7 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

October 5, 2022

As part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s vision to inspire communities to create environments where wildlife can thrive in an urbanizing world, we have long invited others to Take Action with Us—and we’ve offered suggestions on ways of doing it, including ways to make more climate-friendly choices that will help animals like polar bears in the Arctic.

We understand that people’s lives are busy and complex, but we’ve also done research on the best, science-based ways people can help wildlife. And our researchers recommend taking small steps, one action at a time. Integrate a new behavior into your routine or learn a new way to accomplish an everyday task that’s friendlier to the planet. Once you’ve done that successfully, you’ll be ready for the next step.

Recently, zoo researchers published a study focusing on an internal zoo-wide campaign to reduce food waste. Now you, too, can get the benefit of what Lincoln Park Zoo employees learned from the initiative. Here are some tips for reducing food waste in your own homes:

1. Plan Your Meals

If you plan your meals ahead of time, you’re less likely to waste money or food. Keep a list of the meals and ingredients your household enjoys, so you can easily shop for and prepare your meals. Before you go grocery shopping, look in your fridge and cupboards to see what needs to be used up. And make a shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home.

2. Shop your kitchen

Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more. Save that $5 by making a coffee at home, for example. There are a latte of ideas waiting for you online!

3. Avoid throwing food waste in your garbage

If you can’t reduce wasted food, try diverting it from the landfill! Explore the many levels of composting you participate in, from composting in a bin in your kitchen with worms to composting at a community center.

4. Share food or have a leftovers party

Have a Disco Soup-style event, in which everyone brings surplus food and you all cook and eat things together while enjoying each other company. This allows you to bring all your food scraps together in one collective effort to fight food waste and climate change.

5. Be creative with your cooking

You can turn just about any food into a pizza. Use leftover sauces like pesto, alfredo, barbecue sauce, hummus, or hoisin as the base for your pizza, then top it with leftover vegetables and other toppings. And you don’t even have to make the pizza dough; use leftover tortillas!

You can also make banana peel bacon, turn apple cores into juice and cider, create potato peel chips, try an asparagus end soup, or turn wilted zucchini and zucchini ends into fritters.

6. Stay organized

Keep a list of what needs to be eaten or used up so it’s not forgotten. Keep food that needs to be used up first at the front of your fridge or pantry (labels help too!).

7. Befriend your freezer

Freeze foods like bread, sliced fruit, meat, or anything you know you won’t be able to eat in time. You can also freeze meals ahead of time—toss onion peels, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, and other vegetables into a sealable bag and store them until you have enough to make soup stock. Don’t forget to label frozen items so you know what’s inside your container, and make sure you add the date!

Like you, zoo employees are rethinking their own practices and setting goals to help conserve wildlife every day. Join us!

Freezing kale stalks for later use in soup.

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