Food waste is a global issue with significant environmental, economic, and social consequences, and it also can amount to wasted money for your household. The good news is, there are some simple things you can do to help stop food waste.

1. Plan your meals and make a shopping list

We’ve all gone to the grocery store without a list… and it usually doesn’t turn out well. (Especially if we’re hungry at the time!) A well-thought-out meal plan, mapped out in a shopping list, is the first step to combat food waste. Make a detailed shopping list that fits your budget and includes the exact quantities of ingredients you need to prepare your meals. By sticking to the list, you’ll avoid impulse purchases and reduce the risk of buying more of anything than you’ll use before it goes bad..

2. Practice first-in-first-out (FIFO)

When you’re unpacking your groceries or organizing your pantry, follow the FIFO principle. Place newer items behind older ones to ensure that older products get used before they expire. This helps you prevent forgotten items from languishing at the back of the shelf and helps you maintain a clear view of what needs to be consumed first. (And reminds you what you have—because out of sight can definitely be out of mind in the pantry or cupboards!)

3. Use proper storage techniques

Understanding how to store different types of food is essential for prolonging their freshness. Keep fruits and vegetables in separate compartments in the refrigerator. There’s actually a reason for those specialized comparts: some fruits release ethylene gas, which can make vegetables ripen and spoil faster. Use airtight containers to store leftovers, and label them with the date so you can be sure to eat them before they go bad.

4. Embrace preservation methods

Finding ways to preserve extra food is a really helpful way to prevent it from going to waste. Consider freezing fruits, vegetables, and leftovers that you may not eat immediately. Invest in a vacuum sealer to eliminate air and further extend the life of frozen items. You can pickle or ferment vegetables and fruits, turning them into flavorful additions to your meals—and it can be a fun hobby to learn more about, as well!

5. Monitor portion sizes

It’s important to pay attention to portion sizes when you’re serving meals, especially for children. Serve smaller portions initially, and then allow your family members to ask for more if they’re still hungry. This practice helps reduce plate waste and encourages finishing what’s served before taking more food. It’s also a healthy practice to prevent people from eating too much (as we all tend to do when there’s more food on our plate than we need!).

6. Get creative with leftovers

Leftovers get a bad rap… but they don’t have to be boring! Get creative by transforming them into new dishes. For example, yesterday’s roasted vegetables can be transformed into a hearty frittata, and that extra rice can become the base for a delicious stir-fry. This way, you not only reduce waste but also add variety to your meals.

7. Compost your food scraps

Despite your best efforts, some food waste may be inevitable, such as peels, rinds, and other inedible scraps. Instead of tossing them in the trash, start composting. Composting allows organic matter to break down naturally, creating nutrient-rich soil that can be used to nourish plants and gardens. Composting is a simple way to close the loop and ensure that food waste contributes positively to the environment.

8. Educate and raise awareness

Spread the message about the importance of reducing food waste within your community. Educate family, friends, and colleagues about the impact of food waste and share practical tips to help them minimize waste in their own lives. Collective efforts can create a ripple effect, leading to more sustainable practices and a reduced global food waste footprint.

9. Support food rescue initiatives

To help out others, beyond what you’re doing at home, you can get involved in or support local food rescue organizations. These groups collect surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, and other sources and redistribute it to those in need. By supporting these efforts, you not only reduce food waste but also help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in your community.

How to stop food waste: the bottom line

Reducing food waste is an important and achievable goal that needs help from everyone who can participate. By planning meals, practicing FIFO, and using proper storage techniques, we can significantly reduce the amount of food that ends up spoiled and in landfills.

Embracing preservation methods and creative leftovers can also ensure that no food goes to waste. Composting food scraps and supporting food rescue initiatives even further contribute to a sustainable and environmentally responsible approach to consumption. As individuals, we have the power to make a positive impact on our planet by focusing on practices that stop food waste and help build a more sustainable future.