How to reduce food waste

Sustainability in the kitchen—who said tackling food waste can’t be fun? It's time we make some conscious food choices together!

Let’s taco-bout food waste. This action pack is inspired by a blog post from Noopur Gosalia, a Soapbox community member and founder of the RLC (Rescuing Leftover Cuisine) Seattle chapter. This is her below! 

Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step: 

  1. READ: How can food waste and food insecurity co-exist?
  2. LISTEN: Is the food waste problem solvable?
  3. ACT: How can we be sustainable from the comfort of our kitchen?
  4. REFLECT: What’s a food waste audit and how do we start?

It’s time we make some conscious food choices together. Don’t worry, we’re rooting for you! 🥔

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Food waste in a food insecure world

🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40% of food in the United States is wasted while 1 in 8 Americans struggle to put food on the table. How do both of these issues co-exist?

Here's what we learned from Feeding America:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. It is important to know that though hunger and food insecurity are closely related, they are distinct concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.

You’ll also learn:

  • 🌎In the US, $1 trillion worth of food is lost or wasted each year (about ⅓ of the world’s food). That amount of money could feed 2 BILLION people—twice the amount of undernourished people in the world.
  • ​​🗑️ We waste 50% more now than we did just 40 years ago. WTF, people?!?!
  • 🥣 The food-insecure population is growing day by day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in every four people is undernourished.

That’s not all—there are also economic and environmental impacts of food waste. 

Here are some key highlights:

  • 🌱 Every year, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten. That's 1.3% of our GDP dedicated to waste!
  • ‍‍💨 As food waste gets thrown into landfills, it starts to release methane into the air. Global food loss and waste generate 8% of global emissions, which only adds to the existing climate change problem.

So, in summary—there's more than enough food to feed the world, making food waste the world's dumbest problem. It's time to find local solutions to this global problem

Want more facts? Check out Noopur's blog post and scour the ReFed website for shareable content. You can also check out this graphic above from ReFed. They have a bunch more digestible graphics and food waste info on their website. The more aware we are, the more equipped we’ll be to tackle this issue! 

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.

Lettuce celebrate! Food waste is solvable

🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.

By 2050, we're going to need to increase our global food production by 50% if we want to feed the new 2.2 billion humans we're anticipating to welcome. However, we simply do not have the resources to do that.

* Cue mass species extinction *

Just kidding. Actually, we’re not kidding, but we do know there's something we can do about our impending doom: waste less food. That butt-end of the bread we all hate? Saving it may just save the human race. #TeamButt. 

We’re getting ahead of ourselves. This podcast episode is actually not about the extinction of the human race; it's about community and fun and beer! As Tristram Stuart said, "If you want to change the world, throw a better party than the people destroying it." 


To kick off our party, here's a 30 minute episode on how we can solve food waste from Solvable, a podcast to understand how world leaders think and tackle global challenges. 

Over 50% of food waste comes from households. Tristram talks about how food waste is a problem we can all solve in our homes and how we can do it by drinking beer. This is not a drill. 

You’ll learn that:

  • 🍞 Companion is derived from the Latin words that translate to "with" and "bread". Companion literally means someone you share food with. The future of food is friends! Tristram founded a company called Toast Ale. They turn unused bread scraps into beer and turn all their profits into advocacy work. Butt-ends of bread saving the day again! #TeamButt
  • 🛒 We're psychologically hard-wired to buy more than we need at grocery stores because of our homo sapiens scarcity mindset. That's why it's so hard to buy less.
  • 📜 Farm subsidies result in food that is environmentally harmful and nutritionally sub-optimal. Basically, the government gives farms money to optimize for quantity, not quality. And guess why? Large corporations, through campaign finance, "encourage" the candidates they fund to act in their best interests. Food and campaign finance reform were so closely tied together.

If you want to know more about how solvable this problem is, we recommend another episode, "Food Waste and Climate Change" by Deliciously Ella. The hosts interviewed Tessa Clarke, a co-founder of Olio

Here are the highlights of this episode:

  • 🥑 Olio is an app that allows you to share food with your neighbors. You know how think you need a whole bag of avocados but you only use one before they threaten to turn to mush? You can put the rest on Olio to save them from the trashcan and turn them into more beautiful avocado toast.
  • 💰 For all our capitalists out there, food waste is valued at $1.2 TRILLION a year. Think about how much innovation can happen in this space. If you're thinking about starting a company and doing some good in the world, here's your sign.
  • 🌿 An area larger than China is used to grow all the food that never gets eaten.
  • 🚩 AND if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter. We’re not digging this FoodWasteTopia.
  • 💦 25% of the world's fresh water is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • 👀 The UN set a sustainable development goal to half food waste by 2030. We're on track to increase it by a third.
  • 🍊 We need to produce 50% more food than we currently do to feed our population in 2050.
  • 🏠 In most developed countries, over half of food waste happens at home.

We usually only share one podcast per action pack, but the topic is too important and urgent to ignore—especially if we’re peeling all the layers to this issue. 🍌

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.

9 tips for reducing food waste

🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!

1. Take the expiration date with a grain of salt. 

Expiration dates are just the best guess by manufacturers on how long the food should last—it’s not always accurate. Confusion around “best by”, “sell by”, and “use by” dates cause Americans to throw away approximately $29 billion worth of safe food per year.

2. Freeze! Everything! 

Okay, not everything...but you know all those herbs you buy and never use? Those can be frozen. Here's a USDA database that helps you understand how long your food and drinks will last after freezing. Bookmark it!

3. Make habitual changes in your food practices. 

For example, when going grocery shopping, don’t overcompensate for the amount of food you need, make a list beforehand! If your recipe calls for one onion, just buy that! You can always buy more later. This will limit the amount of food that expires in your fridge that you have to end up tossing.

4. Consider donating to an organization that bridges the gap between food waste and food insecurity. 

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is an organization that leverages a volunteer system to pick up leftover food from restaurants and donates it to places in need. They have different options for you to donate (via credit card, paypal, check, even bitcoin!) that make it easy to give back.

5. Volunteer at a local food bank or try to do a food rescue yourself. 

Companies like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and Food Runners let you volunteer your time to pick up and drop off food and see the direct impact of your actions.

6. Buy wonky produce. 

Humans aren’t the only ones that come in different shapes and sizes! Produce does too. Consider ordering groceries from Imperfect Foods  to make sure that foods that look a little different don’t get left behind.

7. Compost! 

Not only is it easy, but it also establishes you as morally righteous when someone comes over and you can direct them to put food waste in your compost. Bonus points if you make your own.

8. Get your company involved. 

Consider talking to your company’s leadership about entering the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion, where they can commit to reducing food loss within your organization by 50%. You can find the application here.


Just a simple search of "what can I do with leftover X?" opens up a whole new world. Keep reading for recipes!

Here’s also some recipes on how to waste less by making more

  • 🍚 Fried rice. (You make way too much rice in the rice cooker. You put it in the fridge, thinking you'll eat it the next day. Your rice dries up. It's sorta gross. Goodbye, rice.) Fry! Your! Rice! It's so easy.

  • 🍝 Creamy pasta sauce (with milk). We make ours by sauteeing some garlic and red pepper, adding ~1-3 tbsp of flour, and stirring in milk until it thickens. It never looks like it will, but trust us, it works. We also add milk to red pasta sauce. It wastes less and tastes way better. If you're not a pasta person, here are 23 more recipes to finish a gallon of milk. Also, seriously, just buy less milk.

  • 🥬 Sneaky spinach smoothies. Here are 37 entire smoothie recipes you can sneak spinach into. You reduce your food waste AND give yourself a delicious treat at the same time! Talk about a win-win.

Bonus: There is literally a whole article on how to waste less lettuce. It's got five tips including salad substitutes like thawed frozen peas, canned corn, and fresh basil from your own lil plant. The possibilities are endless!

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.

Don’t waste this opportunity! Conduct a food waste audit today

Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!

🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?

Here’s a company called Ends + Stems that has an awesome template for a food waste audit

Click the photo below to open up the template for the food waste audit! It's super simple, only takes a week, and can save you lots of money, depending on how much your household throws away each week. 

All you have to do is pick a week, print the sheet (or make your own), and get your household on board. Easy peasy! Ends + Stems also has a "what's in your fridge" recipe finder. You don't even have to Google your own recipes!

Who said tackling food waste can’t be fun? 

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.

Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 7,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

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