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Food Waste: Proven Tips for Effective Management and Reduction

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15 min read

Reducing food waste is a powerful way individuals can contribute to the critical goal of achieving zero hunger. An estimated 30-40% of food supply is lost or wasted globally, intensifying resource strains. But small habit shifts in our homes can counter waste - simple strategies like organizing refrigeration, monitoring freshness, freezing surplus produce, and repurposing leftovers into new dishes. Collectively applying food waste tips preserves resources, saves money, and minimizes environmental impacts. By becoming informed and proactive, individuals enable solutions that ethically and sustainably nourish all people. Our actions in the kitchen hold untapped potential for creating global change.

Food waste is a big problem that is only getting bigger. The USDA has estimated we spend around $218 billion on food that goes to waste each year. Now, this isn't news to most people, but it's still shocking given how much money could be saved with the proper effort.

Preventing food waste is a goal everyone should strive for. It's good for the environment, and it can help save money. The United States Department of Agriculture has found that Americans waste about 31 percent of the food they buy. It's not just about the money being thrown away. It's also about the resources used to produce, package, and transport food that all contribute to climate change.

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Here are five simple tips you can make towards reducing your food waste:

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. If you're unsure what you want to make for dinner, use a meal planning calendar or app to plan your weekly meals. This will help reduce last-minute grocery store trips and prevent impulse buys that can result in food loss. Plan meals and make a shopping list based on those plans. That way, you won't buy too much or too little. Also, include leftovers in your meal plans; this will help you use ingredients before they go bad.
    1. Make a shopping list. Before heading out to the grocery store, create a list of items that need to be purchased and stick with it! Making a shopping list will cut down on your costs from impulse buying. It is a good way to plan to use food in creative ways.

  2. Check your fridge regularly. Check your refrigerator once a week to see what needs to be used up before it goes bad! Use fresh fruits and vegetables before moving to other foods in your fridge.
    1. You may have forgotten about leftovers that could be used as lunch this week. Leftovers can make great quick meals when you're strapped for time. Don't be afraid to eat your leftovers!
      1. Packaged foods like cheese can be added to fresh food to make things like lasagna.

  3. Learn how long foods can last. Understand the facts around shelf life. Food safety is essential, but how you store foods could help extend the life of uneaten food. The room temperature of your food storage is vital to keeping fresh food.
    1. Shop for groceries only once or twice each week. Then you have time to use up items before they spoil. It's easy to throw away food that you think might be bad or to toss produce that is slightly bruised or unappealing. However, it's important to remember that food waste has a major impact on the environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that American households waste about 25% of the food they buy, or around $640 per year. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown away. This leads to more than 20 pounds of wasted food per person each month. So shopping when you need fresh food makes a substantial impact.
    2. Store your food properly, so it lasts longer and keeps its flavor. For example, some fruits and vegetables should be kept in crisper drawers in your refrigerator rather than on shelves. Others should be stored in a dark, cool room.

  4. Find good use for all the food you bring home. Pay attention to what's in your refrigerator and pantry. Being mindful of your food ensures that the fresh food gets used and doesn't go bad.
    1. Consider freezing extra fruits and vegetables if they are just starting to look less fresh. These are great for baking, soups, putting in smoothies, adding them to a salad, or other recipes for extra nutrition and flavor. The peels, too! Many fruits and vegetables have edible peels that can be used in cooking or juicing. Apples, potatoes, onions, carrots, and cucumbers. Even citrus fruits have edible peels that are good for you in many ways. Search for recipes on apps like Pinterest, where you can be specific in your search.

  5. We all know there will be food forgotten or go bad. We see box stores in the food industry have bulk items we know can't possibly be bought and eaten. Composting is one of the best ways to reduce food waste in your home. Composting can be as simple as putting your leftovers in a container and leaving them on the counter for a few days until they start to break down. You can also use a compost bin or get creative with other options.

Food Waste; the Impact on the Planet

Food waste isn't just an issue for your wallet and waistline; it also significantly impacts our planet's health. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that organic materials such as food, account for about 21% of U.S. landfill mass annually. This is notably much higher than any other material, including paper and yard waste combined.

Food waste is a global issue that has been gaining more attention in the last few years. The United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, estimates that one-third of all food produced worldwide is wasted before it is consumed. That's 1.3 billion tons of food per year!

The good news is that we can all do our part to reduce food waste. It starts with being mindful about what we buy, cook, and eat daily.

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Introduce mindfulness into your shopping routine. When grocery shopping, try to buy only what you need for the upcoming week or two. Don't buy more than you can use and waste less food. Also, keep an eye on how much food is left on your plate after each meal.

Here are some tips to help you keep food waste within reason:

  • Keep your refrigerator at the right temperature. If it's too cold, your food can spoil before you can eat it. If it's too warm, bacteria will grow quickly and cause spoilage. Don't let food go bad by storing it properly in the refrigerator or pantry. Learning how different types of foods should be stored at different temperatures will help keep them fresh longer!
  • Don't let food sit out too long before serving it. Putting food on the table while it's still hot or warm preserves its flavor best. It prevents over-salting or over-seasoning by diners who typically add more salt or spices once they've tasted the dish cold!
  • Use your freezer to store extra portions of soups, stews, and other meals that can be reheated easily. This is also nice when you are too busy to cook! Instead of wasting food and cooking another meal, you already have fresh ones in the freezer.
  • Make a meal plan for the week ahead. Knowing what to make for dinner each night will helpyou avoid buying too much food and prevent you from throwing away leftovers every night just because you don't know what else to do with them!
  • Cut down on waste by only buying produce in season. There's no point paying extra for something that's not as good quality as locally available! If you don't think you'll use up all those vegetables before they start going bad, find out if your local farmers' market has a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture). That way, you'll pay in advance for a weekly delivery of fresh produce from local farmers. These farmers pick the food at its peak ripeness to ensure maximum flavor and nutrition.

Become a Storage Pro

You've probably heard the phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen," right? Well, that happens when you have too many food items in your fridge. It's hard to keep track of what you have. It's even harder to ensure you use it before it goes bad.

So we've got some tips to make sure your fridge isn't full of unnecessary items:

  1. Keep an inventory of what's in there. Make a list of everything in your fridge, including expiration dates and prices (if applicable). This will help you know what needs to be used up first.
  2. Group like items together. Don't just toss everything into the fridge haphazardly. Grouping them makes it easy to keep track of and find when you need them most!
  3. Create a rotation schedule for things like milk and eggs so they don't expire before you can use them up.

Make Friends with Your Freezer

If you have food in your fridge that's close to expiring, or has already expired, freeze it! Freezing is a great way to keep food waste low.

When cooking large batches of food, make sure to portion out meals for the week so you can use them later in the week and not throw away unused portions.

If you don't like something that's about to go bad, try using it differently than intended. For example, if you're not feeling an apple but know someone who will be, offer it to them! Likewise, if you don't want to eat fresh bananas, consider making bread, pancakes, or cookies out of them.

Reviving Food

Revive food that is on its way out. Can't finish the milk in your cereal? Use it to make an omelet or pancake batter the following day. Don't be afraid to freeze milk, either. Although it can separate, it still tastes great in baking; like pancakes. A slightly overripe banana peel? Mash it into a smoothie. Leftover meat? Use it to make soup or chili later on in the week. Any other leftovers can be frozen for later use if they're still fresh enough.


Be mindful when shopping and storing groceries. Don't allow your perishables to go bad before using them. Buy only what you need and pay attention to expiration dates on perishable items. Items like meat and dairy products can go bad, so be sure to use them before you have to throw them away from spoilage.


Composting is a great way to reduce the food waste you produce in your home. Composting is a process where microorganisms break down organic waste into rich soil that you can use in your garden.

Many resources are available for composting. Making your own compost is becoming a popular trend. However, if you don't want to take on that project, it's easy to find a local service that will take away your compostable scraps for you.

If you're already composting, well done! You're on your way to keeping more food waste out of landfills and in your garden.

But if you're having trouble keeping up with all of your scraps, here are some tips:

  • Separate your food into categories so that you know what goes where. For instance, meats go in one compost bin and veggies in another
  • Keep an eye on what's going in each bin so that nothing gets mixed up or forgotten about
  • Get a compost thermometer and make sure the temperature is between 131 and 152 degrees Fahrenheit (55 to 67 degrees Celsius) for optimal decomposition

You can compost any organic waste, including food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and even old paper napkins. You can also combine different kinds of organic material together as long as they don't contain meat or dairy products.

If you have a garden or yard space that you want to use for composting, there are many different types of large containers you can buy online or at local stores. You can also make one yourself using an old wooden pallet or other large pieces of wood and some chicken wire.

Once your compost pile has been established for several weeks, it will be ready for use in your garden or on your lawn! Use a compost bin to turn them into valuable fertilizer for your garden. Composting is easy and helps save the planet by reducing the amount of waste you send to landfills.

Reducing Food Waste

These tips, taken individually, will not make an enormous dent in the food waste issue. However, if implemented widely, they can help create a more conscious culture around food. One that is better informed about how food and its byproducts are used, even small changes, can have a big impact on our world. Therefore, we encourage you to start with some of the ideas above.

In the end, reducing food waste is as simple as being mindful. First, we must be mindful of how and what we buy. It is also good to be mindful of how much we are buying. So the next time you go to the store, do a bit of meal planning beforehand to ensure that you don't buy more than you need.

What about the days you impulse buy? Or go shopping while you are hungry? Don't worry about it.

  • You can be mindful of how you store the food
  • Get creative in your recipes, leftovers, and future meals
  • Freeze the extra food
  • Compost what is left over

Not letting any food go to waste is much easier than most people think.

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