10 Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste

old fence board - kitchen waste

“Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.”

– John Steinbeck

Check out these 10 ways to reduce kitchen waste. Not only will they help you live more sustainably, but some will even save you money.

1. Avoid processed foods. They often have double packaging (plastic bags or packets inside boxes), as well as much bigger packages than the size of the contents warrants. When you do buy processed foods, go for the larger package, assuming you’ll eat all of it. For instance, it saves money and plastic to buy yogurt in a big tub rather than several small ones.

2. Shop in the bulk section of the store. By bulk I mean not gigantic packages, but the stuff sold loose in bins. Not only can you do away with extra packaging, but in many cases you’ll save a lot of money. Bulk spices cost a fraction of what they do in a jar. If you bring your own jars and bottles to fill, you won’t have any packaging at all to dispose of. You may not have to shop at a health-food store to find bulk groceries; our Winco has a nice selection.

3. Buy loose produce (not bagged or boxed). If you need a container for small items such as green beans, bring your own reusable bag from home.

4. Compost. If you have a yard or a local curbside composting pick-up program, compost all your fruit and veggie peelings and scraps, tea bags/leaves, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells and other compostable materials. Here‘s some information on composting at home. If your city picks up your compostables, make sure you follow its guidelines.

5. Buy a refillable growler for your beer or hard cider. They come in quart sizes as well as the standard half gallon, and can be refilled with your favorite craft beverage.

6. Purchase milk in returnable glass bottles. I don’t see this in too many stores, but our Whole Foods carries it.

7. Use cloth instead of disposables. At the table, use cloth napkins. For cleaning, use rags rather than paper towels or sponges.

8. Avoid single-use coffee pods and filters. Instead of K-Cups, get a refillable pod that will fit in your coffee maker, and instead of paper filters, get reusable screen filter. Alternatively, brew coffee with a French press.

9. Get some reusable straws. I have a set of stainless straws I got on Etsy (no affiliation; just a happy customer). We have the cocktail size, but you can get tall straws as well as extra thick ones for smoothies.

10. Eat leftovers instead of throwing them out. If your family is anti-leftovers, be creative. Bake leftover pasta and sauce with some cheese for a tasty casserole. Top shepherd’s pie with your leftover mashed potatoes. Thicken yesterday’s bean soup and served over rice.  Even if you have only a small amount left, you can have it for lunch the next day with another tiny leftover or perhaps a piece of fruit.

What do you do to reduce kitchen waste? Please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “10 Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste

  1. All great ideas.If I were to bet I would say the kitchen produces most of the waste a family tosses out. One of the things I am doing right now is to freeze my food scraps. I’ve got lemon and potato peels (that I can think of off the top of my head). The area in the garden where I compost is inaccessible this time of year. Once frozen the scraps will decompose faster in the compost. I also spent an hour or so crushing egg shells to sprinkle over the garden in spring. They add calcium but regardless of how small you grind them slugs (and I hear snails) don’t like to cross them as they are still sharp. It seems to work well as we had slugs everywhere last summer except my beds.

    • Ah, so the eggshell-thing does work for some people. We tried it to no avail, but we have monster slugs. Really. They look like something from a sci-fi movie.

      Thanks for the tip about freezing the food scraps. I’ve not lived anywhere cold enough I couldn’t get to the compost bin, so I didn’t even think about that.

    • You’re welcome. I’d just try adding one at a time to make it easy. The only one we don’t do is milk, just because most of the milk I buy is soy milk for my son and I haven’t seen that in glass bottles.

  2. I love this! A great reminder of some additional steps we can take in our home to reduce kitchen waste! I think the next big step for us is to replace paper napkins with cloth. We keep a bunch of cloth shopping bags in our car and many stores will take about 5 cents off your bill for each bag you use for your shopping trip! We also have our own ‘chopped’ competitions to try and make yummy and nutritious meals from what we already have on hand in the kitchen before purchasing more food. This reduces the amount if food that can go bad and therefore reduce waste. Thank you for the continued inspiration!

    • Thanks, Dana. A tip on the cloth napkins: most of the pretty ones I see at the stores are too stiff and not absorbent enough to be good for the job. If you’re just using them for immediate family and don’t see any that look like they’ll be effective, you might want to try inexpensive wash cloths, the kind that come in a bag. Not as decorative, but they get the job done.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.