23 Practical Tips On How To Stop Wasting Food At Home (And Save Yourself Some Money, Too)

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Food waste hacks are great because they can help save you money. But they’re also helpful for the environment, and in turn, climate change.

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According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 30–40% of America’s food supply ends up as waste, which is a lot of waste! Another way of looking at that percentage according to the USDA research is approximately 133 BILLION pounds of waste per year — or around $161 billion dollars worth of wasted food.

But the damage doesn’t end there, unfortunately. The little leftover scraps and food you toss in the garbage end up in landfills — where they rot and decompose, omitting greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide the entire time. The best way to stop this from happening? Using up all of your food and not letting it go to waste.

So when Reddit user Hilaritytohorror asked the question, “Any tips for minimizing food waste?” in r/ZeroWaste, I had a feeling some great tips would be suggested there.

They continued: “The majority of waste that I produce is food waste. I live alone, and work two jobs. Not a lot of time to cook, but I also am trying to fight the eating out battle for economic reasons. I’d like to minimize the amount of food that goes to waste in my house week to week due to me not having time to prepare it, but also avoid ready to eat meals due to plastic wastes. I have tried food prep, eating simple ‘rice and bean’ meals, and simply trying to go to the supermarket more often. Do I need to continue to try these techniques? Any other advice or tips or tricks I could use?”

Luckily, the community of people living their best low-waste lives responded with lots of answers. Here are some of the most helpful:

1.Cook with freezing food in mind.

a freezer with frozen vegetables

“I cook for the freezer rather than cook for the fridge. If it goes in the fridge, I usually forget the leftovers are there and they go uneaten. Or I have meal prep food a couple of days in a row and by day three I’m sick of it. So nearly everything I cook goes straight into containers and into the freezer. That includes dinner leftovers that weren’t ‘meal prep,’ just a bit of leftover whatever. I’ve got a regular frozen food aisle in my freezer right now!” —u/Papa_Goulash

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2.Save your food scraps in a container and drop them off at your local composting site.

person putting their scraps into a bowl

“I keep a container or grocery bag in my freezer and stick all my food scraps for the week (or however long I can manage) and then take it to the local community garden’s compost pile. I realize this doesn’t get rid of the not having time issue, but it helps the food waste not go to waste.

Look around and see if there are any community gardens around or local colleges, they tend to have compost piles going and are always happy to take food scraps!” —u/rreade43

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3.Figure out what you’re buying too much of and stop doing that.

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“Buy less food. If you have food waste, that simply means you are buying more food than you are eating (or cooking more than you are eating, in which case cook smaller batches or freeze them).

Either way, identify which foods go to waste the most in your house and buy/make less of them and see if that makes a difference.” —u/memeleta

4.Keep a list of ingredients or meal ideas on your fridge.

refridgerator with a piece of paper on it

“I keep a list on my fridge of what’s in there as well as some meal ideas using those ingredients. It helps me when I’m tired and don’t have enough brain power to come up with a meal. It also helps me remember what needs to be used and in what order. Plus if I look up at the list and I see ‘tacos’ listed there, it’s harder for me to justify going out to buy tacos for myself.” —u/nutellatime

“I have a dry erase board on the side of my fridge where I list everything in the fridge on one side and everything in the freezer on the other side. I’ll mark the items that go bad fast or have to be used soon so I don’t forget about anything. I’ll make 1 trip to the farmers market to get all my meat for the week. Immediately freeze what I won’t use in the next 1–2 days. I buy enough fruit and veggies for 1–3 days as well. After that, I’ll make small trips to the grocery store to supplement whatever else I need for the week. I rarely end up letting food go bad anymore.” —u/Decent-Alternative

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5.Pickle everything.

jars of food

“Get into pickling. I can pickle all your veggie scraps, keep them around to throw on salads and sammiches, or just to monch on.” —u/ChefXJeff

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6.Eat what you already have instead of buying new food.

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“Every now and then it is ‘no grocery store week’. I make do with what we have, even if it means no fresh veg/fruit for the week. This week it was using up all the bread ends in the freezer for stuffing, the half container of ricotta cheese into pancakes, and the carrots languishing in the bottom of the fridge into pot roast.” —u/SLewis234489

7.Try making “modular meals.”

a pan of roasted vegetables

“One idea is to make ‘modular’ meals. For example, pretty much every week I make:

• A huge oven-load of roasted vegetables

• A grain, like, quinoa or rice or buckwheat

• A protein, either beans or tofu or occasionally fish/meat

Then I can just…eat that over and over. This is pretty much all of my breakfast and lunch. It’s easy to plan because it’s a formula and there are only three things to cook. I can change it up by adding interesting dressings, fresh herbs, sprouts, an egg, nuts, cheese, etc.

In terms of minimizing waste, I think that simplicity is key. After not too long of cooking like this you’ll know exactly how much you need and you’ll be able to make exactly that. For example, for me and my husband, it’s four sheet pans of vegetables, a kilo of protein, and four cups of dry grains for the week.” —u/Oochre23

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8.Keep your fresh fruits on the table so you’ll eat them, and others in the fridge to stay fresh for longer.

bowl with fruit in it

“I keep half of the fruits out and the remaining half in the fridge. The ones outside especially in the
summer would ripen fast. Once I see that the stock out is reducing, I slowly bring out the fruits in the fridge.

Also when buying, vegetable and fruits and for that matter any food, always look for the best before or use-by date. The fresh product might be towards the back of the store shelf, but I try to check the date and buy as I don’t want food to get spoiled and I waste it.” —u/Collectingrecipes

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9.But if your fruit is almost bad, take your leftover citrus and turn it into candy.

slices of oranges that have been baked until completely caramelized

“I like to make candied citrus with citrus peels. It makes a great topping for desserts or a refreshing sweet snack.

Slice the peels thinly, boil a few times to remove any bitterness from the pith (I remove the pith as much as possible but it’s not always required) then boil the peels in a simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water or for richer syrup 2:1) for an hour or two, until the peels are tender, translucent, and easy to bite through. Then coat them in sugar. Save the syrup for other uses as well such as sweetening cold drinks, or topping for pancakes or ice cream.” —u/Zytria

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10.Try eating the parts of a vegetable you’re not used to eating, like the stalks of broccoli.

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“You can eat the stems of broccoli and cauliflower. Especially if you pan roast them in the oven. I cut them into thin slices.” —u/Zeiserl

11.Use leftover fruit to jazz up your drinking water.

pitcher of water with sliced cucumber and lemons in it

“I like to take fruit leftovers (lemon rinds, strawberry tops, etc.) and/or fresh herbs that are going bad soon and put them in a pitcher of water in the fridge. Encourages my spouse and I to drink more water; we’re currently working our way through some basil stems and strawberry tops. Also have done lavender and lemon rind. At some point, I might try cucumber and mint if I have some leftover from a salad or something but I hear that is good, too.” —u/321lynkainion123

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12.Try cooking in batches.

batch cooked foods in glass tupperware

“I cook in batches. Most of the foods I like are the rice based dishes (curries over rice, Chipolte-style beans and rice, etc). I am also not a fan of crunchy/crisp foods (such as raw vegetables).

When I cook, I cook family sized portions (I’m one person). I freeze at least half from the get-go in whatever containers I have (usually those black plastic takeout containers from restaurants). I’ve always been a little skeeved by food stored in plastic bags.” —u/crazycatlady331

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13.Freeze anything you think will go bad in a few days time.

person freezing grapes in a bag

“I typically freeze things once I think they’ll go bad in a day or two and I know I won’t eat them. Obviously this doesn’t work with everything, but even things like spinach I’ll freeze and use in smoothies.” —u/number1dog

“I got into the habit of chopping onions and celery to freeze for use in soups, stews, and basically any dish that doesn’t require them to have a super crisp texture. Silicone pouches work great for this. I keep a supply of chopped onion and celery in the freezer. When I need one or both for a dish, I can easily scoop out portions.

I used to go to the trouble of freezing the veg on baking sheets, then putting them already frozen into the pouches. Then I got lazy — ahem — I mean efficient and started tossing fresh chopped in with the frozen. Didn’t notice a difference, so now I skip the baking pan part entirely. I also save veg trimmings (peels, etc) until I have enough to roast off in the oven and then make veg stock, which I freeze in 1–2 cup portions.” —u/CountessSockula

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14.Imagine your recipes like a game and make sure to use leftover ingredients in your next recipe.

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“Think of it as word chain game. I’m imagining part of the food waste come from ingredients that you’ve used once and forgotten. Well, start thinking about the next recipes that make use of the leftover ingredients.” —u/smarty-0601

15.Dehydrate your food to preserve it for a longer amount of time.

dehydrated mushrooms, apples, cucumbers, apricots, strawberries and tomatoes

“We purchased a food dehydrator late last year. Fruits (and veggies) can be made pureed into leather. Any veggies I think I may not get to I would dry out and throw in the freezer for future soups. Many soups can also be frozen with decent results. I just froze a batch of asparagus soup and have some bean soups still in there. Soups are a great way to use up leftovers.” —u/Eydaos

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16.Learn how to keep your herbs fresher for longer by keeping them in water.

parsley in a glass of water inside a fridge

“One thing I used to throw away was fresh herbs. They’d always go bad within a couple of days and I’d never be able to use all of them. If you store them in a cup in the fridge with some water and loosely covered, they’ll last over a week and stay fresh. Ever since I learned that, I rarely throw away fresh herbs now, and the small amount I do have leftover, along with the stems, go into the stock bag in the freezer.” —u/Lankience

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17.Feed your extra produce to your pet rabbits…

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“Our house has had success with pet rabbits. They can eat a lot of veggie trimmings that would otherwise be thrown out, and are also adorable.” —u/eukomos

18.…or to the worms!

worms eating vegetables

“I keep a worm bin now. They’re surprisingly easy to take care of and I
feel a lot less bad feeding my scraps to them.” —u/yourdogsauntie

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19.Learn how to make easy sauces that go with your leftovers.

three salad dressings inside of mason jars

“If you get good at making sauces it is also way easier to eat whatever is on the verge in your fridge. I have a spicy mayo (mayo, garlic, sambar karam), a cilantro pesto (pureed cilantro, olive oil, white vinegar, chili flakes, garlic), and either tzatziki or hummus (or both) on hand at all times which makes eating leftovers super easy because they go with anything.” —u/ricebunny12

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20.Make banana bread out of overripe bananas.

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“I love to make banana bread out of my overripe bananas but I don’t always have time to bake that soon, so I freeze them. When it comes time to bake, I thaw them out for maybe an hour, then they just squeeze right out of the peels and barely require any mashing at all. Sometimes a lot of liquid comes off them, so I’ll drain some of it, but so far it hasn’t negatively affected the texture of my resulting bread.” —u/Lankience

21.Turn your leftover lemons and limes into a cleaning spray.

frozen lemons and limes

“A lemon/vinegar cleaning solution. Save up used lemons and limes store them in the freezer. Then when you have plenty, in a big bowl cover then with hot white vinegar, leave overnight and in the morning you have delicious smelling cleaning product.” —u/muzzletof

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22.Try meal planning.

four identical meals ready to be

“Meal planning can be hugely helpful in reducing food waste. I’m much more prone to letting my food go to waste if I have to come up with a recipe while I’m already hungry and too impatient to cook. I keep a spreadsheet of ingredients that I have on hand, leftovers that I need to use/reuse, and a checklist of recipes that I looked up to use up my ingredients.” —u/RoeRoeRoeYourVote

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23.And finally, you might want to commit to composting at home.

a compost bin with compost in it

“I would definitely compost! It’s not waste because it goes back into the ground and is amazing for the environment. Connect with your local community garden, they usually have a compost pile you can add your scraps to.” —u/greencheesecat

Ashley-belle Burns / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

What’s your best food waste hack? Let us know in the comments below!

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