3 of the Biggest Waste Culprits in Your Kitchen: Part 1--Overbuying

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  //  April 24, 2017

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Reducing food waste in a professional kitchen is an ongoing battle. Some solutions are easier to see and implement than others. There are quick fixes that can show an immediate reduction in the amount of food waste, like smaller portions, small batch cooking, cooking to order. Some solutions take time to implement and results come slower, but the outcomes are long-term and impactful. Smart “menuing,” proper forecasting, strong inventory and purchasing practices will make the most impact in the long run. One of the biggest waste culprits in the kitchen is one that often goes unchanged and that is the practice of overbuying. 

Be it purposely or by mistake, food is often over-bought and without strong practices in place to utilize all purchased food, the products most likely end up in the compost or trash bin. Simply put, overbuying is when too much food was purchased that could be utilized before it either spoiled, went beyond the serve by date, or the quality deteriorated. Some might think that all chefs have a handle on purchasing food for their kitchens, but the truth is, not every chef has the experience, know how, or financial acumen to be able to make smart purchasing decisions. Combine that possible lack of skills with the absolute fear of running out of a certain product and you have a recipe for food waste.

So what can chefs do to curb the practice of overbuying?
Here are some solutions:

Menu Smart

Have a plan A and plan B for the products you buy. If you menu something for Monday, deliberately write the menu for following days to utilize the products you purchased. Cross-utilize as many ingredients as possible to avoid buying a single ingredient for a single item on the menu.

Use Production Sheets

There are many software programs out there that will help a chef keep track of daily, weekly, or monthly spend. Know the budget and buy within the budget help curb overbuying.

Utilize Financial Tracking Software

There are many software programs out there that will help a chef keep track of daily, weekly, or monthly spend. Know the budget and buy within the budget help curb overbuying.

Negotiate with Vendors

Most vendors will break cases so you only order and receive what you need. Why buy 30# of lemons when you only need 10#? Ask the vendor for a different pack size—most offer it or are willing to break apart cases for you.

Get Multiple Deliveries per Week

This goes along with working with your vendors. Get smaller, more frequent deliveries whenever possible. You are able to get a better handle on food waste if your deliveries are broken up during the week. It helps with storage, food rotation, quality, and quantity problems.

Finally, and Most Importantly, Track all Food Waste

If you are overbuying, you will see that on your food waste reports as expired items, inventory spoilage, or overproduction. By tracking your food waste you can understand where you are starting from (your baseline) and measure the impact of the changes suggested above.

With smart systems and good practices, overbuying doesn’t have to be one of the biggest waste culprits in your kitchen—you can take control of it!


Get more tips from LeanPath’s waste-fighting chef at our upcoming webinar!

Topics: Food Waste Musings, Food Waste Prevention Newsletter, commercial kitchen