Reducing food waste is not only one of the best, eco-friendly ways to be more “green” in your kitchen, but it’s also a great way to save money and get the most out of your groceries! It means fewer trips to the grocery store, less landfill trash, and a fatter wallet for you. Woo hoo!
It’s Earth Day! And also, we’re in the midst of a time where food availability is a top priority for so many people, as well as limiting trips to the grocery store.
So I wanted to do something a little different. I’ve collected some of my favorite, easy tips on reducing food waste from myself, other bloggers, and my readers.
These are EASY, small, manageable tips. Sometimes, making changes to our normal routines can feel daunting. So I tried to break this down into really easy steps. Even trying just one of these things is a great way to make an impact!
Whether you’re looking for ways to save money, make fewer trips to the grocery store, reduce your carbon footprint, or get more creative in your cooking to grow your skills, check out this list!
Imagine if everyone in the world did just one thing from this list? The impact would be huge. Can you commit to trying just one of these things you don’t already do?
1. Freeze food that’s about to go bad
Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to reducing food waste.
I like to go through my fridge every few days and take an assessment of what’s about to spoil. Then I decide whether I should cook with it or freeze it.
- Meat: All meat and fish can be frozen. I like to freeze them in 1-lb. portions in zip-top baggies to use in recipes later. For recipes that need browned ground beef like bolognese, I usually just take the block of frozen ground beef and cook it, frozen, right in a covered skillet, scraping off the cooked part with a wooden spoon and flipping it over as I go. You can also just take it out of the freezer the day before you cook with it and let it defrost on a plate in the fridge.
- Veggies: If you have veggies about to go bad, you can likely freeze them. Usually, this involves blanching them first, then freezing. Here’s a great resource on how to freeze vegetables.
- “I like to throw a whole bag of onions into the crockpot to caramelize and then freeze them in an ice cube tray for single use thawing as needed.” -Kat Schooley, reader from Maryland
- Fruit: Fruit is even easier to freeze since you don’t need to blanch it first. Just lay it on a baking sheet to flash freeze, then transfer to a bag or container. Here’s more on how to freeze fruit and veggies.
- “I love fruit but cant always eat it fast enough. I have found that freezing my blueberries, strawberries and raspberries when they are getting too ripe preserves them. They are great to throw into pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and much more!” -Rachel Gravelin, reader from Virginia
- Dairy: You can freeze milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, and more!
Want to know if what you have is good to freeze? Check out this list of 40 foods that freeze really well.
2. Cook with your food scraps
Don’t toss those potato peels! Save those onion ends! I’m serious- all these things can be turned into seriously delicious homemade treats.
- Have some baby greens or spinach that are wilted in your fridge? If they aren’t good for salad anymore, cook them! Throw them in spaghetti with brown butter or sauté them with garlic and lemon.
- Save your vegetable scraps and/or chicken bones to make homemade vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock. It tastes SO much better than store-bought, and it’s basically free to make!
- Grow food from kitchen scraps! Green onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, and countless other scraps can be grown in your garden or in a jar in your kitchen for free produce all year long! Here’s 15 foods you can regrow from scraps.
3. Use every part of your fruits and veggies, and other food
- Don’t toss those broccoli stems- use them to make shaved broccoli salad.
- Save potato peels to make spicy potato peel crisps.
- Use whole strawberries – hull and leaves included – in smoothies.
- If you make your own almond milk, you can save the almond pulp to make almond flour.
- Save chicken livers that come with whole chickens to make chicken liver pate.
4. Try some low-key composting!
Composting is a great way to keep food scraps out of a landfill and can reduce garbage waste by 30%!
Fun fact: did you know thatfood scraps don’t decompose effectively if they’re in a landfill? Instead, they release methane. Whereas food scraps in a compost pile do not, since it’s oxygenated. And it makes amazing fertilizer for gardens!
And you don’t have to actually have a garden and USE your compost to start collecting your scraps for composting. If you’re lucky, you live in an an area with compost pick-up. See if it’s available for you!
- “We keep a small metal trash can under our sink and collect scraps from our produce to add to our compost pile. The compost eventually breaks down, and we add it to our garden!” –Rachel Hall, Soil and Soul Farm
- “We compost all of our food scraps. It makes a big difference in how much waste we throw out at the curb and keep out of the landfill. The compost dirt makes our own amazing fertilizer dirt to grow more herbs and vegetables. It is a great way to get our whole family involved in the process.” –Karen Silcox, PhD
5. Plan out your groceries really well
I love sitting down to make my weekly grocery list, the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I even wrote a post on how to make an organized grocery list.
Being organized about grocery shopping will ensure you use what you buy for less waste, to save you money, and to help you eat healthier (hello, impulse-buy sour cream and onion chips… I’m looking at you!).
- “Every week I start my meal planning by doing a thorough assessment of what I have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. I always start planning with those ingredients in mind to minimize food waste and grocery store trips. It’s shocking how much this has changed the amount of food that gets wasted in our home. Better for the environment and the wallet.” –Kristen Mccaffrey, slenderkitchen.com
I like to keep a white board on my fridge with a list of the meals I have available to make, which helps me remember what I have.
6. Use Leftovers
Think creatively about the leftovers you have. You can use leftover veggie burgers to make hash browns, for example, and I love using leftover cooked chicken in so many things like chicken salad, chicken and dumplings, etc. Use leftover rice to make 10-minute fried rice.
I also love to have a leftovers smorgasbord for dinner! Take out all the leftovers you have from your fridge, as well as anything about to go bad (fruit, veggies, etc.) and have everyone in your family take what they want to reheat. It’s so easy, saves on waste, helps clean out your fridge, and you can pretend it’s like a potluck.
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Anyone else just do a leftovers smorgasbord for dinner sometimes? Leftover Easter bbq chicken, potato salad, and green beans, spanakopita pasta from last night (I literally cannot stop making it!), grapes that were about to go bad, no knead bread I made today with butter (see stories!) and some random pepperoni. Random pepperoni = awesome blog name. You should take it if you want it 😆 what’s for dinner at your house? . #smorgasbord #leftovers #dinner #bowlofdelicious #austin360cooks #f52grams #eateratx #forkyeah #FoodAndWine #buzzfeast #huffposttaste #thenewhealthy #thekitchn #foodwinewomen #tastingtable #thefeedfeed @thefeedfeed #foodblogfeed #eateratx #beautifulcuisines #onthetable #todayfood #seriouseats #gloobyfood #rrmagfan #foodphotography #TOHfoodie #foodbloggerscentral
- “I cook thematically such that my leftovers are easily incorporated into future dishes. I got the idea from Food52’s A New Way to Dinner cookbook. So I make Pad Thai one day, then a Steak Salad the next day, and then leftover steak becomes Thai Tacos the third day. The leftover Pad Thai gets added to the mint/basil/cilantro/red lettuce and tossed with a ginger lime dressing for the steak salad. Then the steak gets chopped up, the salad converted to slaw with a bit of mayo, and I make a sambal peanut sauce to drizzle on top. Thinking in three day increments has really helped create four or five meals from provisions for only three recipes.” -Derek Davidson, reader from Minnesota
- “Leftover rice makes delicious breakfast fried rice the next day. Use veggie trimmings for homemade broth. Roast whole chicken instead of boneless parts and use the carcass to make chicken stock. After we have our meal from the chicken I pull the rest of the meat off and make chicken salad.” -Rachel Hummel, reader from Texas
7. Raid your pantry
Raise your hand if you’ve ever found spices that expired 10 years ago in your pantry, cans of forgotten beans somewhere behind that cornmeal you never use, or that random jar of pesto tucked next to the sundried tomatoes you’ve never opened?
We all have to Marie Kondo our pantries sometimes.
Before planning your meals, or deciding what to make for dinner, take a visit to your pantry, or wherever you store your dry and canned goods. See anything you like? Commit to making something with it so it doesn’t get forgotten!
8. Experiment with ingredient substitutions
Don’t have buttermilk? Make your own by mixing milk and vinegar or lemon juice.
Don’t have fresh lemon juice for a dressing? Use another acidic ingredient like vinegar.
Don’t have spinach? Use other leafy greens like kale instead.
You can use all kinds of ingredients in place of others- a quick google search will help you use what you have instead of giving up on a recipe just because you’re missing one or two things!
9. Use a silicone scraper when mixing something up in a bowl.
Whether you’re baking blueberry muffins, making homemade balsamic salad dressing, or using your food processor to make homemade pesto or peanut butter, a silicone spatula is an amazing tool to make sure you don’t waste any of that yummy food.
How many times have you watched the Food Network and cringed as someone pours batter into a cake pan and leaves TONS of it behind in the bowl? Is that just me? It’s so wasteful!
10. Share your food!
Sharing food is my favorite way to reduce food waste, because food is love.
Did you make too many enchiladas? Pack a few up to take to your elderly neighbor or friend who just had a baby.
Are you really into bread making and can’t fit another artisan loaf in your freezer? Surprise a friend with fresh-baked bread.
Use up the dried dates in your pantry to make ginger date cookies and bring them to work to share, or send them with your kid to school to put in the teacher’s lounge (as a former teacher I can confidently say your contribution will be 100% appreciated).
Have some random item in your pantry you know you’ll NEVER use? Post in your neighborhood facebook group to see if anyone can use it, or start a bin to deliver to a local food bank.
What’s your favorite way to reduce food waste?
I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and let’s keep adding to this list.