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10 Ways To Reduce Food Waste

If you’ve seen my early food waste photos and my messy fridge, then you know that I haven’t always been quite so good about using up all of my food.

I realized recently that while I’ve been faithful about posting pictures of my declining waste, I haven’t really said much about how I’ve managed to reduce my food waste.

So, I though a list of tips would be helpful!

1. Plan a menu and stick to it.

If you don’t have a plan, it’s going to be very difficult to buy exactly what you need at the store. More than likely, you’ll end up with items you aren’t going to use before they expire/mold/grow hairy.

I find it to be helpful to plan not just my main dishes at dinner but also my side dishes. This has helped me cut way back on produce waste. I used to just go and buy a bunch of fruits and vegetables and hope we could eat them all.

Now I plan more carefully (grapes with Tuesday night’s dinner, green salad on Monday and Wednesday) and I waste very few fruits and veggies.

(if you need menu-planning help, browse through the menu-planning archives)

2. Do a mental fridge inventory daily or every other day.

One one of the challenges with leftovers is remembering to eat them! It’s easy to shove the containers to the back of the fridge and forget completely about them.

I find that I need to take a quick visual inventory of my fridge every day or two so that I can keep track of what needs to be eaten.

3. Look through your fridge, freezer and pantry before you make a menu.

Even if you don’t do an inventory every few days, at least do one before you plan your menu. That way you can choose meals that will use up ingredients that have been sitting in your house for almost too long.

4. Make a grocery list and stick to it.

This is really inextricably related to my first point above…when you make your menu, write down exactly what you need, and try to buy nothing more than that. Any extra perishable food you buy is possibly going to go to waste.

This also helps me to keep track of my produce. When I scan my fridge, I look for fruits or vegetables that are on the brink of rot and try to incorporate them into our meals or snacks before it’s too late.

5. Eat leftovers for lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t love doing this, but it’s a surefire way to get them eaten up without having to eat them for dinner several nights in a row.

6. Make sandwiches or salads with leftovers.

This works better when you’ve had sort of a plain meal(i.e. grilled chicken, not enchiladas). Leftover meat and random vegetables can make a tasty sub or salad with very little effort.

7. Bake something.

Baking (even something very simple, like muffins) is a great way to use up bits of buttermilk (or cream or milk), or fruits that are past their optimum freshness.

8. Freeze food that you won’t be able to use in time.

Obviously this doesn’t work for all foods, but I’ve managed to save a fair amount of food this way. Of course, if you forget about it and it gets freezer burnt, you’re still going to waste it.

So, an occasional freezer inventory is a good idea (and one that I’m still working on implementing!)

9. Think about food waste in real dollars.

For instance, if you throw away a whole cucumber, remind yourself that you have just thrown $.99 in the trash.

It took me a long time to realize how much money I was throwing away each week, and once I did, it was very motivating.

10. Have other people keep you accountable.

I think this is probably the thing that has helped me the most. Knowing that people all over the world are going to look at my food waste each week has motivated me to soldier through many leftovers that would have otherwise gotten thrown away.

I’m sure I’ve left some wonderful ideas off of this list, so feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

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Carla Davis

Monday 17th of October 2022

I bought clear glass dishes with lids and filled them with leftovers. I keep them in the fridge in the very front so that they don’t get lost. (Oldest goes on top) . This has worked out very well. We almost always eat up the leftovers using this method. Within weeks, the glass dishes paid for themselves.

Mildred Archer

Wednesday 17th of February 2016

Lovely post! We are recently trying to reduce our food waste and I'm trying to explain to my kids how important this is actually. Your suggestions gave me some very good ideas. Thank you for sharing!

Karina Geneva

Tuesday 27th of January 2015

Thanks for these fantastic ideas! I have been amazed at how many leftovers can be transformed into delicious soups the family loves! The other day I made a big batch of scalloped potatoes. The family loved them, but had no interest in having them as a side dish again on day 2. So, on day 3 I chopped up the scalloped potatoes and put them in a pot with some vegetable stock I had in the freezer. I chopped and added the miscellaneous veggies I had on hand, including the broccoli left over from an order of General Tso's chicken. Result -- scrumptious soup served with garlic bread. But we didn't finish all of it. Next day I added a large can of diced tomatoes and some herbs, and enjoyed another meal with toasted croutons. The family love it, finished it, and had no idea it was based on leftovers! I've made leftover turkey soup where I mixed the stuffing and side veggies as well. I've made leftover soup out of a wide variety of pasta dishes. I made some Chicken Marbella yesterday and the juices were SOOO delicious that I know I'm going to convert the leftovers into a delicious soup, maybe adding some chopped kale or spinach. The other plus -- my kids sometimes balk at veggies, but devour them when they're in a soup!

Donna Lawrence

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Thank you for the wonderful tips on food waste. I've been very guilty of this but haven't taken the steps to totally stop either. This Thanksgiving I was chosen to bake the turkey and dressing for our dinner for my husband's family. Since I had all the broth from the turkey, I made gravy, too. Was so proud to bring it along.... The whole meal was great and during the cleanup, everyone that wanted it took a little of everything leftover which was great. We got down to the gravy (which was wonderful by the way) and no one wanted it and I didn't speak up in time, and one of the family members (I won't mention names) just dumped it in the sink and ran it down the disposal. "We don't eat leftovers", she said. And I stood there in shock. I think about what I could have done with that now.... This food waste thing has really opened my eyes to how ungrateful we are with all that we've been blessed with and it seems to have become NO BIG DEAL. Just dump it out. Anyway, reading this has really prompted me to stop thinking and reading about food waste and do something. I'm challenging myself for a 2015 turnaround. And I'll save money, too! Thank you, Kirsten and everyone else that contributed ideas!


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

I'm so glad you're feeling inspired! Yay!

Janet Fazio

Wednesday 22nd of October 2014

eliminating food waste is one of my top priorities. Rather than stocking up once a week, I am trying to build in a quick shopping trip every 3 days or so for fresh produce so I only buy what I know I'll eat.

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