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Sustainable Cooking: 10 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

March 15, 2024
Discover 10 practical strategies for sustainable cooking that go beyond reducing food waste. From mindful meal planning to creative use of leftovers, learn how to make the most of every ingredient while promoting a healthier, eco-friendly lifestyle. Let's dive in!
A woman discarding food waste

In today's world, where environmental awareness is more important than ever, finding ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen is essential. Not only does cutting down on food waste help preserve our planet's resources, but it also saves you money and promotes a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

In this post, we'll be sharing 10 practical tips and strategies for reducing food waste in your kitchen. From meal planning and storage solutions to creative uses for leftovers, these tips will help you make the most of every ingredient and minimize waste at every step of the cooking process.

Whether you're a seasoned chef or just starting out in the kitchen, there's something here for everyone. So let's dive in and discover how to cook sustainably while minimizing food waste!

Tip 1: Plan Meals Mindfully

One of the most effective ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen is to plan your meals mindfully. By taking the time to plan out your meals for the week ahead, you can ensure that you only buy what you need and use up ingredients before they have a chance to go bad.

Start by taking inventory of the ingredients you already have on hand and base your meal plan around those items. Look for recipes that incorporate ingredients you already have, and aim to use up perishable items like fresh produce, dairy, and meats before they spoil.

When planning your meals, consider using up leftovers from previous meals to minimize waste. Get creative with leftovers by incorporating them into new dishes or repurposing them in creative ways. For example, leftover roasted vegetables can be used to make a frittata or added to a grain bowl for a quick and easy meal.

Once you've planned your meals for the week, create a shopping list based on the ingredients you'll need. Stick to your list when you go grocery shopping to avoid impulse buys and unnecessary purchases.

And if you're looking for a little extra help with meal planning, consider using Chefit, our AI-powered meal planning app. Chefit can help you create personalized meal plans tailored to your tastes and dietary preferences, as well as generate smart grocery lists to help you shop more efficiently. With Chefit's help, you can make meal planning a breeze and reduce food waste in your kitchen effortlessly.

By planning your meals mindfully and utilizing tools like Chefit, you can reduce food waste, save money, and make the most of the ingredients you have on hand. Say goodbye to throwing away wilted produce and expired pantry staples, and hello to sustainable cooking practices that benefit both your wallet and the planet.

Tip 2: Get Creative with Leftovers

One person's leftovers can be another person's gourmet meal. Embracing creativity in the kitchen is not only a fun way to cook, but it's also a fantastic way to minimize food waste. Instead of letting leftovers languish in the back of the fridge, give them a new lease on life by transforming them into delicious and inventive dishes.

Start by taking a look at what you have leftover from previous meals and think about how you can repurpose those ingredients into something new and exciting. Leftover roasted vegetables can be blended into a creamy soup or tossed with pasta for a quick and satisfying meal. Similarly, last night's grilled chicken can be shredded and turned into tacos, quesadillas, or a hearty salad.

Don't be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with flavor combinations and techniques. Leftover rice can be transformed into a flavorful fried rice dish with the addition of a few simple ingredients like vegetables, eggs, and soy sauce. And leftover bread can be turned into crunchy homemade croutons or a decadent bread pudding with just a few pantry staples.

Getting creative with leftovers not only reduces food waste, but it also saves you time and money by making the most of ingredients you already have on hand. Plus, it's a great way to flex your culinary muscles and impress your friends and family with your resourcefulness in the kitchen.

So the next time you find yourself staring at a container of leftovers in the fridge, don't despair—get creative and see what delicious dishes you can come up with. You'll be amazed at what you can create with a little bit of imagination and a willingness to experiment.

Tip 3: Properly Store Perishable Foods

Proper storage of perishable foods is essential for prolonging their freshness and minimizing food waste. By storing foods correctly, you can extend their shelf life and reduce the likelihood of them spoiling before you have a chance to use them.

Start by organizing your refrigerator to ensure that perishable items are stored in the optimal conditions. Keep your fridge set at the appropriate temperature (usually between 35°F and 38°F or 1.7°C to 3.3°C) to slow down the growth of bacteria and help foods stay fresh longer.

When storing fruits and vegetables, pay attention to ethylene gas production, as some fruits and vegetables produce more ethylene than others. Ethylene can speed up the ripening process and cause nearby produce to spoil more quickly. Store ethylene-producing fruits like apples, bananas, and tomatoes away from ethylene-sensitive produce like leafy greens, berries, and cucumbers to prevent premature spoilage.

Invest in high-quality storage containers and resealable bags to keep perishable foods fresh for longer. Use airtight containers to store leftovers, chopped fruits and vegetables, and other perishable items in the fridge, and use resealable bags to store meat, poultry, and seafood in the freezer.

Label and date leftovers and other perishable items to help you keep track of what needs to be used up first. Rotate items in your fridge and pantry regularly to ensure that older items are used before newer ones, reducing the likelihood of food going to waste.

By properly storing perishable foods, you can extend their shelf life and reduce food waste in your kitchen. With a little bit of organization and attention to detail, you can make the most of your ingredients and enjoy fresh, delicious meals every day.

Tip 4: Practice Portion Control

Practicing portion control is not only beneficial for your health, but it's also a great way to reduce food waste in the kitchen. By serving appropriate portion sizes, you can minimize leftovers and ensure that you're only cooking as much as you need.

Start by familiarizing yourself with recommended portion sizes for different types of foods. Use measuring cups, spoons, and kitchen scales to portion out ingredients accurately, especially when cooking grains, pasta, and proteins.

When serving meals, aim to serve smaller portions and encourage family members to take only what they can eat. Avoid overfilling plates or serving large portions of dishes that may not get eaten in one sitting.

If you find yourself with leftovers after a meal, consider portioning them out into individual containers for easy grab-and-go meals throughout the week. This not only helps prevent food waste but also makes meal planning and portion control easier.

Another way to practice portion control is to be mindful of portion sizes when dining out or ordering takeout. Restaurants often serve larger portions than necessary, so consider sharing a dish with a friend or asking for a to-go container to take home any leftovers.

By practicing portion control, you can reduce food waste, save money, and promote healthier eating habits for you and your family. Plus, you'll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you're making the most of your ingredients and minimizing waste in the kitchen.

Tip 5: Be Creative with Expiration Dates

Expiration dates on food packaging are meant to guide consumers on when food is at its peak freshness and safety. However, it's important to remember that many foods are still safe to eat past their expiration dates, as long as they have been stored properly and show no signs of spoilage.

Instead of automatically discarding food once it reaches its expiration date, use your senses to determine if it's still safe to eat. Check for signs of spoilage such as unusual odors, mold growth, or changes in texture and color. In many cases, food that is slightly past its expiration date may still be perfectly safe to consume.

For example, yogurt and cheese can often be consumed safely for several days past their expiration dates, especially if they have been stored properly in the refrigerator. Similarly, canned goods like beans, vegetables, and soups can be safe to eat for years after their expiration dates, as long as the cans are intact and undamaged.

If you have perishable items like meat, poultry, or seafood that are approaching their expiration dates, consider freezing them to extend their shelf life. Most foods can be safely frozen for several months, allowing you to enjoy them at a later date without worrying about spoilage.

By being creative with expiration dates and using your senses to determine food safety, you can reduce food waste and make the most of every ingredient in your kitchen. Trust your instincts, use common sense, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're making informed decisions about food safety and waste reduction.

Tip 6: Repurpose Food Scraps

Repurposing food scraps is a simple yet effective way to reduce food waste and make the most of every ingredient in your kitchen. Instead of tossing out scraps like vegetable peels, stems, and leftover bits, consider finding creative ways to use them in your cooking.

One easy way to repurpose food scraps is by making homemade vegetable broth or stock. Save vegetable trimmings like carrot tops, onion skins, and celery ends in a resealable bag in the freezer. Once you've accumulated enough scraps, simmer them with water and aromatics like garlic and herbs to create a flavorful broth that can be used as a base for soups, stews, and sauces.

Similarly, citrus peels can be used to make homemade citrus zest or infused vinegars. Use a microplane or citrus zester to remove the outer peel of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Use the zest to add bright flavor to baked goods, salads, and marinades, or infuse vinegar with citrus peels for a tangy homemade salad dressing.

Leftover bread can be transformed into homemade breadcrumbs or croutons with just a few simple steps. Simply pulse stale bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form, then toast them in the oven until golden and crispy. Use homemade breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish, or sprinkle them over pasta dishes and casseroles for added texture and flavor.

By repurposing food scraps, you can reduce food waste and stretch your ingredients further. Get creative with your cooking and see what delicious dishes you can create using items that might otherwise end up in the trash. Not only will you save money and reduce waste, but you'll also discover new flavors and techniques along the way.

Tip 7: Compost Organic Waste

Composting is a fantastic way to reduce food waste while also enriching your garden soil and helping the environment. Instead of throwing organic waste like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells in the trash, consider composting them to create nutrient-rich compost that can be used to fertilize plants and improve soil health.

To start composting at home, all you need is a designated compost bin or pile in your backyard. Choose a spot that's convenient but out of the way, and ideally, one that receives a mix of sun and shade throughout the day. You can purchase a compost bin from a garden center or DIY store, or simply create a pile of organic matter in a corner of your yard.

When composting, aim for a balanced mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials. Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and grass clippings, while brown materials include dried leaves, straw, and newspaper. Layer these materials in your compost bin or pile, making sure to keep the pile moist and aerated by turning it regularly.

Avoid composting meat, dairy, and oily foods, as these can attract pests and create unpleasant odors. Similarly, avoid adding pet waste, treated wood, and synthetic materials to your compost pile, as these can contaminate the compost and harm your plants.

With time and patience, your compost pile will break down into rich, dark compost that can be used to fertilize your garden and nourish your plants. By composting organic waste, you'll not only reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills but also improve the health of your soil and help create a more sustainable food system for future generations.

Tip 8: Practice FIFO (First In, First Out)

Implementing the FIFO (First In, First Out) method in your kitchen is a simple yet effective way to minimize food waste and ensure that perishable items are used before they spoil. The concept is straightforward: when stocking your fridge, pantry, or freezer, place newer items behind older ones so that the oldest items are used first.

By prioritizing the use of older ingredients, you can prevent them from languishing in the back of your fridge or pantry and ultimately going to waste. This method is particularly useful for perishable items like dairy products, eggs, and fresh produce, which have a limited shelf life and can spoil quickly if not used promptly.

To practice FIFO in your kitchen, start by taking inventory of the items in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Group similar items together and arrange them in a way that makes it easy to see what you have on hand. When adding new items to your storage spaces, place them behind older items so that the older items are used first.

Regularly check the expiration dates of perishable items and prioritize using those that are closest to their expiration date. Consider incorporating these items into your meal plan for the week to ensure that they're used before they spoil.

By practicing FIFO in your kitchen, you can reduce food waste, save money, and ensure that you're making the most of your ingredients. Plus, you'll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you're being mindful of the food you have on hand and minimizing waste in your home.

Tip 9: Preserve Fresh Herbs and Grow Your Own

Fresh herbs not only elevate the flavor of dishes but also add a touch of vibrancy to your meals. However, they often come in large bundles, and it's easy for them to wilt or spoil before you can use them up. To combat this and reduce food waste, consider preserving your fresh herbs and even growing your own.

If you have space, growing your own herbs is a rewarding and sustainable way to ensure a steady supply of fresh herbs whenever you need them. Many herbs, such as basil, rosemary, thyme, and mint, thrive in pots or garden beds and require minimal care. You'll save money and reduce packaging waste by growing your own herbs, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly where your herbs come from.

When it comes to preserving fresh herbs, consider storing them in the refrigerator using methods like placing them in a glass of water or freezing them in ice cube trays. These methods can help prolong the freshness of your herbs and make them last longer.

Additionally, you can dry fresh herbs to preserve them for long-term use. Hang bundles of herbs upside down in a warm, dry place until they are completely dried, then store the dried leaves in an airtight container. Dried herbs retain their flavor for months and can be used in cooking and baking whenever you need them.

By preserving fresh herbs and growing your own, you can reduce food waste and enjoy the convenience of having fresh herbs on hand whenever you need them. Whether you have a green thumb or not, there are plenty of simple and effective ways to make the most of your herbs and minimize waste in your kitchen.

Tip 10: Get Creative with Leftover Ingredients

When it comes to reducing food waste in the kitchen, creativity is your best friend. Instead of letting odds and ends languish in the back of your fridge or pantry, challenge yourself to get creative and find new ways to use them up.

Take a look at what you have on hand and think outside the box. Leftover grains like rice or quinoa can be transformed into a hearty grain salad or added to soups and stir-fries for extra texture and flavor. Similarly, leftover vegetables can be repurposed into a flavorful frittata, quiche, or vegetable-packed pasta dish.

Don't forget about leftover proteins like chicken, beef, or tofu. These can be shredded and used to make tacos, sandwiches, or grain bowls, or added to salads for a quick and satisfying meal. Leftover sauces, dressings, and condiments can also be used to add flavor to dishes or served alongside meals as a tasty dipping sauce.

Get creative with your cooking and experiment with different flavor combinations and cooking techniques. You might be surprised at what delicious dishes you can create using ingredients that might otherwise go to waste.

By getting creative with leftover ingredients, you can reduce food waste and make the most of what you have on hand. Plus, you'll discover new flavors and techniques along the way, making cooking more enjoyable and satisfying. So the next time you find yourself with odds and ends in the kitchen, challenge yourself to get creative and see what delicious dishes you can come up with.

Bonus: Donate Excess Food

One of the most impactful ways to reduce food waste is by donating excess food to those in need. Instead of letting perfectly good food go to waste, consider donating it to food banks, soup kitchens, or other charitable organizations that can distribute it to individuals and families facing food insecurity.

Before donating food, make sure to check with local organizations to see what types of items they accept and any specific guidelines they may have. In general, most organizations will accept non-perishable items like canned goods, dried beans, rice, pasta, and packaged snacks.

Additionally, some organizations may accept perishable items like fresh produce, dairy products, and prepared foods, especially if they have the capacity to store and distribute them safely. Be sure to package perishable items properly and deliver them promptly to ensure their freshness and safety.

If you have excess food from events, parties, or gatherings, consider coordinating with local shelters or community centers to arrange for donation pickups or drop-offs. Many organizations are grateful for donations of prepared foods and can distribute them to those in need quickly and efficiently.

By donating excess food to those in need, you can not only reduce food waste but also make a positive impact on your community. Your donations can provide nutritious meals to individuals and families facing hunger and help support local organizations in their efforts to combat food insecurity. Plus, you'll feel good knowing that you're helping to make a difference in the lives of others while minimizing waste in your own kitchen.


Sustainable cooking is not just about reducing food waste; it's about making mindful choices that benefit both the planet and our own well-being. By implementing the tips and strategies shared in this blog post, you can minimize waste in your kitchen, save money, and promote a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

From mindful meal planning and creative use of leftovers to proper storage techniques and repurposing food scraps, there are countless ways to make a positive impact on the environment while enjoying delicious meals at home. And if you're looking for additional support on your journey to sustainable cooking, consider exploring tools like Chefit, which offers personalized meal planning, smart grocery lists, and expert guidance to help you make the most of every ingredient.

By embracing sustainability in the kitchen and making use of resources like Chefit, we can all play a part in reducing our carbon footprint and preserving the planet for future generations. So let's commit to cooking mindfully, minimizing waste, and making the most of every ingredient. Together, we can create a more sustainable food system that benefits both people and the planet. Happy cooking!

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