Food waste has been a growing problem for years. As we have gained access to more choice, more food and more shops so has our food waste increased. How to reduce food waste then?
We have bigger fridges so we can store more food. We have bigger pantry’s to stockpile excess food and we have more access to fast food, take outs and restaurants.
According to recent statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, almost one third of food produced for us to eat gets wasted. One third! This totals roughly $990 billion in wasted food. Shocking!
One major benefit in my eyes of reducing food waste is the money you will save. Buying food only to waste it days or weeks later is a sure fire money wasting thing. Minimize wastage and your food bill will inevitably go down.
Secondly by reducing your own food waste you are doing your part to reduce global wastage. That’s got to be a good thing, right?
10 Easy Ways To Reduce Food Waste And Save Money
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When you plan ahead what meals you intend to make and eat you have the opportunity to reduce food waste right then and there.
Meal planning allows you to focus on what food you are actually going to eat and therefore buy.
It is one of the best ways to reduce your grocery bill as you will only buy what you need for the meals you have planned.
Focus on cheap and easy meals within your meal plan and have a meatless meal every week.
2. Buy (Only) What You Need
Having planned your meals for the week or longer you are able to build a really strong and effective shopping list.
Make your shopping list a list of the exact ingredients you need for every meal and nothing more. Buying only what you need is a key way to help reduce food waste.
If you don’t buy it, you can’t waste it!
You can also save money by buying wonky or imperfect veg. Most grocery stores have exacting standards of what vegetables should look like, their shape, size and color.
But vegetables do not necessarily always grow according to grocery store standards. With the increased publicity on food wastage statistics some stores now sell a selection of less than perfect looking vegetables and fruit.
They might be a little wonky or out of shape but they taste exactly the same and are usually a little bit cheaper.
3. Practice Portion Control
We’ve all done it, made too much dinner, haven’t we? Cooking the right sized portion of food for everyone for each meal is an acquired skill.
I always struggle with the vegetable portions. How many roast potatoes is everyone going to eat when I have the family round for Sunday dinner? Should I count and cook per person? Add a few? Add a lot?
4. Love Your Leftovers
If you are brilliant at portion control you might not have any leftovers to use up but most of us have leftovers at some point during the week.
I know as kids my brothers and I used to call leftovers “second-hand food”. And accuse our Mum of being cheap. Ouch!
There is a big difference between frugal vs cheap and leftovers are not cheap, they are perfectly good food.
Never throw away perfectly good food just because you cooked too much. Turn your leftovers into another meal with a few extra ingredients and spices.
Quirky leftover concoctions are one of the benefits of reducing food waste. You get to eat one off creations that you will likely never have again.
Alternatively you can have a family smorgasbord one night where everyone has a different (leftover) meal.
5. Complete A Food Waste Audit
A very visual way to help you learn how to reduce food waste is to complete a food waste audit.
This audit is a very simple process of tracking what food items you threw away and why by writing it down daily.
Perhaps you planned a meal and then you had take out instead? Or you resolved to eat more fruit, bought accordingly but then lost your resolve?
Noting what you chucked and reviewing it at the end of two weeks will help you build up a picture of your own personal food waste. And show you how you can save money in the future by not throwing this food away.
I’ve created a FREE Food Waste Audit that you can download and use. It’s in my free resource library along with other useful printables to help you save money.
6. Use Everything
Another way to reduce food waste in your kitchen is to use every part of the vegetables and fruit you buy. The skins and leaves of many vegetables hold many nutrients that are lost when you peel or discard them.
Cauliflower leaves are a tasty alternative to cabbage. Beetroot tops are a lovely alternative to spinach and are great in a mixed salad.
There will always some wastage from your food, onions skins and apple cores for instance. But these do not need to end up in your waste bin.
Some UK local authorities provide a kitchen caddy to hold your food scraps and they will recycle these. However many don’t.
When you are looking for ways to reduce food waste so it doesn’t end up in landfill sites, composting is your friend. A well rotted compost is a perfect plant fertilizer with lots of micro nutrients.
To get started with composting why not check out this post?
Don’t fall in to the trap of excess composting though. Only compost what you truly cannot eat. Don’t compost edible food that you could otherwise use with a little creativity – see the tip above.
If you end up with a glut of vegetables or fruit that you cannot eat before they go bad then consider preserving them instead.
You can blanch and freeze them or go one step further and preserve via canning, drying, chutney or jam making.
8. Don’t Overfill Your Fridge
And cupboards and freezer. The more you stuff into your fridge, freezer or cupboards, the harder it is to see what you have and ensure it gets eaten within its use by dates.
My fridge is always chock-a-block with fresh vegetables and fruit when I get back from shopping. But my aim every time is to have it positively empty by the next time I plan on shopping.
If you cannot see what’s in your fridge or freezer then you run the risk of not using that item and it going bad before you do get to it.
9. Rotate Food Storage
In the past I have had plenty of food stores, too much at times. This has led me to wasting food because I find something at the back of the cupboard which is a couple of years past it’s use by dates.
I’m all for being a little flexible on food dates but not that flexible! Ensuring you know what is in your cupboards, fridge and freezer will help you keep an eye on use by dates and ensure you use every item.
True story – I once ‘lost’ a whole turkey in one of my large chest freezers! (Yes I had 2 chest freezers). I knew I had that turkey but could I find it when I wanted it at Christmas one year? Not a chance and I really looked.
That year I resolved to reduce my freezers down to more accessible levels and we had that lost turkey for Easter instead.
Related post: How To Stockpile Food On A Budget – 10 Easy Tips
10. Use Your Freezer
Your freezer is a great place to store leftovers, meals you have batch cooked and produce you won’t use within a few days of buying it.
The only meat and fish I store in my fridge is that which, according to my meal plan, is due to be used within a couple of days.
All other meats are frozen on the day I buy it. If you are buying according to your meal plan then you’ll use these items during the following week/s.
However if your plans change the meat is still frozen ready for next week’s meal plan. Thus saving you money.
The Benefits Of Reducing Your Food Waste
If we each learn how to reduce our own food waste then we are also contributing to a global reduction.
Buying imperfect veg will encourage stores to rethink their perfect shape and sizing standards.
Buying only the food that we need enables us to reduce our grocery bill and might just encourage the stores to stock a little less produce.
Keeping our food stores at manageable levels and rotating regularly ensures we use all the food we buy before use by dates.
How We Can Help Reduce Food Waste In Restaurants
When you have a meal out in a restaurant are you like me and eat far too much simply because you don’t want to let the food go to to waste?
Or are you really good and practice your own portion control? Portion sizes in restaurants these days are far too large and there is so much food waste.
Portion control is one answer to the problem of how you can reduce food waste in restaurants.
Another answer to that problem could be to ask for a doggy bag – to take your excess food home.
Many restaurants are more than happy to bag up your uneaten food portion. But it’s not something many of us are comfortable asking for, myself included.
A leftover slice of pizza yes, but a quarter of my spaghetti carbonara? Not quite so easy.
How We Can Help Reduce Food Waste In Schools
My daughters always took a packed lunch to school, along with many of their classmates. Their schools had a policy of the children bringing home any uneaten lunch and the wrappers.
As parents we knew what had been eaten, and not, and could tweak future school lunches to reduce food waste.
This also helped reduced the schools garbage disposal bill and allowed eco conscious parents to compost any leftover, non edible food.
If you have children at school who take their own lunch and the school does not send home wrappers and uneaten lunch, why not have a chat with them?
Encourage them to adopt this approach or provide various recycling options, including composting, at the school.
Related post: 50 Frugal Habits That Are Also Eco Friendly
Reducing Food Waste In Your Office Or Workplace
Many employers do not offer a canteen so you provide your own food, either brought from home or bought from a local shop.
You are therefore often in control of your food waste in the office. Bring only what you will eat, take your leftovers home and compost what you can.
If you do buy lunch (you’ll save more money bringing your own) then buy wisely and save any excess for another day.