Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste At Home

UK homes throw away 10 billion meals’ worth of food per year

Planning ahead can cut food waste dramatically

Freeze, compost, or cook food in a different way to avoid wasting it

Food waste is a horrendous problem – but one that’s completely fixable. So if you want to make your home more environmentally friendly without spending money on something like solar panels, you could start by wasting less food.

The UK throws away 9.52 million tonnes of food per year, part of a worldwide phenomenon that sees one third of all food produced for human consumption go to waste.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t have to squander enough food to comfortably feed the 8.4 million people in the UK who struggle to afford food.

Anyone can make a positive change at home by cutting down on food waste, and if you follow our advice, you can be part of that change – while saving £700, on average, at the same time.

The best ways to reduce your food waste:

Plan your meals

Take some time to plan your home’s food consumption for the next week.

If there are any other adults or children in your household whose input you value, invite them to sit down with you and get involved with the planning process.

This can be a good way to give your loved ones some ownership over their food – and if they feel like the meals they’re served were their decision, they’re more likely to eat them happily.

And remember to plan your snacks too – you’re only human, after all.

Buy accordingly

Buying exactly what you’ll need for the week is an excellent way to cut down on food waste and save money, simply by being efficient.

Make sure you take into account how much space you have in your fridge, freezer, cupboards, the attic, under the bed – wherever you usually store food and drink.

And check whether you already have any of the items you’re planning to use in the coming days, as this is a common reason why food ends up getting thrown away.

Compost your leftovers

Composting is by far the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective course of action you can take with food, apart from eating it.

It’s also basically magic: you use uneaten food to grow new food. You can even throw in food byproducts, like eggshells, broccoli stems, and banana peels. It’d sound made up if it didn’t work so well.

Harnessing nature’s life cycle in this way improves the quality of your soil, reduces your carbon footprint, and saves you money by providing you with fresh, free food.

If you enjoy the idea of creating tasty food from nothing, there’s no downside.

a person shifting food into a compost bin

Include leftover meals in your schedule

Some recipes necessitate you cooking large amounts of food that can’t be eaten in a single sitting, so plan to finish off these dishes during at least one or two lunches or dinners every week.

You don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t consume the massive quantity of food you’ve made, because you’ll just finish it later.

There’s also the added benefit of reducing your need to plan and create an unconscionable number of different meals on a weekly basis.

Keep track of your food

Ideally, you should know what you have in your fridge and cupboards, and when each item expires.

This way, you can plan meals effectively, to prevent any food from falling between the cracks.

You can do this with a free app like CozZo, a spreadsheet on your phone, or a magnetic whiteboard on your fridge – whatever works best for you.

Measure your meals

It’s difficult to predict exactly how much food you need to fill your home with every week – but it’s possible.

It’s half-science, half-art, and it’ll be a process of trial and error for a period. Remember that you’re allowed to make mistakes along the way, and keep persevering.

After a while, you’ll get extremely good at knowing how much food your household needs, both on a general level and for specific recipes.

When you get it just right, your meals will leave everyone full and satisfied, without saddling the household with a surprising amount of leftovers.

Boxes with red lids filled with leftover food

Freeze what can be frozen

Most food is freezable – and if you can, you should take advantage of this fact.

There’s no need to throw away your spare fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, fish, cooked rice and pasta, cheese, butter, or yoghurt. Just freeze it.

You can even toss in a packet of flour, and use it directly from the freezer.

If any of the ingredients of a meal you have planned are set to go off, just cook the meal, and freeze it for later.

This also applies to ready meals – cook them, pour them into a container, and freeze them.

Get into batch cooking

If it appeals to you, you could batch cook in your free time, and freeze the results.

This will mean you always have a spare meal, whether it’s to take to work for lunch, or to spare you from cooking on any given evening.

There are countless options. You could make a huge pan of spaghetti bolognese, a giant ratatouille, or even just a really big soup.

The possibilities are endless – though you should add in some variety to ensure you never get sick of one particular dish.

Create back-up options

Tastes change in all households – sometimes on a weekly basis. Plans change, far more than you expect them to, and that’s okay.

You can combat all of this by putting fail-safe plans in place ahead of time.

This can be as simple as knowing that if a food isn’t eaten by a certain date, you’ll freeze it for next week, or you could have alternative meals in mind to quickly create with near-expired foods.

It’s like a superpower: you’ll know in advance that those baked potatoes can easily be turned into fries, or that any leftover bread can become French toast – and if your household ignores apples for a week, you can transform them into a delicious pie or sauce.

The internet is a glorious repository of recipe ideas, and your local grocer probably also knows a thing or two about using spare produce.

Having back-up options should also help lessen any food anxiety that may creep in while you’re trying to reduce your waste levels.

Get recipe boxes

If coming up with recipes and executing them is too much work for you right now, and any other path forward is too unhealthy or expensive, recipe boxes are a good option.

They typically come preportioned, meaning nothing goes to waste.

There are countless options for every palate and dietary requirement, from vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free boxes to meat boxes.

And they all come with easy-to-follow instructions, which means you can rope other members of your household into preparing them with you.

Recipe boxes are often costly, so they’re not usually the most effective choice – but they’re not the worst, either, and they should result in zero food waste.

Written by:
josh jackman
Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past four years. His work has been displayed on the front page of the Financial Times, he's been interviewed by BBC One's Rip-Off Britain, and he regularly features in The Telegraph and on BBC Radio.
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