Waste Free Kitchen Tips

This is the second post in our Sunday series on waste reduction. Today we visit the kitchen!

I’ve wanted to write about food waste for a long time. In my Master Recycling class, I was able to borrow “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook – a guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food.” This book combined with showing the “Just Eat It” video to our Portland Minimalist group earlier in the year have given me that boost I needed to get writing.



  • 40% of all food in the United States does not get eaten.
  • Collectively consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores or any other part of the food supply chain.
  • American’s are throwing away an average of $120 each month, per household of four, in the form of uneaten food.
  • We waste 50% more food in the United States than we did in the 1970’s.


  • Wishful thinking – This is that hope to eat healthier or spontaneous purchases without a plan for when and how you will use them.
  • Oversized portions – Restaurants and even cookbooks have increased portion sizes sometimes as high as 200-400%.
  • Lack of kitchen know-how – Canning, making soups and stock are all skills that reduce food waste, but many of us may need a boost there.
  • Resource intensive food waste – Some foods take far more resources to produce, so wasting them hits harder. These are predominately meat and dairy.

But don’t lose hope, there are lots of ways we can turn this around.


Bulk shopping helps control portions and budget as you buy only what you need


Plan meals – This saves time, money and stress and usually results in eating more healthy food choices than impulse shopping or lack of planning do. Some important tips are not to start with all meals you pluck out of a cookbook, but to create some favorite simple dishes that you repeat. By doing this, it becomes easier to have ingredients on hand. Select items like beans or a veggie that can go into more than one dish as a way to save time…such as Channa Masala one day and hummus the next. Check your refrigerator and cupboards before shopping. I’ve been the one to buy a jar of pepperoncini and bring it home, only to find I had a jar or two already! Another tip is to eat what’s going to spoil first. A prime example is cilantro. Plan on buying it the night you make tacos or that special salad. I’ve found I had a couple of foods I was routinely not eating in time and so I now don’t buy those items until I am ready to make a dish that requires them. My items that spoiled without use were; tofu and cilantro. So now I make these purchases when I am ready to cook them that day. Buying frozen or freezing items is another simple way to not have foods spoil. Batch cooking has made a new revival! Have you noticed that? A recent Airbnb guest inspired me. She was a surgeon from Canada doing a month-long surgical rotation at the hospital 1/2 mile from my home. She left at 5:30 AM and got home near 7-9 PM most nights, but she did a great job doing batch cooking on the weekends. Making large batches, portioning them off into meal size containers and freezing are the way to go.


Robin batch cooking for the week

Shopping guidelines – Resist temptations. Buy the right amount. Keep items fresh by getting them home promptly and into proper storage. Buy frozen to increase storage time. Buy ugly fruits and vegetables, not just those perfect ones. Insisting on perfect produce adds to waste. Shop farmers markets at the end of the day to get good deals and some of those less symmetrical items.

Do a waste audit – This can be as simple as writing down items you don’t use or better yet, taking a photo of foods you are tossing. It’s suggested that we do this for two weeks while doing our usual eating routine to get an accurate picture. Track the item, quantity, location (home or work), the reason it was tossed and the cost. This will give you an idea of your food waste and help to identify what’s contributing to it.



  • Bought too much
  • Didn’t cook it as I thought I would (lazy, tired, busy)
  • Didn’t eat as much as I though I would
  • Weekly plans changed
  • Didn’t like it
  • Never felt like eating that food
  • Had to buy more than needed
  • Didn’t store it properly


I will be sharing more on this topic next week, so look for that post.

I’m going to be volunteering at some Farmers Markets this summer to help learn more about food waste and to educate people about reducing their food waste. Swing by if you’re in the area. 

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