How can I reduce my food waste?

I think we all know that we need to do more, on a personal level to combat food waste. Most of us try to be good, but as we become more aware of the consequences of this waste, most of us are looking for ways to get better.

Wanting to do a bit more and knowing exactly what to do are very different things though! With a million things to think about on a day-to-day basis, it’s so easy to let things like this slip your mind, or fall into not-quite-perfect habits. So we wanted to streamline your thinking, with a helpful guide showing you how to reduce your food waste.

Why is food waste a problem?

Food waste is a problem on a number of levels:

  • First of all, there is the environmental impact; the wasted energy that has gone into producing, packaging and shipping that food, plus the methane gas that is released as the discarded food is broken down, usually in overcrowded landfills. It’s estimated that food waste accounts for a sixth of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
  • Next, there is the financial cost. Globally, food waste costs around £770 billion – which is too big a number to really understand. But for a family of four in the UK, we waste around £1,320 a year on food we end up throwing away. What could you do with that extra money…?!
  • Finally, there is a societal issue. There are around 8.4 million people, in the UK alone, that are living in food poverty. And the rest of us are wasting around 9.5 million tonnes of food every year. Surely there is a better solution than just tossing out food?

What is food waste?

Before we get into how to reduce food waste, let’s just quickly define what we mean. Food waste is any food stuff that is thrown away instead of being consumed. Things like expired products, leftovers, unsold food and by-product waste (like peels from fruit and veg).

How can we reduce the amount of food we waste?

Fortunately, there are plenty of things that we can do today that can help prevent so much waste.  Here are our top 10 tips for reducing food waste:

Planning your meals

Food shopping tends to be where we, as a society, make a lot of mistakes that contribute to food waste. There are three golden rules that can help:

Plan your meals – come up with a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day until your next shop

Write your list – write down everything you need for those meals, check your cupboards for anything you’ve already got in

Stick to your list – don’t get distracted by offers, and never shop when you’re hungry!

Make the most of your leftovers

When you’ve finished a delicious meal and you’ve got a bit left over – pop it in some tupperware and use it for lunch the following day. Not only are you reducing waste, but you also get to enjoy an amazing meal again, and save a bit of money in the process. If you don’t want it for lunch, you can freeze it for another day (remember to clearly label it if you do). If you don’t think you’ll eat it – could you package it up and give it to someone else at work tomorrow?

Be smart with storage

Did you know that bananas ripen much faster when they are stored with other fruits, like apples and pears? Did you know that apples last much longer when stored in the fridge? Or did you know that if you store potatoes and onions together they will sprout much quicker? There are loads of quick tips about how to store your produce here.


Composting is the ultimate form of recycling. You get to make sure that all of your raw, natural kitchen scraps are fed back into the earth, while you cut down on waste and generate your own compost. You get to cultivate a tiny ecosystem full of microorganisms, which add to the natural wildlife in your garden. Get tips on how to set up a compost pile here.

Understand your labels

It’s so easy to be guilty of scanning a pack to see a date, and make an immediate judgement when you see that the date has passed. But do you know if you were looking at the ‘best before’ or the ‘use by’? ‘Use by’ is usually for food that could harm you if you eat it after the date, whereas ‘best before’ is about quality – the food may be perfectly fine to eat after the date has passed. Here are the official guidelines in the UK.

Utilise your freezer

Even with perfect planning, we may still find ourselves with food that we have no use for that is going off – that’s when your freezer comes into play. Whether it’s bananas that are going a bit black, blueberries that you just won’t get around to eating, bread that could go stale, milk that is nearly on the turn, fresh herbs that you won’t use in the next few days  – you can even freeze grated cheese or separated eggs. Save these foods, and use them another day.

Cook in batches

Sometimes it’s very difficult to buy the exact quantities you need to make a meal – maybe you can only get peppers or onions in a pack of three when you just need two, or packs of chicken with double the amount of breasts you need – you get the idea. Rather than risking wasting those extra ingredients, why not scale up the recipe into a bigger batch? Then you can freeze what you don’t need and have a meal already prepared for the future, saving you time and money.

First in, first out (FIFO)

When you get in from doing the ‘Big Shop’ is it usually a mad scramble to get everything away? (It is in our house). However, sorting our cupboards/fridge/freezer as we go can help us reduce waste – when you are putting away your shopping, make sure you rotate the order, so the things you put in first, are used first – ie the stuff at the back of the fridge needs to come forward! Spending an extra couple of minutes when you are putting your shopping away will help you reduce the amount you waste.

Buy nearly expired foods when possible

Do you ever look at the reduced food in the supermarket? The stuff that is nearly past the expiry date, at which point the supermarket will not be able to sell it, even though it is still fine to eat. There is a great opportunity for you to help reduce waste there – could you substitute something on your list for one of those products? Could you buy it and freeze it to use another week, saving you money in the future? There are also apps like Too Good To Go that help businesses sell off food that is about to expire, and enable us to pick up a bargain.

Get creative with your scraps

There are some things that are always destined to be food waste, right? Things like potato peel – you can’t make anything delicious out of potato peels, can you? Think again – check out this recipe for potato skin ‘chips’. Or this recipe for banana peel ‘bacon’. Or this recipe for candied lemon peel. You get the idea…


Portion measurement is really important when it comes to food waste. For example, do you know how much rice (65g), pasta (75g), frozen peas (80g), gnocchi (125g), roast potato (250g) you might need per person? (Clue, the answers were in brackets). It’s so easy to just guess, but that almost always leads to waste – take an extra minute to measure it out and you can save yourself a lot of hassle.

Same goes for foods like smoothies and soups. Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy individually portioned packets of these foods – so that you knew that you had the exact amount of every ingredient and therefore nothing gets wasted? Well, we have some good news for you


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