4 tips for reducing food waste

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food-wasteSmall Footprints is taking a well earned rest this week, but she’s not leaving us sitting idle!

Four our ‘Change the world Wednesday‘ challenge we’ve been asked to reflect on our green achievements again.

This time she asks “Of all your green achievements, which one was the hardest to accomplish and why? How did you overcome the obstacles?”

One of the most challenging things for me has been reducing food waste.

In the UK, the average household throws away one third of the food they buy. No one would admit to that stupidity or amount of waste, but actually, if you start taking an inventory of the things you toss, it’s easy to see how you can do that.

Here are a few reasons off the top of my head:

  • We tend to be creatures of habit. We buy the same things each week, so we end up stockpiling things
  • We get lured by special offers that we cannot resist
  • We don’t plan well
  • We don’t have time to cook and eat all the time; we’re busy people with packed schedules
  • Families with children end up with food that has been played with and rejected
  • Children’s appetites vary wildly from one day to the next
  • If we’re running late what’s not to love about getting a takeaway and wasting the food you already have at home
  • We comfort eat and this can mean buying more than we need

Here’s how I reformed my own wasteful behaviour:

Being accountable

One of the things that kept me on track was becoming publicly accountable for my food waste. Each week I used to photograph and describe what I was throwing away. For me, this motivation worked and made me work harder at achieving my goal of zero food waste. If you keep food waste your own little secret, what’s to stop you doing it?


I’m not into menu plans. I really admire people who use them, but they don’t work for me. So what I do is plan my shopping list around what I already have at home. This stops me stockpiling things. I check the fruit bowl, the vegetable rack and the food hanging around in the fridge and then shop accordingly.


Sunday evening is inventory night! I take a look through the food in the house and determine what needs using up – in order of desperateness! Then I’ll loosely plan a few meals around these items for the next couple of days. I have a whiteboard in the kitchen solely for this purpose. It has three lists on it – food that needs using quickly, commitments for the week (this is really important so I know how much time I have to prepare food each day), meal ideas that are based around the list of foods.

‘ingredients’ not ‘leftovers’

At our table we don’t pile our plates high; we take a little food with the knowledge we can always come back for more. This means ‘eyes bigger than belly’ syndrome is quashed and it’s teaching Little Miss Green a valuable skill about self knowledge – I’m amazed at the amount of her friends who can’t judge how much they think they can eat.
The food that is uneaten can go back into the fridge to be used up the following day because it hasn’t been pushed around someone’s plate.

I’d love to hear your tips for reducing food waste!


  1. Small Footprints on July 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Wonderful ideas, Mrs. Green! I really like the idea of only taking small amounts and then going back for more if needed. I grew up in a culture that said pile it high and eat every single thing on your plate. I’ve spent years trying to break that mindset. I also like your idea of shopping around what you already have. In our house, we shop according to how much we have in our refrigerator and pantry … if there isn’t much, we shop … if there’s plenty, we use what we have. The fun part of that is when our cupboards are almost bare, we challenge each other (hubby & I take turns cooking) to come up with something good using only what’s on hand. We’ve ended up with some very creative dishes … but you know what … they have been really good! 🙂 BTW … things are fine in my world. I celebrated a birthday this week and have been having so much fun that I decided I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer to do my usual recap of the week. So … I gave myself a little gift. 🙂

  2. Stacey Couch on July 6, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I really like the “be accountable” suggestion. Composting and recycling help with that because there’s something about sorting through your garbage that makes you realize how much there is. And when you have to work/turn that compost bin, sometimes you wish you had less to deal with! An occasional trip to the city dump also provides a reality check.

  3. Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama on July 7, 2011 at 3:01 am

    I love that you do an inventory…I do one in my head, but will force myself to use my EYES this week and stare at the good food that is sitting toward the back of the fridge…right now its the green beans from the CSA that I didn’t feel like trimming before dinner time…will be sure not to waste them 😉 Thanks Mrs. Green!!

  4. Mrs Green on July 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    @Small Footprints: Oh I hear you sister on the wonderful ‘throw them all together’ meals. I LOVE those days in this house! I hope you had a wonderful birthday and what a smashing gift to give yourself 🙂

    @Stacey Couch: Oh yes – sorting through garbage; you’re right; it does make you realise about the choices you are making; thanks for the reminder…

    @Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama: I hope you enjoyed those beans, Jessica!

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