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15 Simple Things To Do To Reduce Food Waste

January 18, 2017
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Waiting for 2016 to end became a major focal point for some in the last few months. And now its over.

It seems to me that many of the things we were upset about in 2016 will persist into 2017 if we don’t make some changes. I admit that I waver between feeling useless and ineffectual to being passionately (read: loud) optimistic and motivated that as individual citizens we can actually do something that matters. Below is a list of 15 things that are small and do matter! Focussing on these things helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

My husband doesn’t favor making a big deal out of an anniversary or a certain day as a beginning of something. He argues that any day is just the next one in line and they’re all important. That mindset definitely has its benefits but I think there’s something hopeful about the blank slate of a new start. Maybe you’ve slipped up recently on a commitment or haven’t been your best self, maybe you’ve been kicking the tires on some bigs ideas but don’t know how to get started, or perhaps you’re just frustrated in a rut. All of those things are true for me as this new year starts and I like the feeling of a big ending and fresh start the next year. Its more grand than saying I’ll start tomorrow or Monday or next week. Its a whole new year! Its 2017! It has not been mucked up yet.

So, I will make some resolutions. Some have been lifetime resolutions (I will FINALLY stop biting my nails), others are cliche (get back into a swimming and yoga routine), some are trendy (every morning write down 3 things for which I’m grateful), and the last is timely (daily, I will do something small to help change the world around me for the better).

I’m looking for ways to support that last resolution. What are some things I can actually do? Obviously, they need to be small enough to fold into my busy life but I won’t keep it up if they aren’t also meaningful. Any one else feeling this way? Looking for ideas? I’ll be keeping my eyes open for advice and lists from others who are speaking to their expertise. To that end, I am sharing 15 ways you can very simply reduce your in home food waste this year. Some of these are so objectively easy its hard to believe they even matter. But they do! There are also some bigger challenges at the bottom of the list if you’re up for it. Happy 2017!

I hope you join me in one of more of these resolutions. Please be sure and tell me about it your experience!









  1. Get a reusable water bottle! (This isn’t necessarily food waste, but the amount of plastic we go through is terrifying).
  2. Stop peeling potatoes, or carrots, or cucumbers / saute broccoli and cauliflower stems (the peels and stems ARE FOOD TOO! Not only have you paid by the pound but they are colorful, nutritious and its easier not to peel, right? Saves a step! Simply wash well and scrub with the end of a towel or brush for a little traction)
  3. Bring cloth bags to the grocery store (I’ll not make a habit of shaming, but are you really not doing this yet?)
  4. Before emptying your produce bin into the trash, try making pickles (one of the oldest forms or preservation. Perfect rainy day kitchen activity for kids!)
  5. Put less food on your plate to start each meal (our average plate and portion sizes have doubled or more in the last 20 years. Putting less on your plate to start might help your waistline too, but you’re also more likely to eat leftovers that never left the cooking pot. Start with less, eat your plate clean and get seconds if needed)
  6. Eat less meat (the amount of water and other resources that go into raising 1 pound of meat versus 1 pound of non-animal protein is astounding. I’ll revisit this soon in a full post. No need to be a vegetarian, but try Meatless Mondays or animal protein as a condiment to help with your overall waste footprint)
  7. Make chicken or veggie stock – try it once, see how it goes (such a great use for scraps and it will make you a better chef)
  8. Educate yourself about expiration/use-by dates (I’ll come back to this in a few weeks in a full post. Don’t throw away milk because its a day after the printed date – that’s NOT what the date means. Trust your nose)
  9. Make a smart grocery list and shop from it, don’t “stock-up”, don’t stray from it (We make so many impulse buys when shopping blindly and are much less likely to consume the things we don’t really need. You’ll save money, space, have less to put away and less to throw away)
  10. Brush on up how to store various foods and re-organize your kitchen accordingly (storing food properly, keeping your fridge at the correct temperature, leaving space enough for air flow, and other tips in the link help each item you buy last longer)
  11. Keep a trash diary and use it to reduce household food waste (simply write down what you throw out for a week, then audit yourself. This is a great activity for kids to participate in as well. From this list you can then edit down your grocery list, teach yourself new recipes to prevent the wasting of good food, and perhaps start freezing or canning items that could have been saved)
  12. Dedicate one night per week as leftover night. Eat what you already have in your fridge, pantry and freezer. (Just eat them. Just do it. I know you want something new, you think you deserve it, you’re slightly squeemish about leftovers. Whatever, JUST EAT THEM)
  13. Develop a Weekly Meal Planning system (I’ll be revisiting this often this year. Nearly everyone I talk to about their kitchen habits is stressed about meal planning. Write to me and tell me where you’re stuck or what you struggle with and I’ll fold it into my advice)
  14. Use up spare ingredients in another dish – store the half onion, handful of arugula, baguette ends, quarter of a chicken breast and whip up a second meal or snack (Put the half onion in ziplock and use it up later, even small portions of chicken can turn into a filling lunch. Don’t just chuck it out because its easier – store it well, write it down, then use it up)
  15. Talk to someone about your habits and why it matters! Share information with your social media and real life contacts (Follow me! Tell your friends! Read a book. As I’ll say over and over again, reducing your in home food waste is a simple way to effect change starting RIGHT NOW and it doesn’t matter who the president is – you’re the only one required to be involved to have a positive result!)
Alison Mountford is the Founder and CEO of Ends+Stems, a meal planning service designed to reduce household food waste and stop the effects of climate change. Alison has been named a Rubicon Waste Fit Champion, was a finalist for the Spoon Tech Startup Showcase, and has appeared on many podcasts and radio shows, and works as a food waste consultant.