How do professional chefs reduce food waste

Food Waste: What You Can Do About It

Food waste is one of the most widespread and serious problems affecting the world today. The scale of the problem is staggering; According to the USDA, between 30 and 40 percent of all food produced in the US annually is wasted. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that a third of all food produced annually worldwide, around 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted.

This gigantic amount of food waste has a long list of far-reaching effects, ranging from catastrophic environmental damage to shocking economic losses to exacerbating food insecurity around the world. When food is thrown away, it is not just the food that is wasted. All of the land, water, labor, time, money, and other resources that went into growing, processing, marketing, transporting, packaging, and preparing this food are also wasted.

However small and haphazard it may seem, every time you throw away a moldy cucumber or a freezer-burnt lasagna, the real cost is incalculable. The FAO estimates that food waste causes 4.4 billion tons of carbon emissions worldwide each year and costs the world economy $ 936 billion. The FAO also estimates that 820 million people today, roughly one in nine, do not have enough to eat. One of the saddest realities of food waste is that while the world produces more than enough food for everyone, so many millions do not have enough to eat.

Food waste is a massive challenge that urgently needs to be addressed with a concerted and conscientious effort by each of us. As the world population continues to grow and the climate crisis continues to worsen, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to work towards solving the food waste crisis.

How you can help reduce food waste

Shop smarter

We have all done it. You see something on sale in the supermarket, buy a bunch of it and toss it in the freezer. Fifteen months later it's still there, forgotten and covered with ice crystals in a dark freezer drawer. The American Chemicals Council estimates that the average US household throws away $ 640 of groceries a year.

Be more realistic when shopping; Buying in bulk is not always the best. It may seem cheaper at the moment, but if you don't end up consuming the groceries, it will actually cost you money. When shopping, consider how often you cook, how many people live in your household and how long the food can be kept. Don't buy spontaneously so often, plan menus, shop accordingly, and buy what you need. Chances are, you are shopping too much now.

Recycle leftover food

Too often, perfectly usable food is thrown away because people just don't know that it could have other uses. Boil corn on the cob into a wonderful corn broth, save the woody ends of the asparagus for an asparagus soup. Scrape broccoli stalks and use them in a salad. Many vegetable peels and herb stalks can also be used in the broth. The greens of carrots, radishes, and beets are edible and even quite tasty.

Muddy bananas are perfect for banana bread, stale bread is great for fillings or homemade breadcrumbs. Parmesan cheese rinds can be dripped into a marinara sauce to give it an incredible cheese flavor.

It may take a bit of effort, but new life can be breathed into many foods. Read here for some ideas on how to use your leftover fruit and vegetables. And also remember that many expiration dates are arbitrary. Dried and canned foods such as pasta and beans can keep their shelf life long after the use-by date.


One of the most problematic aspects of throwing food away is the space it takes up in landfills and the emissions these landfills create. Ninety percent of food waste in the US goes to landfill.

If you throw away food in a trash bag and it's buried under glass, plastic and cardboard, it won't get the oxygen and microorganism contact that it needs to break down quickly. For example, the food on the landfill decomposes very slowly and releases methane in the process.

A head of lettuce can take up to 25 years to rot in a landfill; that same head of lettuce would rot on a compost heap in your garden in a few months. Fruits and vegetables, eggshells, and even paper towels all compost wonderfully. Composting is much better for the environment, is healthy for the soil, and can give you a great product to use in your own garden.

Eating out less

Restaurants are often dumps for food; around forty percent of the world's food waste comes from the hospitality industry. Often times, food waste isn't necessarily the restaurant's fault, but rather the food laws that dictate when food should be thrown away. For example, USDA regulations mandate that all buffet food that was available to customers must be thrown away at the end of the evening. This certainly makes sense from a food safety standpoint, but be aware of how much food is wasted at buffets. If the restaurant does not order and prepare food efficiently, there can be a lot of waste.

In upscale restaurants, food that is in good condition is often thrown away for cosmetic reasons. Large chunks of the edible meat may be cut off a fish fillet so that it is perfectly shaped. A stained banana can be thrown away just because it doesn't look perfect. In general, when you eat out you have no idea how much food is wasted in this restaurant. So you are sacrificing any knowledge or control over food waste that you would have at home.

Donations and volunteering

While there are many useful steps you can take at home to reduce food waste, the problem needs to be addressed on a large scale with the infrastructure, finance, and manpower that only organizations, corporations, and governments can provide.

Fortunately, there are thousands of organizations around the world committed to reducing and reusing food waste while improving food security. There are food rescuers who rescue food from farms, restaurants, private individuals and manufacturers and distribute it to those in need. There are lobby groups campaigning for legislation to change and raising awareness of food waste, research groups trying to find ways to use our food more efficiently, and local authorities trying to find new ways to separate food waste from residual waste and in to compost on a large scale.

When you have the funds, one of the best things you can do to help solve the food waste problem is to donate your food, money, and time to one of these incredible organizations. Given the dire and urgent nature of the food waste crisis and all the impact it can have on our future, contributing to something is certainly a worthwhile investment. Here are some organizations that are doing good: Food Waste Organizations

Featured image: Joaquincorbalan; Image 1:Sand picture