Easy to Adopt Habits to Prevent Food Waste at Home
February 21, 2019
Updated: January 18, 2024
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how to help when confronted with the massive problem of food waste. However, there are many doable shifts in habits that we can all adopt in our own kitchens that over time certainly make a difference!
Being passionate about reducing waste at home is practically a prerequisite for working at Lovin’ Spoonfuls, so who better to offer actionable changes than our staff? Here are some of our favorite tips that we invite you to try:
Freeze leftovers immediately if you do not know when you might finish them within a couple of days.
Pro tip: Freeze leftovers in individual portions that are easy to reheat, for a quick meal ready whenever you need it.
Pro tip: Freeze leftover pesto/sauces in ice cube trays and then store in the freezer until needed for single servings.
You can freeze many unexpected items as they approach spoiling to preserve for later — fruit (for the best smoothies), sliced bread (for easy toast), sliced veggies (for stir fry), cakes and pies (for out of season treats), scraps (for broth), citrus rinds (for general cooking or to make flavored ice cubes).
Using the Whole Item
Use skins, peels and scraps to make broths.
If you have too many greens in the refrigerator, use them to make smoothies.
Rather than wasting kale stems, thinly slice them and mix them in salad. When using kale in a cooked dish, add the stems earlier in cooking to let them become tender before adding the leaves.
Never waste radish greens when purchased as a bunch. If the greens look good, use them in place of basil (or with basil) and blend together your favorite pesto recipe. Great with eggs, on pasta, or anywhere you might use pesto!
Use the entire broccoli stock. Cut it into small pencil width strips and cook it with the broccoli florets.
Google how to cook the stem or how to use the “entire (item name)” prior to throwing out parts of an item you don’t know how to use.
Keeping Food Fresh
Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to use it: washing can weaken or damage the cell structure, accelerating decomposition.
Use your senses to review if an item is still ok to eat, even if a date has passed. These labels are often accompanied by phrases such as “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by,” which are generally intended to communicate food quality, not food safety.
Perk up wilted kale by sticking it in a vase of cold water (much like you would with a bouquet of flowers) and it should perk right back up! If it’s past its perkiness turn your greens into kale chips so they don’t go to waste.
Planning and Tracking
If possible, shop for food more frequently rather than once a week. Take a nod from Europeans, who often shop on a daily basis and purchase only what they need, fresh. By doing so, unexpected meals out or work obligations do not cause perfectly good extra food in your kitchen to go bad and get wasted.
Take stock of pantry items at least once per month and plan meals based on what is expiring.
Plan, make a list and take an inventory of the fridge prior to shopping to see what you should use up and what can be used in other meals.
Only get creative in your shopping if you have a plan for when you might eat/how you might prepare that odd something you don’t typically buy (or have never tried). If you buy a special perishable ingredient solely for one recipe, try to only buy what you need. If the quantity it’s sold in is to too great, ask yourself a. what your plan is for the rest of it (for example, if it’s a fresh herb, you could dry it), and b. if you can replace if with something else that you’re more likely to use later (or already have).
Use eatyourbooks.com, an online index of recipes you can search by adding the books you own to your ‘bookshelf’ of ingredients. Always start with a list of ingredients you need to use up to ensure those items get put to good use before being wasted.
We also encourage everyone to carry this mindset over to meal service and clean-up by switching out paper towels and paper napkins for cloth and eating with reusable plates and flatware whenever possible, even when on the go.
Once indoctrinated to these types of changes and the mindset of preventing waste, we bet other ecologically friendly changes will follow.