Is Food Waste A Problem? 12 Ways To Reduce Waste At Home

Not sure if climate change is a new problem? Or maybe the thought of melting polar caps keeps you up at night? Regardless of your beliefs, one thing is true: you will save money if you reduce food waste at home

And it will have a positive impact on the environment.

I will not try to influence you to think one way or another. 

Instead, I will show you how I try to reduce food waste at home.

It is all about small changes. And it makes sense. The bonus part is that the money savings are real.

Food scraps make great soups and broths
Food scraps make great soups and broths

Is Food Waste Really A Problem?

Yes, it is.

The UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimates that food not consumed is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. [1] The report estimates global food waste to be 931 million tonnes, and households are responsible for 569 million tonnes, or over 60%. [2] 

So yes, food that is never consumed does constitute a real problem.

And it makes sense if you think about it. When you throw away food, you are contributing to waste in three different ways:

  • Economic: You are wasting your money but also the resources like energy, water, and land used to produce, transport, and store the foods that are wasted.
  • Environmental: The more we waste, the more we have to produce, putting undue pressure on the environment and agriculture.
  • Social: Your uneaten food could have been redirected to eliminate hunger and malnutrition.

Luckily, household food waste is an area where you can be environmentally smart and save money by reducing the amount of food you throw away.

So, let’s get right in there and look at what we can do.

12 Easy Ways To Reduce Food Waste At Home (And Save Money)

This is not rocket science. 

All it takes is a bit of thoughtful planning. 

And if you do this for a month, the money savings are real. Plus, you will have bragging rights for doing something to save our planet.

Win-win, again.

1. Grow more, waste less

This is not for everyone, but it is where my journey started. Today, I am self-sufficient for most of the year.

Vegetable garden harvest  early October
Harvest early October

No space for home gardening? See tip number 2.

And what I do not eat, I store and preserve for later.

I rarely have to buy tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, leafy greens, or herbs.

If you want to know more about how I grow herbs and vegetables, start here:
Hydroponics for beginners
Click and Grow indoor countertop gardening
Guide: From seed to sedling
How to grow herbs
Start a vegetable garden

2. Bulk buy vegetables and fruits with the seasons

Fruits and vegetables are plentiful, taste better, and are cheaper to buy when they are in season. And this is a great opportunity to make friends with local growers.

When the price is right, buy in bulk and store or preserve what you cannot use in the same week.

Learning how to store and preserve food is a great way to reduce waste.

3. Store leftovers in transparent containers

We have all found a wrapped package of food we have forgotten about. And now the food is spoiled.

The solution is easy.

Proper food storage reduces waste
Transparent containers in the fridge

Use transparent containers to see what you have in your refrigerator.

4. Use smaller plates

It is so easy to take seconds. 

And it is easy to eat with your eyes, especially when you are hungry. So, take seconds if you are still hungry rather than take too much and throw away unwanted food when you become full.

Then, save the leftover, untouched food in a transparent container for another day.

5. First in, first out

Do not place newer leftovers at the front of the fridge.

Bring other items nearer the front and let the newer foods live in the back of the fridge.

Food rotation is your friend and will save you from wasting food you have forgotten about.

6. Remember to use your freezer

Do you have foods getting close to the date of expiration? Consider freezing them if you cannot find a use for them immediately.

7. Leftovers make perfect next-day lunches

A packed lunch for tomorrow is a great way to use leftovers. 

Transparent containers for storing leftovers and next-day lunches
Transparent containers for next-day lunches

And you do not need to go to an office to eat a packed lunch. It saves time and money. Win-win.

8. Check What You Have and make a shopping list

Going to a grocery store without a plan leads to impulse buying.

You can save money, reduce waste, and eat better if you plan.

  1. Make a quick inventory of what you have at home.
  2. Make a meal plan for the week using ingredients you already have as a base.
  3. Make a shopping list and stick to it.

Sticking to your shopping list will cut impulse purchases and overspending. 

We have found that we eat better as we never miss an ingredient for a meal.

9. Use Leftovers Creatively

Not enough leftovers to feed your family? 

No problem, create a buffet meal at home and let your family help themselves to what they want.

Or why not use vegetable scraps to make a tasty soup or broth? Fast, easy, and filling.

10. Composting Magic

Some food scraps are difficult to eat. 

Instead, compost them and turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

No garden? No problem, there are countertop compost solutions. Bokashi composting is probably the most well-known, but there are many solutions to choose from.

Collecting food waste and scraps for use or composting
Collecting scraps for soups or composting

It’s a greener way to garden, saves money, and helps the environment.

11. Support Food Donation Initiatives

Did you grow too many tomatoes this year? Are you fully stocked up on tomato sauces, chutneys and soups? 

Consider contributing to local food banks and organizations that distribute surplus food to people who really need help.

I have found that schools and nursing homes are hesitant to accept food donations where I live, citing food safety regulations. But maybe it works in your area?

12. Understanding Expiry Dates

There is a difference between “best by” and “use by” dates.

The label “best by” tells you when to consume the food for the most flavor. I always use my nose if in doubt.

“Use by” is, however, a signal that the food is past being safe to consume. Use your discretion.

When You Waste Food, You Waste Money

I believe self-interest is a strong catalyst for change.

I remember being introduced to Life Cycle Management when I first studied sustainability. Two things grabbed me

  1. All materials have an environmental and social impact
  2. The biggest effect can sometimes be achieved by focusing on one part of the life cycle

In a way, this realization was a bit disappointing. 

Hmm, so there is no perfect, clean way to live greener.

But it was also freeing and made me focus on progress over perfection and act where it makes a difference.

And when I say makes a difference, I mean for my wallet and the environment.

Because the biggest lie ever told is that living greener means hardship and suffering.

It does not have to be like that.

Good For Me, Good For You

We all like to do good. But I would argue we are more likely to take action if there is an upside.

At least, that is true for me. And as I see it, this is a good thing.

Saving money to provide for yourself or your family is a noble thing.

And any catalyst that leads to a positive change is good. It is way too easy to stay on the sidelines. Often, it comes down to the “it makes no difference if I….” scenario.

But it does make a difference when there is a lot of us who take action.

So let’s attack food waste today and then tomorrow, and next week, we move on to the next Eco-friendly money-saving initiative.

Understanding The Enormity Of Food Waste

Food waste isn’t just a minor issue; it’s a colossal problem. Every year, millions of tonnes of food go to waste globally.[2]

Even if you argue that the data used is not perfect or complete, I think you agree that the picture painted is pretty clear. 

But food is not only wasted in households. We must add the retail and food service sectors and production, transportation, and food handling to get a complete picture. 

Why Does Food Waste Happen? Exploring The Reasons

The journey from farm to plate

To balance this article, it is important to note that waste occurs throughout the food supply chain

Still, household food waste is a significant contributor.[2] We have already touched upon several contributing factors, such as overbuying, neglecting expiration dates, and inefficient meal planning, handling, and storage.

The environmental impact of this wastage is hard to ignore. The consequences are far-reaching, from contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions to hurting food supply and food security.

The Bottom Line: Summarizing Key Takeaways

Food waste is a problem, and to put it bluntly, it is wasteful.

Food loss and waste cost you money. And it is unnecessary and relatively easy to fix.

From an environmental perspective, food waste has economic, environmental, social, and ethical aspects.

The good news is that you and I can help the environment and ourselves by acting smarter. It is all about easy-to-implement changes like mindful purchasing, better storage, and using leftovers. 


  • Household waste is a large contributor to food waste (though waste occurs at every stage of the food production chain)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from food waste have a negative effect on climate change.
  • Reducing waste at home is all about changes in behavior

So let’s save some money and do right by the environment. Are you with me?

Helpful sources:


[2] (page 70 of full report)