Food waste in brief

We've all been there - freshly stocked with delicious ingredients, only to find them spoiling before we know it. It's disheartening, especially when it's estimated that one-third of the world's food for humans goes to waste each year. Not only do we miss out on the nutritional benefits these foods offer, but we're also watching our hard-earned dollars disappear before our eyes. With savvy strategies at our disposal though, we can minimize waste and maximize the potential of our food.

The impact of reducing food waste on the environment

Reducing food waste isn't just about saving money or getting the most out of our groceries – it's also about making a positive impact on the environment. While it's easy to feel like a small piece in the climate crisis, household waste is the largest contributor to food waste. If we work together to reduce our food waste over time, we can help lessen the demand for food production. It also reduces the amount of waste going to landfills, which contributes to methane production.

Methane is a gas that contributes to climate change and is produced when organic matter, like food waste, breaks down without oxygen. Food waste generates methane in landfills where it's often buried under layers of other waste.

The science behind spoilage

When our food starts to look, feel, smell, or taste different from its fresh state, it's a sign of spoilage. A few factors are central to these changes:

  • Oxygen: exposure to oxygen allows harmful bacteria to grow faster. A process called oxidation is a chemical reaction responsible for undesirable changes in the colour, flavour, and nutrition profile of foods.
  • Temperature: warmer temperatures speed up the growth of bacteria and microorganisms, making food spoil faster. 
  • Light: light can trigger chemical reactions that lead to the breakdown of certain nutrients and negatively impact the colour and flavour of foods.
  • Moisture: excess moisture provides an ideal environment for mould and bacteria to grow, contributing to spoilage. Foods stored in damp conditions or with high moisture contents are particularly vulnerable to quick spoilage.

7 tips to reduce food waste

Now that we've covered the basics of how food spoils, let's explore 7 tips to help reduce food waste.

1. Shop for success

Consider these tips to shop smarter and avoid excess food to begin with:

  • Buy what you need: focus on purchasing only the items on your shopping list that are necessary for your planned recipes. This helps avoid buying too much food that may not be used.
  • Bulk buy with caution: while bulk purchases can save money, they can also lead to waste if you're not able to use all of it before it expires. Consider your consumption habits and storage space before buying in bulk.
  • Understand expiry dates: it helps to know the difference between "use-by," "sell-by," and "best before" dates to help make more informed decisions about buying and using food. "Use-by" dates indicate the last day a product is considered safe to consume, which is critical for perishable items. "Sell-by" dates are for retailers, showing how long a product can be displayed for sale, and food can often still be safe and good to consume after this date. "Best before" dates refer to quality rather than safety; food might not be at its peak quality past this date but it is usually still safe to eat.  
  • Flexible ingredients: opt for ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes where possible. Versatile items like lentils, rice, and certain vegetables can be incorporated into various recipes rather than going unused.  
pick up limes app grocery list cropped
Creating a grocery list can help stay organized and avoid unnecessary purchases. Try our Pick Up Limes app to help with meal planning and grocery shopping to reduce food waste.

2. Practice first in, first out

The first-in, first-out, or FIFO, method is great for prioritizing the use of older groceries first. You can practice this by organizing your pantry and fridge so the older items are easier to grab. Try putting newer items behind the older ones or dedicating certain shelves for older groceries. This way, you'll naturally use up the older items first, keeping them from going bad before you have a chance to enjoy them.

3. Store optimally 

To keep your groceries fresh for as long as possible, it’s important to understand and manage the environment that they're stored in. By addressing factors like oxygen, temperature, light, and moisture, you can significantly reduce spoilage and extend the shelf life of your food.

Airtight containers are your best friends when it comes to storing dry grains, legumes, and spices, as they keep out air and moisture, preventing the oxidation and spoilage process. For these pantry staples, a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources also ensures they stay at their best quality. 

Store dry grains, legumes, and spices in well-sealed containers, and in a cool dark place to keep them fresh for as long as possible. 

Moisture is particularly problematic for fresh produce, so it's best practice to hold off on washing any fruits and vegetables until you're ready to use them, minimizing unnecessary dampness that could invite mould and bacteria.

Did you know? Many stores provide paper bags specifically for mushrooms. These bags help absorb excess moisture from mushrooms, extending their shelf life!

4. Protect produce from ethylene 

An often-overlooked aspect of food storage is the effect of ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone that accelerates ripening and spoilage.

Some ethylene-producing powerhouses include apples, avocados, bananas, mangos, onions, and tomatoes. On the other hand, ethylene-sensitive produce such as bell peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, potatoes, and zucchini are prone to quicker ripening when exposed to ethylene. Store ethylene-producing produce separately from ethylene-sensitive produce to maintain freshness for longer.

Pro tip: Keep ethylene-producing foods like apples, avocados, bananas, mangos, onions, and tomatoes separate from other produce to reduce the risk of early spoilage.

5. Harness the power of freezers

Transforming on-the-verge produce into long-lasting staples is a freezer's forte, giving your groceries a well-deserved extension on life.


Fresh herbs can quickly wilt, but with a chop and a freeze, they’re reborn. Wash, chop, and distribute the herbs into ice cube trays, covering them with either oil or water. Freeze solid, then pop these herb cubes into an airtight container. Whether it’s a stir-fry, pasta, or soup, these cubes will infuse your dishes with freshness any time of the year.


Preserve the vibrancy of fruits by freezing them, especially when they're at peak ripeness. After washing and slicing, lay the fruit pieces on a baking sheet to freeze individually. Once solid, stash them in an airtight container. These frozen fruits are perfect for smoothies, desserts, and baked goods. Ideally, thick-skinned fruits like bananas and melons should be peeled first.


An effective technique to preserve the taste, colour, and texture of vegetables is blanching. You can blanch vegetables in four simple steps: 

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a separate bowl of ice water.
  2. Cut the vegetables into evenly sized pieces and add them to the boiling water in small batches.
  3. After about 60 seconds, transfer them to a strainer and quickly plunge the vegetables into the ice water.  
  4. Drain the cooled veggies and store them in the freezer in small batches, and you’ve got a treasure trove of greens ready for soups, stir-fries, and more!
Pro tip: Vegetables that blanch well include broccoli, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, peas, Brussels sprouts, and corn.

6. Make the most of each ingredient

Exploring creative uses and often overlooked parts of produce is a fantastic way to make the most out of ingredients. For instance, when preparing squash, don't forget to scoop out the seeds – they can be seasoned and roasted to make a crunchy snack, as featured in our Roasted Vegetable Harvest Soup!

Additionally, transforming leftover peels into zest can enhance the flavour of baked goods like lemon bars, and add a zesty topping to roasted veggies or pasta dishes. When it comes to overripe fruits, they tend to taste sweeter than unripe fruits which makes them perfect for smoothies and baking!

Pro tip: overripe bananas are the best for making sweet, moist, and flavourful banana bread

But the creativity doesn't stop with produce. Give stale grains, including bread and crackers, a second chance by toasting them into croutons, or blend them into bread crumbs, freeze them, and keep them handy for use in burger and tart recipes. 

Crispy croutons with soup
Transform leftover bread into delicious croutons with our easy-to-follow Homemade Crunchy Croutons

7. Save scraps for stock

When working with vegetables, it's common to end up with leftover stalks, stems, peels, tops, and ends. Rather than throwing these scraps away, they can be used to make a flavourful homemade vegetable broth. The process is straightforward: collect and save scraps in the freezer until you have enough. Then, place them in a pot of water and let them simmer to allow all the rich flavours to infuse into a nourishing broth.

 Store vegetable scraps until enough are gathered to make Homemade Vegetable Broth!

If you're unable to use up leftovers, then composting is a great way to manage food waste. It transforms food waste into fertilizer for plants, enriching soil quality and reducing the emission of gases like methane, which are typically produced by waste in landfills.


  • Food waste is a significant issue worldwide: around one-third of the world's food for humans goes to waste each year.
  • Several factors influence food spoilage: like oxygen, temperature, light, moisture, and ethylene gas. 
  • Savvy strategies help reduce food waste: from shopping smartly and practicing proper storage techniques to using leftovers creatively, there are plenty of tactics that can be used to help minimize waste.
  • Freezers can be a food-saving superhero: use freezers to store leftovers or ingredients such as fruits, blanched vegetables, and food scraps. 
  • Resourceful recipes can give ingredients a second chance: such as making croutons and breadcrumbs with stale bread, or using vegetable scraps to make broth.