1-3 minutes on average to blanch vegetables. Once frozen, the vegetables are good for a few weeks rather than a week or two. The other plus when vegetables are blanched is that the color of these vegetables are more vibrant. This means that it is more appetizing to eat these veggies because they look more fresh.
If you want vegetables that will last a little bit longer, I highly recommend you consider purchasing organic vegetables.
14. Don’t overstock and over-clutter your food storage
When you overstock your fridge, freezer, and pantry, there’s a tendency of not seeing what other items are inside there. This means that if you cannot see what items are in there, then, some of them especially the perishable ones will expire.
15. Donate what you cannot use
The next time you throw away unused, completely edible food, think that there are people who need food to get through the day. You can always donate excess food the food banks and churches. They’ll be more than happy to take your excess items from you and give them to those in need.
16. Can and pickle
Canning and pickling are good ways to reduce food waste. Canning is a good way to preserve perishable items such as fruits and vegetables that you cannot use right away. Canning will improve the products’ shelf life for a few months. Don't you love eating seasonal fruits in the summer during the winter time? If yes, canning is a way to go.
17. Attempt to compost
EPA has a food recovery hierarchy that prioritizes actions that organizations can do in order to prevent and reuse wasted food. Although composting is its bottom list, you can always do composting instead of throwing your wasted food in the trash.
If only people have the willingness to take extra steps to prevent food from spoilage, our nation or the world will have less problem on food waste. Any steps taken to reduce food waste can truly bring savings to the consumers and help the environment, at the same time, by not adding food waste to the growing problem in landfills or trash disposals.
What have you done to reduce food waste? Do you think these strategies will help you reduce food waste?