How do you reduce food waste

23 tips against food waste: purchasing, storing, recycling and more

Every second in Germany, 313 kg of edible food is thrown away1. Each of us throws away 75 kg of food per capita per year, or around 200 grams per day2.

Other sources report that 50 percent of all food in Germany is disposed of. Those are terrifying numbers - especially when you realize that nearly 1 billion people in the world are starving.

But how can that be?

As consumers in the affluent society, we are used to being able to choose between seven freshly baked types of bread at the bakery at 6:30 p.m. And that the supermarket still has every imaginable type of fruit and vegetable in stock on Saturday afternoons - of course in flawless quality, without bruises and withered leaves.

And finally, the advertising, special offers and tempting displays also contribute to the fact that we sometimes buy more than we actually need.

Food waste? We don't!

Until a few years ago, Daniel and I thought that neither of us were really responsible for food waste:

  • Sure, a head of lettuce in the refrigerator once got withered ...
  • Of course, every now and then we had opened a spread and then completely forgot about it!
  • And who hasn't thrown away the sparse leftovers from dinner a few days ago?

Everything normal and no problem, we thought.

Until we saw the film Taste the Waste * at the beginning of 2012, which had a lasting impact on us back then.

90 minutes that made us rethink

The film impressively shows that food is not only disposed of at home, but already in the supermarket or even in the field. After the film at the latest, it was clear to us that the responsibility for a conscious handling of food started with us anyway, and that's why we set ourselves a clear goal at the time:

"We will not throw away any more groceries from now on!"

After a good nine years, I can say that we weren't 100 percent successful, but 99.5 percent successful. In the past few months I have had to dispose of two or three lemons, which unfortunately started to go moldy immediately after buying them, but nothing more.

How did we do that? Actually it wasn't difficult at all! In this post we present 23 tips with which you no longer have to dispose of food.

And if you have any other ideas against food waste, please let us know in a comment!

23 tips to help you reduce food waste

Less food waste when shopping

  1. Only buy as much as you can actually use. Filling the shopping cart with lots of fresh groceries on Saturday is great fun - but if you are out and about for most of the week and eat outside the home, then bulk shopping does not make sense. Limit yourself to what you can really use and if in doubt, go shopping more often.
  2. Take precautions with long-lasting foods. For us this means that we always have a pack of spinach, broccoli or other green vegetables and fruits such as berries in the freezer. Then it doesn't matter at all if you shop rather “cautiously” and sometimes don't have any fresh vegetables at home.
  3. Do not be tempted by supposed offers. “Three for the price of two” sounds great at first. But before you buy, think about whether you can really use this amount!
  4. Have a heart for fruits and vegetables with blemishes! Unfortunately, the chances are good that unsightly specimens will linger longer in the display and then be disposed of at some point. So take it easy and grab a crooked cucumber, a sweet potato with small outgrowths or a kohlrabi without leafy greens (if you don't use it anyway).
  5. The same applies to specimens with brown areas. If you buy the red bell peppers to use the same day, you can cut away the small patch. Otherwise the peppers would very likely be disposed of in the evening.
  6. Containers (looking for something to eat in the rubbish bins of the supermarkets) is a legal gray area in Germany, and Daniel and I haven't had any experience with it yet. But there are people who mainly or even exclusively eat food that they find in the large rubbish bins on the premises of the supermarkets.

Less food waste at home

  1. Pay attention to the correct storage in the refrigerator - the different refrigerator levels make sense. The coldest place in the refrigerator is the compartment directly above the glass plate. This is the best place to store perishable food, e.g. leftovers from lunch or dinner that you want to reheat the next day.
  2. Some vegetables and many types of fruit do not belong in the refrigerator. These include, for example, bananas, citrus fruits, cucumbers and tomatoes. You should also store apples and tomatoes separately from other types of fruit and vegetables, as they allow fruits and vegetables to ripen (and therefore spoil) more quickly in their immediate vicinity.
  3. According to the law, dry foods such as lentils, pasta or rice must have a best-before date (BBD). But these foods stay locked forever - regardless of the date on the packaging. As long as you don't find any vermin in the package, there's nothing wrong with eating these foods well beyond the best before date.
  4. Keyword best-before date: This only indicates until when the manufacturer guarantees the shelf-life - it does not mean that a food cannot still be perfect after this date (otherwise it would be an "expiry date"). There is therefore nothing against eating tofu, soy yoghurt, rice milk, vegan cold cuts, etc. after the best-before date has already expired. Of course, you should always briefly check the smell and appearance before consumption. We have definitely eaten soy yogurt, which had expired a few weeks ago - and are still alive 🙂
  5. Get yourself an “eat me first” box! And there, for example, the vegetables come in that have to go first. Sure, sometimes you want a pasta with chickpea arrabiata instead of something with fennel. But before we let food go to waste, we should eat what has to go first. The Grain Green Bean formula helps you develop new cooking ideas and process the vegetables that have to go first.

Less food waste through better recycling

  1. Apples with unsightly spots, pears that have become floury or mushy oranges still get a chance with us: We mix them into a delicious smoothie! You can find recipe suggestions here and here, for example.
  2. You can also easily make applesauce out of apples with bruises: Wash the apples and chop them up, put them in a saucepan with a little water, lemon juice, cinnamon and possibly vanilla, bring to the boil briefly and let them cool. The applesauce goes well with yogurt and quark, in muesli, in a couscous breakfast or with banana sauce.
  3. Speaking of bananas: I admire people who can eat very ripe bananas straight. Unfortunately I can't do that. If you feel the same, check out our recipe ideas for ripe bananas here and here.
  4. Vegetables that are no longer completely fresh either fit in a vegetable smoothie, or they are excellent in curries, stir-fry dishes or cream soups.
  5. Got a cup of cooked rice or quinoa left from dinner? That too is too good to dispose of! From there to the next vegetable pan. Just make sure that you use the leftovers quickly and do not reheat them a second or third time. Cooked food usually lasts two days in the refrigerator, sometimes longer.
  6. Leftover soup is ideal as a pasta sauce! There is still a little soup left from the day before, but not enough for a starter? You already have your pasta sauce. And if that's not enough, chop some vegetables in and add some vegetable broth!
  7. It is very similar with leftovers from spreads such as hummus or the finished ones from the jar. You can use these, for example, to make your stir-fry vegetables even tastier. It is best to add a little vegetable stock or soy sauce to the pan towards the end of the cooking time and stir in. Season to taste with salt and pepper - done!
  8. Lots of leftovers = one meal! A little quinoa from yesterday at noon, two lonely tomatoes and a bit of hummus - if you arrange them nicely together, you can sometimes even create really handsome creations.

Even more tips against food waste

  1. In the Too Good To Go app you will find bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants that sell leftover groceries at very affordable prices. Warning: of course, not all food rescue packages are purely vegan.
  2. At Etepetete you can order a so-called “vegetable saver box” at regular intervals, for example every two weeks. Etepetete collects vegetables that do not end up on the market due to their shape and other visual defects, and uses them to pack 5 kg vegetable boxes, if possible from regional organic farmers.
  3. With food sharing, you can offer food that you have no use for yourself - for example because you are on vacation, you miscalculated when shopping or you have just harvested in your own garden. You provide the groceries free of charge, whoever wants them can pick them up from you. There are also regional food sharing groups on Facebook.
  4. The so-called “fair dividers” work according to a similar concept to food sharing: These are file sharing sites for edible foods that are no longer needed. As a rule, it works in such a way that everyone can put their excess food in the open (refrigerator) cupboards so that others can help themselves there. The fair dividers are also a food sharing initiative.

So you see: there are tons of ways to counteract food waste! Do you have a tip that is still missing from my list? Then I look forward to your comment!

To read on and listen to


Swell:

1 WWF study "The big throw away": https://www.wwf.de/themen-projekte/landwirtschaft/ernaehrung-konsum/lebensmittelverschaltung/das-grosse-wegschmeissen (March 21, 2021)

2 BMEL: Food waste in Germany: https://www.bmel.de/DE/themen/ernaehrung/lebensmittelverschaltung/studie-lebensmittelabfaelle-deutschland.html (21.03.2021)

Info: This post originally appeared in July 2016. We last revised it in March 2021 and brought it up to date. Older comments therefore refer to a previous version.