Reducing Food Waste: 10 Tips
by Jane Marsh
Significant amounts of food waste originate from cities. Urbanites can use food waste reduction methods and technologies to maximize food supply and reduce ecological degradation. City dwellers actually have abundant resources and solutions available to them to save food for future household consumption, gather food for charity, and compost food scraps (as described below).
As the climate changes, global ecosystems experience debilitating effects. Resource depletion degrades the security of the global food supply. Society can adopt eco-conscious consumption strategies such as limiting waste and supporting agricultural stability.
Below are 10 useful tips to reduce food waste:
1. Meal Prep
Individuals can reduce food waste and conserve resources by preparing meals for the week in large quantities. Rather than going to the store each time you need an ingredient, you can prep various items at the beginning of the week, mixing and matching them to create different meals. Increasing the ease of meal development by cooking ahead of time decreases waste production over time.
2. Plan Your Menu Before Going to the Store
A large portion of waste derives from duplicate ingredients. If you go to the store without a list, chances are you may purchase products you already have at home. The new items in your cart can expire before you finish the duplicates at home, creating food waste.
Professionals recommend two methods for developing grocery lists. First, you can plan your meals for the week and jot down the necessary ingredients you will need from the store. Then, residents may check their refrigerators and pantries, replenishing essential goods.
3. Organize Your Cabinet with FIFO
Another efficient method of reducing food waste follows the first-in, first-out (FIFO) rule. When you store leftovers in your refrigerator, you can label them with their dates and place them in front of new items. Additionally, when you purchase duplicate items at the grocery store, you may stack them behind the food with the earlier expiration date.
Organizing your fridge to align with expiration dates improves the efficiency of consumption. The FIFO method effectively reduces food waste and saves consumers money.
4. Donate Leftovers
If individuals have limited room for storing leftovers, they can donate them rather than throwing them away.
Various urban food recovery programs take food scraps and create meals to feed underserved community members. Many Americans experience hunger at some point in their lives, and food donations can provide relief and reduce waste.
Entire food boxes of fresh produce and wholesome edible goods can be donated to community food banks, to help make the most of food, reduce waste, and feed those in need. Feeling charitable? Consider urban food recovery programs or donating to food banks.
5. Use Overripe Produce for Baking
Individuals can also repurpose leftovers and overly ripe produce for baking. Some fruits actually increase in flavor and sweetness as they age. Brown bananas may seem unappealing for raw consumption, but they make the perfect ingredient for banana bread. Similarly, instead of throwing away wilting vegetables, you can use them to make vegetable stock.
Blending nearly expired produce can conserve resources and develop delicious alternatives to waste. Smoothies, ice cream, and salad dressings all represent opportunities to repurpose older fruits and vegetables, blending them into new products. Creating new items out of overly ripe ingredients significantly decreases waste production.
6. Save Leftovers for Lunch
An age-old method of limiting food waste derives from saving your leftovers. Rather than purchasing lunch out during the workweek, individuals can bring their excess food from the previous day's meals. They can also decrease waste in the commercial sector by bringing reusable take-out containers to restaurants when they eat out.
Glass containers decrease landfill waste and help individuals repurpose leftover meals. Residents can make the most out of their home-cooked meals by freezing the excess. You can significantly enhance the longevity of leftovers by preserving them for future lunches.
7. Invest in Effective Storage Containers
Individuals can decrease waste by investing in practical storage containers. Stackable glass containers increase the efficiency of leftover preservation in one’s refrigerator. They also prevent pests from interfering with food storage better than plastic wrap or other methods.
Residents can also extend the longevity of dry items by transferring them into storage containers from non-sealable plastic bags or cardboard boxes. Pests invade cabinets, tampering with dried food items. Limiting their entry with optimal storage containers and techniques can significantly reduce waste.
8. Use Food Preservation Methods
Consumers can also extend the longevity of produce by engaging in food preservation methods. Pickling is the most notable technique of conserving fruits, vegetables (the most notable being the cucumber, however many other fruits and vegetables serve well as food items for pickling), and other items from home. The vinegar’s acidity in pickling juice prevents bacterial growth and provides an appealing flavor.
9. Differentiate Between “Sell By” and “Use By”
Individuals can also decrease food waste by enhancing their understanding of the “sell by” and “use by” dates. The “sell by” date refers to the amount of time a grocery store can display a product on its shelves. It is not a signifier of the item’s safety or quality.
The “use by” date refers to peak quality. When a product extends beyond its date, it may still be good for consumption, but the flavor may change. Infant formula is an example of an edible item that becomes unsafe after surpassing the “use by” date.
10. Build a Compost
Consumers can also decrease landfill waste by composting food scraps. Individuals may build a compost pile on their property or keep a small container in their home for weekly collections by local organizations. Residents can place almost all organic waste in their compost bins, returning excess nutrients to the soil for regrowth.
Where to Start
Urban regions can decrease food waste by engaging in individual scrap repurposing and reuse methods. Some cities are also utilizing smart technology, tracking consumption levels, and decreasing overproduction. Individuals can help reduce waste by offering their household consumption information to conservation programs.
People can also volunteer for waste recovery organizations, turning scraps into meals for underserved community members. Educating members of your household about food waste reduction methods also increases the sustainability of your home. Over time, small reduction efforts can significantly decrease resource exploitation and improve environmental conditions.
To give you a better idea of how widespread the problem of food waste is globally, here is a chart of worldwide food waste (top 10 countries for annual household food waste per country/ per capita). The food wasted globally each year amounts to billions of tons of food that could have been donated to feed the hungry, stored as leftovers providing future meals, or composted.
Article by Jane Marsh
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of