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50 food waste prevention ideas for Earth Day’s 50th anniversary

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  ///  April 22, 2020


Today isn’t just any Earth Day, it’s the 50th Earth Day. And to celebrate we’ve collected 50 of our top food waste prevention tips for the kitchen, whether the foodservice or home kitchen. It’s cliché, but in kitchens preventing food waste, every day is Earth Day. We’re proud to help kitchens around the world bring the mission of a more sustainable planet to their teams and their work. Enjoy!

  1. Measure your food waste. You knew that was going to be first on our list! It’s still the most important thing you can do to prevent food waste: track it so you know where and when your waste is being created so you can make smart adjustments to prevent it from happening.

Prep & Merchandising

  1. Chefs always need a plan A, B, and C for menu items. Plan A is to use as the recipe calls for. Plan B should be what you’re going to do with it when you have food left over. That’s your repurposing plan. Plan C is your storage plan: how you’ll preserve it if you’re not able to repurpose immediately. Chefs should be planning their menus with repurposing in mind.
  2. Build a daily special into your cycle menu to make that repurposing easier. Soups, frittatas, pizzas: all great ways to use up leftovers.
  3. Avoid batch cooking when you can. Cook in smaller quantities to avoid the potential for large amounts of waste.
  4. Display and merchandise in smaller containers that are refilled more frequently.
  5. Add sauces last to increase the chance a prepped item can be repurposed.
  6. Two words: bread pudding. A great way to repurpose pastry and bread into a delicious new dish.
  7. Use fruit and vegetable trim instead of assuming it has to be waste. For fruits, dehydrate the trim in a low-temp oven overnight. Grind the dried trim and use as garnish on salads and pastries. Use veggie trim for soup and stocks.
  8. Two other thoughts on trim: reduce the total amount of trim by retraining knife skills to your team. Or consider switching to pre-cut produce. Spot check your teams trim waste to see if either of these interventions are necessary.
  9. Two more words: production sheets. Have them, use them, refine them.


  1. Make sure routine maintenance is being conducted on coolers and freezers. Equipment failure is an all-too-common source of food waste.
  2. Be sure to label all items with "received" date and "use by" date.
  3. Keep a “to use” list in the kitchen to help facilitate the utilization of product on hand or nearing expiration.
  4. Be sure to physically check items in the store room before you place an order with vendors to avoid over-ordering.
  5. Follow food storage best practices and make sure all products (produce and canned) are rotated through and follow the FIFO (first-in, first-out) procedure.
  6. Keep produce in clear bins to help identify and for ease of ordering and inventory.
  7. Store cooked meats above raw, and all raw meats on the bottom shelf, to avoid cross-contamination.
  8. When storing fish, remove from the shipping container and place in a perforated drip tray before icing. Cover fish to prevent ice from contacting the flesh. Be sure to drain and re-ice fish daily.
  9. Use vacuum sealing to store products if possible. Keep cryo-vac items sealed until you really need them.
  10. Avoid cramming too many items on a shelf to help with air circulation and maintaining a constant, cool temperature.
  11. Chill hot items quickly (use blast chiller if possible), and then cover, label and date.
  12. Split stock and soups into smaller batches prior to freezing to make it easier to reuse only what you need. Be sure to leave room in the container to allow for expansion of the product.


  1. Have your vendor deliver during a slower time when you know you can properly inspect and then store product.
  2. Check the temperature of all foods (refrigerated and frozen) to make sure it is still within the safe temperature before you accept it.
  3. Reject any delivery if it is out of temperature, frozen foods aren’t frozen, or any product has shown signs of temperature abuse.
  4. Assign a team member or two to visually inspect all foods, check all temperature, and immediately store product to your receiving standards.
  5. Order only the amount of food you need, and in the pack sizes that fit the needs of your operation.


  1. When reducing food waste at events, remember to re-check the head counts for all the parties prior to ordering the product. They might have changed and they might change again right before the event.
  2. Make sure you have clear portion sizes in mind and communicated to the staff prior to the event.
  3. Production sheets are the key. Keep all information updated on the sheets as final numbers roll in. Adjust any pull, prep, and production numbers as new information becomes available.
  4. Order only what you need for the event; break the habit of padding the food order “just in case.” Stick to your numbers.
  5. Fire foods only as needed and resist the urge to “load up” the holding box.
  6. Combine composed salads and the like at the last minute so there is a better chance to repurpose if not needed.
  7. Use as small serving vessels as possible and refresh/refill often.
  8. Use plated portions for some of the items to control portion size and excess plate waste.
  9. Use appropriately sized plates on the buffet for each area (salads/apps, main, desserts).
  10. Decide what items can be packaged and frozen to be utilized at a later date.
  11. Items that need to be used within a few days need to wrapped, labeled, dated, and put in an area of the walk in that is the “to use” area.
  12. Donate any food items that you know you cannot utilize before they go bad.

At Home

  1. When reducing food waste at home, plan your menus with cross-utilization in mind. In other words, don’t plan one dish that requires you to buy, say, a huge bunch of parsley when you only need a little bit. Plan other dishes that will use that ingredient so you don’t end up with unnecessary waste.
  2. Keep your fridge clean and organized to promote air circulation. Make sure doors are sealing properly.
  3. Keep your leftovers and then... actually eat them!
  4. Store your food correctly. Chilled, dry, and frozen. It will extend shelf life.
  5. Learn to preserve your food. Cure, pickle, can, dehydrate, vacuum pack - any of these will extend the life of your food.
  6. Did you know you can freeze dairy products? You can.
  7. Rotate your food, also known as FIFO - “First In, First Out”
  8. Designate one meal a week as a “leftover meal.” Get creative and utilize all the food you have purchased and prepped.
  9. Repurpose trim waste to utilize in other dishes. Onion ends, tomato ends, vegetable peels - can all be used in soups, stocks, sauces and salads.
  10. Understand expiration dates. Turns out those expiration dates don’t always have to do with food safety; rather, they’re usually manufacturers’ suggestions for peak quality. If stored properly, most foods (even meat) stay fresh several days past the “use by” date. If a food looks, smells, and tastes okay, it should be fine. If any of these elements are off, then it’s time to toss it.
  11. Understand portions - start with less food on your plate. You can always get more if you are still hungry. This will help prevent unnecessary plate waste.


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Topics: Kitchen Culture, Food Waste Strategies