11 Hacks to Reduce Food Waste That’ll Make Your Trash Bins Lighter

You can reduce food waste one quick hack at a time. Save money and live more sustainably with these simple ideas.

Published July 27, 2023
food scraps

It only takes one look at the trash bag mountain practically spilling out of your waste bin to realize you might need to switch things up a bit. Pairing down your waste doesn't have to be a difficult task! Let us make things easier for you by learning how to reduce food waste in a fun and functional way.

1. Use Leftover Ingredients to Make Your Own Stock

making stock

Rather than buying pre-made meat or vegetable stock, use your trimmings and leftovers to make your own. Take those post-meal peels, stems, and bones to the crock pot for a slow simmer in water. It should leech the wonderful flavors and nutrients out of those pieces and create a delicious homemade stock for you to use in the future.

2. Donate Unused Ingredients or Surplus to Community Fridges

Community fridges are mutual aid programs that help decrease food waste and food insecurity/deserts in areas across the country. Check around your area to see if there are any community fridges you can donate your surplus perishable foods to. If you can't use all of your ingredients, there's no reason someone else shouldn't be able to use them instead.

3. Bake Your Stale Bread Into Salad Croutons

Once your bread feels like it could crack a tooth, it's time to stop trying to slice it for sandwiches. However, a great way to keep that stale loaf out of the trash is to slice it up into tiny squares and bake it in the oven for salad croutons. Add some olive oil and seasonings like garlic, parmesan, and rosemary to give it a robust flavor. Just store your cooked croutons in a sealable bag and pull them out when needed.

@livingonlife101 Croutons #homemade #croutons #salad #bread #stalebread #learnontiktok #dinnerparty Backyard Boy - Claire Rosinkranz

4. Take Half-Eaten Fruits and Use Them in Desserts

If you're a muncher or you've got younger kids running around, then you're probably finding half-eaten apples, pears, and berries with bites taken out of them all over the place at the end of the day. Don't throw out the half-eaten fruit.

Instead, put them back in the fridge and whip up an easy dessert. Things like tarts, homemade popsicles using fruit puree, and smoothies are all ways to use those forgotten snacks.

Quick Tip

You can also use fruit that's a bit overripe in desserts too. Things like banana bread, muffins, and pies can still taste delicious with fruit that's past its prime.

5. Freeze Sauces and Creams in Pre-Portioned Amounts

Freezing anything that you think's going to go bad before you can use it up is always the way to go. In particular, you can store things like pasta sauce, milk, or creamer in pre-portioned amounts.

@itsmackenziecook #foodpreserving #reducingfoodwaste #foodbudgethack original sound - Mackenzie Nicole

For instance, you can fill silicone cupcake molds or bread tins with the amount of sauce you'll need for a dish in the future and freeze it. Then remove it from the pans and store it in freezer safe bags. That way, you've got a ready-to-go amount of sauce already tucked away on the shelves.

6. Store Loose Herbs Like Bouquets in the Fridge

Often a recipe only calls for a sprig or two of a fresh herb, but the bundles you buy at the grocery store are enough for a week's worth (or more) of meals. To keep them fresher for longer, put your stemmed herbs in a cup with water and then put them in the fridge. Basically, you want to treat them like a little floral bouquet.

7. "Shop" Your Pantry and Fridge

woman looking at pantry ingredients

One way that food easily goes to waste is people buying extra of something they already have and not using up the surplus before it goes bad. Before making your grocery list, 'shop' through your pantry, fridge, and freezer to be sure of the things you don't have.

And it'll give you the chance to work an ingredient or jar of something that you forgot about into that week's meal calendar. That way, nothing ever goes bad because it's forgotten about.

8. Make New Cocktail & Mocktail Recipes Using Your Leftovers

The cocktail/mocktail world really is a playground you can experiment with whenever you want. So many recipes use fresh fruits and herbs, and you can pair a delicious meal with some of these beverages by topping them off with your leftover sprigs or slices.

For instance, you could try your hand at one of these fruit mocktail recipes or convert your old fruits into a cocktail puree.

9. When Things Get Low, Flip Them Upside Down

Admit it. You'll only give a bottle of ketchup a few shakes and pats on the back before calling it quits and tossing it in the trash. Since we're just as unlikely to open up a bottle and scrape out the leftovers as you are, we've got a different hack to try.

When you feel like bottles, jars, and containers are running low, go ahead and flip them upside down. Leave them in the pantry or fridge that way to help you use every last bit.

10. Turn Your Leftovers Into Compost

When people think about ways to decrease their food waste, composting is usually the one that comes to mind right away. It's a tried-and-true method for using leftovers in a sustainable fashion. Even small gardens or plant collections could benefit from fresh compost. And there are a ton of small countertop compost bins you can buy online that fit better with a solo person or small household's needs.

@cookwithcandy How to compost your food scraps @lacompost #composting #foodwaste #sustainableliving Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show

11. When in Doubt, Make a Casserole

If you've got a hodgepodge of leftover ingredients, you can always toss them together in some kind of casserole. Add enough stock or broth and some seasonings, and you should have a delicious motley mess of a meal. From leftover rice to extra pizza, getting creative with leftovers can go a long way in reducing food waste.

This Is Stop #1 On Your Zero-Waste Journey

Unless you're well into your sustainability journey, accruing a little bit of food waste is a normal thing. And while you probably won't be able to turn zero waste overnight, these easy methods should put you on the track to decreasing your food waste. And once you start there, there's no telling where your zero waste journey will take you.

11 Hacks to Reduce Food Waste That’ll Make Your Trash Bins Lighter