Seven ways to reduce food waste at home

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Every year, a shocking amount of food ends up wasted – about one-third of everything produced! This not only hurts our wallets, but also our planet. When food rots in landfills, it creates harmful methane gas that contributes to climate change. Scientists estimate food waste is responsible for a whopping 8% of greenhouse gas emissions!

This is a big problem that we can collectively do something about. With a little extra planning and using tools like freezing and composting, anyone can waste less food. It’s simple to do and it saves you money too!

Pay Attention While Eating

Mindful eating can benefit your health and the environment. When we distractedly rush through a meal it’s easy to keep eating without realising we’re full. And it’s easy to snack on things from the cupboard while watching a screen when you’re not actually hungry! We’ve all done it and it can be an unconscious habit, but it’s a good one to break if you want to reduce food waste.

But by slowing down and taking time to savour each bite, we can better listen to our body’s cues. Simply focusing on the food without phones or TVs allows us to fully enjoy the experience and not eat more than we need.

Starting with smaller portions can help to remember to pay attention and taste every bite. Mindful eating may seem like a small change, but it makes a big difference by cutting down on wasted food, and it promotes sustainable habits for our bodies and the planet. The next time you sit down to eat or put on a movie, try being present with your food and see how much you really need!

A woman with long brown hair is eating a meal at the table.
Slowing down and eating mindfully can reduce food waste and improve your health.

Planning and meal prepping

Winging it at mealtime can lead to food waste. Leftovers spoil, you buy unnecessary things, and your wallet and the planet suffer. But here’s the good news: spending a little time to plan your meals for the week can change that! And prepping your produce and cooking in advance saves you time, money and stress.

Planning your meals means buying only the ingredients you need. Apps like Mealime can even suggest recipes and create shopping lists based on your choices, preventing impulse buys that end up in the trash.

Prepping your food can be as simple as washing and cutting up some vegetables to get ahead of the game on a busy night. And if you have a few hours on the weekend, you can cook a couple of meals and have lunches ready for the week without stress in the mornings. You can also freeze portions for easy dinners when you run out of time or ingredients!

Taking some time to plan and prep your food is an excellent habit for reducing waste and has other great benefits for you, too.

A flat image of different meals, fruit and juices prepped and ready to consume. There are green, orange and pink juices, a bowl of apples, a containers of grapes and cut carrots, and meals including rice, beans and egg, bread, chicken and tomatoes, and broccoli and other vegetables with chicken.
Food prepping is a great tool for reducing waste and stress!

Shop like a pro

Having your meal list means only buying what you need for recipes. Sticking to the plan means you don’t waste money on extra items that you may not use, and you’ll also stick to a budget more easily.

Look for ‘ugly produce’ at the shops – veggies that look funny but taste the same. They often cost less as they’re not perfect, but don’t worry about looks! Choosing this produce stops more food being wasted AND saves you cash. Another tip is to snap up single bananas on the shelf, as most people won’t buy them off the bunch so they often get tossed out.

Finally, buy what’s in season whenever possible. Seasonal foods are the tastiest, freshest and cheapest because they don’t travel far. In-season stuff needs less fuel to transport and less power to store. With wise shopping, you get exactly what you need for the best value, without wasting leftovers.

A woman with curly black hair is shopping for groceries, holding a basket of produce.
Smart shopping can prevent wasting food and saves you money, too!

Get savvy about food storage

Wasting less food is easy when you store things smartly. Ever wonder why ripe bananas suddenly turn brown? Storage plays a big role in how long food lasts.

  • Ensure you store fruit and vegetables correctly, as some fruits give off gases that can cause other produce to ripen faster. Also some veg is best stored at room temperature, while some fruits should be on the bench until ripe, then transferred to the fridge! Eating Well has all the information about produce storage.
  • When storing leftovers, bag or container them tightly after squeezing out extra air. This fights freezer burn so food lasts longer.
  • Date labelling meats right after buying helps you know what’s oldest.
  • Organising food neatly and keeping things visible helps everything get used before going bad. It ensures there are no more mystery items hiding in the back of your fridge or cupboard!
  • Keep half-used vegetables into a bowl or container in the most visible part of your fridge, so you remember to use them first next time you cook.

These simple changes can extend how long your food lasts, reducing waste and saving you money, too. Every small effort counts towards being more sustainable in the kitchen.

A black and white striped fruit bowl with some apples, mandarins and bananas.
Storing fruit correctly can prevent a lot of wastage.

Be creative with leftovers

Instead of tossing scraps or half recipes, use your imagination! Soup is perfect for veggie, grain and meat leftovers. Stir fries let you mix whatever odds are in one easy dish.

Fried rice, frittatas, pizza pockets – leftovers can become brand new meals by mixing it up. Apps like SuperCook give recipes based on what you already have, and many websites like Bon Appetit show cool leftover combinations.

Even a few bites of food can last all week when it’s blended into new creations. Have fun with leftovers – it cuts time cooking from scratch while ensuring all your food is eaten.

Some hands scraping the uneaten food off a plate and into the bin.
Leftovers don’t have to be wasted!

Master your freezer

Using your freezer well makes food last much longer than the fridge alone. Proper freezing techniques are the key:

  • Pick bags and containers meant for freezing. Squish out air and seal them tightly. Write dates and names on packages so you know what’s what later.
  • Some foods get mushy after freezing, like soft fruit. But many veggies stay fresher when you “blanch” them first. Here’s how to do it and which vegetables are best.
  • Keep a container in the freezer to pop overripe fruit into for smoothies or cakes later on. If your fruit is too ripe or you can’t eat it all, they can still be used in blended recipes!
  • When possible, freeze meals in just the right amount for your family.
  • Don’t pack the freezer to bursting as this raises the temperature, and let new stuff chill overnight before stacking them in the freezer.

With smart freezer use, your favourite recipes can become easy meals even during busy times. Proper freezing prevents wasting!

A small freezer full of food containers, ice and ice blocks, and some packaged food.
Our freezer, featuring containers of meals, leftover ingredients like pasta, and chopped fruits and vegetables. We usually have some ice-cream in there too! Note how the thin plastic containers on the right aren’t great for freezing and the food is getting frosty.

Use compost power

Some food like banana peels, eggshells and coffee grounds can’t be reused in recipes. You have two great options – composting or using them as kitchen scraps for chickens. Both keep biodegradable waste out of landfills.

If you have backyard chickens, they’ll love kitchen scraps. Eggshells provide extra calcium and chickens also enjoy banana peels as a treat. All you need is a small bin by your kitchen to collect non-cooking scraps for the chickens.

You can also use composting. Backyard composting programs or CompostNow will pick up your food scraps. Or if you have a garden you can start your own comport heap and have nutrient-rich soil on demand!

Ensuring food scraps are put to good use is an easy way to help the planet, and you could have fresh eggs or rich compost for free, too!

Hands holding compost soil, next to vegetable scraps and eggshells on the ground.
Composting is a great way to make use of food scraps.

Conclusion

Making small changes to save food takes little effort but makes a big difference. Even trying a couple of ideas like mindful eating, playing with leftovers and using freezers properly makes less trash.

Less waste helps the earth by lowering your emissions too. Plus, you save money that would be spent on replacing spoiled food! Making smart choices about getting, keeping and cooking food make sense for your bank account as well as your footprint.

Please share your favourite food saving methods in the comments! Working together, we can all reduce more food waste at home.

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