How to Conduct a Food Waste Audit

by | Oct 18, 2017 | Food Waste

hey, its more fun than taxes!

Admittedly, reviewing what you toss into the trash might not seem like a compelling activity but hear me out!

Maybe you’re intrigued by seeing “end food waste” around recently, or you’re paying a little bit of attention to ugly produce, or maybe you just need a do-able little project that makes your world a better place. If so, join me in putting less in the trash. Just like all interventions, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Do you have a problem? Its easy to overlook what goes in the trash. A little bit here, a little more there. Its exacerbated if you live with family or roommates because you have multiple people throwing things away.

A simple way to pay more attention is to write it down! Lets have a food waste audit!

Here’s a chart you can print out and hang up by your trash can. Or just use the categories on my form suggestion to make your own. They actually look like part of the decor when written on kitchen chalkboards.

Simple Food Waste Audit Tips and Tricks


  1. Pick a “typical week” – ideally you want a 7 day stretch with nothing out of the ordinary going on. Doesn’t have to be perfect though, just commit. Mark your calendar a few days in advance and share this with roommates or family members who are old enough to throw things away. Great project for getting kids involved!
  2. Print the sheet below, or make your own on a chalkboard or other surface near the main kitchen trash can.
  3. Anytime you toss food out, make a note. You want to track: the specific food, an estimate of how much, and why its going in the trash can. Bonus points for estimating the cost of the food.
  4. Don’t change any behavior during the audit. Focus your energy on tracking and marking everything down.
  5. If you eat meals at work or out of the house, its great to also include those. Maybe you can snap a picture of your waste or keep a separate tally to add to your master list.


  1. When notating the cause, try and be specific and honest. Narrow it down to a few root causes. For example, saying something is “past expiration” really means you either purchased too much, didn’t cook it as planned, or perhaps you didn’t enjoy the taste.
  2. Don’t mark down items that are EDIBLE FOOD! By products don’t need to be on this list. Example – no need to track egg shells, banana peels, coffee grinds or chicken bones. There certainly are ways to get a second life from those ingredients, but you can’t directly eat them.
  3. Do mark down items that might not be your preference but certainly edible food. Example – the heels of the bread loaf, broccoli stems, the edible ends and bits of veggies that get tossed when you slice and dice.
  4. You can write more than one reason.


  1. Your week is up. CONGRATS! This is a big thing even if you made a few mistakes along the way you now have more information and a much better sense of your household food waste.
  2. What did you find? Lets look at common reasons for throwing things away
    Do you:

    • buy too much = Try and visit a local store more often. Or purchase less
    • store food poorly = Brush up on where veggies go. Buy some new chip clips or tupperware. Check the temperature of your fridge with a thermometer.
    • get excitable and purchase on a whim at the grocery store = make a meal plan and stick to your list!
    • make plans with friends spontaneously = purchase less more often and as needed. practice cooking with ingredients that don’t go bad or cook a few nights of meals over the weekend that you can freeze
    • cook too much and refuse leftovers = cook less! and try to reinvent your leftovers

Send a me a note or a facebook message with your results! I’d be happy to give you personal tips and read about your successes and struggles. Look for more posts soon on these solutions!

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