35 Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
Waste No More!
Food waste is becoming more and more of an issue as time goes by, especially in America. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), not only do we throw away billions of dollars of food every year, but we also waste the water, chemicals, and energy that are used to produce those wasted foods.
With one in six Americans lacking adequate nutrition, serious environmental effects of rotting foods in landfills, and billions of dollars wasted each year, it’s time to do something.
Whether you're already doing your part by trying to eat every last item on your grocery list, or you're just becoming aware of the issue, we have simple tips and attainable goals that can help you save money and reduce food waste.
1. Create your meal plan.
It all starts with a plan. When you plan out your meals for the week, you are likely to waste less and use more of the produce you purchase. Aim to create plans that have similar food items in them like in our Week Without Waste dinner plan.
2. Make a list.
Once you've got your plan down on a chalkboard or in your notebook, create your list by combining all of the recipes that you want to make for the week, then understand how different foods can be divided up to work in multiple meals throughout the week.
3. Know about expiration dates.
Food labels can often be confusing. Whether it's the sell-by or the expiration date, we typically toss foods the day that date arrives. Instead of trashing immediately, use your best judgment to decide what's fresh. See more tips from Dana Gunders, a food waste expert at NRDC and author of the Waste Free Kitchen Handbook.
4. Put diminishing produce to good use.
No matter how many times you aim to eat every banana you buy, more often than not, they turn brown before you can. Instead of tossing though, turn them into these delicious recipes including this ever-so-popular banana bread and four other treats, including our Amazing 3-Ingredient Pancakes.
5. Expand your items.
Whether you picked one too many apples at the orchard, or you never got around to eating that entire 5-pound bag, throw them in the slow cooker and make our delectable Apple Butter, then put it to use in these five creative ways. Not a fan of apple butter? Make them the shining star in these apple-focused recipes.
6. Experiment with unexpected uses for the dregs.
7. Keep produce fresh.
Avoiding food waste all starts at the grocery store. You simply need to know how to shop, store, pick out the good items, and pluck out the bad ones.
8. Be smart about storage.
9. Eat every last bit.
Even if you think you're doing it right, you've actually been eating your apple wrong this whole time. Instead of eating around the core, enjoy it from the bottom to the top. You'll get so much more of the crunchy sweet-tart fruit.
10. Know how to pick the best produce.
How many times have you returned from the grocery store eager to slice open an avocado or break into that juicy watermelon, only to realize that it's either gone bad or isn’t close to being ripe. See our quick avocado tip and smart farmers' market shopping hacks.
11. Put leftovers to good use.
Sayonara, bland, boring leftovers. If the thought of eating the same meal for lunch that you ate for dinner the night before disgusts you, we've got your back. We've done the work for you and created several weekly menus that help you cook once and eat three times in innovative ways that will have you craving leftovers time and time again.
12. Make your kids' lunches out of yours.
Kids’ meals can be one of the biggest culprits for food waste. So instead of buying extra— often processed foods—for them, simply tweak your lunch to make a kid-friendly version for little ones.
See More: One Recipe, Two Lunches—Easy Recipes for You and The Kids
13. Embrace the freezer.
It really is that simple. The freezer is one of the best ways to knock out food waste, and it will help you get ahead for dinnertime and save money too. Before you start freezing just anything though, see our best recipes for making, freezing, and reheating.
14. Learn the best way to freeze, thaw, and reheat.
So you embarked on the freezer journey only to be disappointed come mealtime? Before you abandon it altogether or begin again, learn our best tips for success including the best storage containers, labeling and thawing tips, and portion sizes.
See More: 5 Tips for Better Freezing, Thawing, and Reheating
15. Learn the best way to pack your lunch salads.
A soggy salad couldn't be sadder, especially when you were jazzed about the fact that you prepped and packed your lunches for the week ahead of time (finally!). To avoid the sad desk lunch, watch our tutorial to learn how to pack your salads the right way.
16. Get to know how long cooked food lasts in the fridge.
Whether you whipped up a gourmet seafood dinner or you ate at one of your favorite restaurants, cooked seafood like salmon sometimes just doesn't get finished before the night is over. Don't worry: this heart-healthy fish stays fresh for up to three days.
17. Turn excess holiday or party foods into meals.
Holiday parties and just parties in general are a recipe for leftovers. So what do you do with a mountain of random leftovers? Throw another party, of course! Or, turn them into this week's lunches and dinners.
18. Make your own broth.
How many times have you tossed bones, stems, and other "unworthy" ingredients? Probably more often than you would like to admit. You don't need to toss those unwanted items just yet. Make your own homemade chicken broth, or better yet, make bone broth, the magic elixir that's been said to warm your soul.
19. Don't throw out hard sugar; learn how to soften it.
While brown sugar may not be very pricey, every bit adds up, and we never want to just toss something because it appears to be unusable. Hard brown sugar is easy to soften with this simple trick. Before you know it, you'll be baking up a storm again.
20. Turn a little leftover Greek yogurt into a treat.
Large containers of Greek yogurt are often only half eaten, then thrown away after a couple of days, especially when just one of your weekly recipes called for it. Either incorporate it into your breakfast routine or whip up your own DIY Frozen Greek Yogurt Dots to enjoy on another day.
21. Buy the right kitchen tools.
From food processors to spiralizers, to peelers and more, the right kitchen tools will change the way you think about your grocery list for good. Once you know the magic these tools unlock, you'll cook up just about anything and everything that your pantry and fridge has to offer.
22. Plant your own garden.
As we've said previously, food waste often starts at the grocery store. You can knock out the produce part of that statement simply by growing your own food. This therapeutic activity helps you cut down on food waste, eat the rainbow, and bulk up your wallet.
23. Freeze your produce.
We all can get a little "purchase happy" at the farmers' market or buy way too much produce when starting a healthier eating plan. While we applaud you for your healthy living initiative, sometimes this leads to waste. Save your produce by learning how to freeze it to keep it just as delicious and nutritious as it was when you first bought it.
24. Make meals ahead of time.
Whether your mornings are packed, your evenings are slammed, or your days are all around busy, anyone's diet and wallet can benefit from a good make-ahead meal. Cook recipes ahead of time, freeze, and use the leftover ingredients in other dishes throughout the week.
25. Learn to cook.
With the massive portions restaurants deliver to the table these days, more and more food unfortunately gets left on the plate. Either take home the uneaten portion of your meal (no matter how small), or simply learn to cook. Cooking, from scratch especially, helps you eat healthier and be more aware of how much you might be wasting. These recipes make it simple, we promise.
26. Avoid kitchen mistakes.
Burnt toast, dry poultry, limp salads—yikes! All of these kitchen mistakes lead to food in the trash. You can easily avoid those slipups with our expert tips.
27. Eat produce that's in season.
Get the most flavor and nutrients out of seasonal produce. Instead of trying to eat a bland out-of-season veggie, learn what's in season and stick to that produce each week. You're taste buds will thank you, and you'll most likely waste less food.
28. Bake a second batch.
So many recipes, especially baked goods, call for 2 to 4 servings. Instead of overeating baked goods or tossing them after they've gone stale, be a saint and gift a treat to someone you know. You'll feel good, you're friend will feel great, and you'll reduce waste—a win for everyone.
See More: Bake A Second Batch; Bake It Forward for the Holidays
29. Set your fridge at the right temperature.
According to Test Kitchen Director Katie Barreira, the most wasted food group is fresh produce. (Dairy is No. 2; meat, poultry, and fish are No. 3). Set your fridge between 35° and 37° to help extend the life of your produce. See more tips on storing foods.
30. Make five ingredients your friend.
These super simple recipes call for just five ingredients. Your grocery list (and bill) will be smaller, and you'll most likely eat up everything off that list as well.
31. Use it all up.
Corn tortillas, cilantro stems, buttermilk, and ricotta cheese are some of the most common ingredients that get tossed too early. Help reduce waste by using up every one of those items in these creative and tasty recipes.
Try Our Use It Up Challenge: Leftover Ricotta Cheese; Celery; Cilantro Stems; Buttermilk; Fish Sauce
32. Be a juicer.
Juice is the easiest way to use all of your produce, and it's incredibly nutritious. Whether you're heading out of town, trying to consume more fruits and veggies, or eating an unwanted piece of produce, juice allows you to either mask or highlight all of these ingredients.
33. Plan ahead if you hate leftovers.
If your leftovers look more like a child's plate of mashed up ingredients, get smart with these practical tips. First, be honest, then plan ahead, and always remember to shake up your proteins and starches.
34. Start to compost.
Add nutrient-rich organic matter to your soil, and put any produce scraps to use by composting. Include fresh grass clippings and weeds, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea, fruit peels and trimmings, and/or vegetable trimmings to help feed your compost.
35. Get to know your pantry and fridge.
There's no better way to avoid food waste than to simply know what you have and what you're doing. Jot down a list of what’s in your fridge and pantry, how much of it you have, then create a meal plan based off those ingredients. See more tips and advice on reducing food waste.