How to store food to reduce food waste (in a sustainable way)?


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In this blog post, you will learn everything you need to know on how to store food to reduce food waste, all in a sustainable way. 

We live in a society where food waste is the norm.

Around 931 million tons of food go to waste each year, or about 17% of global food production according to the United Nations. 

In the United States alone, food waste is estimated at 30 to 40% of the food supply. 

And as the world population is increasing, so is the demand for food.

But does that mean we will need to produce more of it?

Well, probably.

But we could at least reduce how much we need to produce by reducing how much food we are wasting all around the world. 

While companies and other stakeholders play a major role in the production of food waste, we as consumers can also take action to save food from landfill.

One of the best ways to do that is to learn how to store food properly and sustainably. 

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Why should we take action to reduce food waste? 

Food waste causes many environmental issues. 

For instance, it is one of the main contributors to climate change and global warming.

When food is thrown away and goes to a landfill, it does not decompose easily because there isn’t enough airflow.

So it takes years, even decades, to fully biodegrade.

In the meantime, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times as potent as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. 

But that’s not all.

Food waste also means that tons of natural resources, like water or fertilizers, have been wasted.

Plus, food waste is unacceptable when we think about how many people are still starving all around the globe. 

Can storing food properly reduce food waste?

We’ve all been there.

We forget about the leftovers we cooked a week ago, and when we realize they’ve been pushed to the back of the fridge, it’s too late.

That’s okay, it happens. 

But we can easily avoid this by following some helpful tips on how to store food to reduce food waste! 

Properly storing food can make a huge difference to how long our food lasts, and ultimately, how much food we end up wasting.

It helps extend the shelf life of perishable foods and prevent spoilage, in addition to maintaining the nutritional value of food for longer. 

For more tips and inspiration, feel free to read my blog post about 10 ways to reduce waste in the kitchen!

You'll learn everything you need to know on how to store food to reduce food waste.

The best zero-waste swaps for storing food to reduce food waste

Not all food storage solutions are created equal.

Most people store their food in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, plastic containers, or other wasteful options.

But we can easily stay away from those and choose sustainable, zero-waste food storage solutions to reduce food waste.

I’m gathering them all up here to make it easier for you to pick the right products according to your needs and preferences. 

Read more: 18 minimalist kitchen essentials for simple, efficient cooking

a. Food storage containers

There are many glass and metal options that come in various shapes and sizes.

These are so much healthier to use than plastic containers!

You can store many things in them, from leftover meals to snacks to salads!

Just be aware that you can’t see what is inside the metal tins without opening them.

So regularly check what’s inside to avoid any spoilage. 

b. Glass jars

These are perfect, especially for storing dry goods, or your herbs and produce in water.

You can reuse the ones your food comes packaged in.

Thrift stores also often sell them, which is awesome!

If you can’t find anything, you can still buy some new ones

c. Reusable silicone ziploc bags or Stasher bags

Stasher bags are super practical to have for little snacks on the go or sandwiches, but you can also put whatever you want in them. 

Read more: The best eco-friendly alternatives to Ziploc bags

d. Beeswax wraps

Use beeswax wraps to cover fruits and veggies that you cut in half, sandwiches for when you’re on the go, small portions of cake, a cup, or anything else. 

e. Ice cube trays

You can use ice cube trays to freeze any liquids, from water to sauce. 

f. Silicone stretch lids

Silicone stretch lids are great for covering plates, bowls, and containers to make the food last longer. 

g. Food huggers

Food huggers work the same way as silicone stretch lids.

You can use them to cover fruits or veggies you’ve cut and have not eaten yet. 

h. Veggie saver bags

Place your produce in a veggie-saver bag before storing it in the fridge and you won’t have to worry about it going bad so quickly. 

How to store food to reduce food waste (in a sustainable way)? 12 tips that really work

There are many things we can do to store food properly and sustainably to reduce food waste!

1. Don’t store too much food

When we have too much food at home, it’s difficult for us to remember everything and we end up forgetting about certain foods.

As a result, we find them far too late, and we have no other choice than to throw them away. 

But one easy thing we can do to prevent this is simply not storing that much food.

And this means not overbuying at the store in the first place. 

Try to buy only what you need for the week.

If you want some extras for your pantry, buy a manageable quantity that you know for sure you will use up quickly. 

Preventing waste often comes with limiting our consumption.

Plus, you’ll save a lot of money by doing so! 

Reducing food waste often comes with not storing too much food (AKA not buying so much) in the first place.

2. Keep your fridge and pantry tidy and organized 

Make sure to keep your fridge and pantry as organized and tidy as possible.

Keep like-items with like-items and arrange things in a way that allows you to see everything easily. 

This is the most effective way to reduce food waste at home!

That way, things won’t be hiding behind others, and you’ll be able to see what you have at a glance when it’s time to cook or plan your grocery shopping trip.

You won’t forget about certain foods anymore, which means that everything will get eaten before they expire. 

When you have an organized fridge, you are also more likely to see if something is starting to go bad.

When that’s the case, commit to using it up the same day so it doesn’t end up in the trash. 

Also, if you don’t know how to organize your fridge, have a look inside.

Most fridges indicate where you should store each type of food to make it last longer.

For instance, produce will usually go in the fridge drawers, while meat and fish should be placed on the coldest shelves (usually at the bottom of most American fridges). 

3. Place older foods in the front

One of the most important ways to store food to reduce food waste is to always place older and more perishable items at the front of your fridge and pantry, and newer foods at the back. 

That way, you will immediately know what you should eat first whenever you take a look inside.

Prepare your meals accordingly! 

And regularly check the expiration dates.

For leftovers, you can also write down the storage date on their container to remember when you cooked them.

No more mistakes or uncertainty about how long they’ve been there! 

4. Store food at the right temperature

Dry goods such as grains and nuts can be stored in your pantry, at room temperature.

But make sure it is dry, clean, and dark. 

However, perishable food like meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, and certain fruits should be stored in your fridge.

Keep in mind that meat and fish should never stay out of the fridge for more than two hours, so refrigerate them as soon as you get home. 

The FDA recommends we keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F (or 4°C), so remember to check it regularly. 

If you have food in your fridge you don’t plan on eating soon, freeze it so you can eat it at a later date.

Your freezer should be kept at 0°F (-18°C) or below. 

Store food at the right temperature to make it last longer and reduce food waste.

5. Use airtight containers to store food

Store leftovers or opened packages of food in airtight containers.

As the food won’t be exposed to air, it will stay fresh and last longer.

Another advantage of airtight containers is that they will prevent pests from entering your food! 

Here are different types of airtight containers you can use, depending on your needs and preferences: 

  • Metal or glass food storage containers
  • Glass jars: repurpose the jars your food comes in, or buy them second-hand at the thrift store, or new if you cannot find any
  • Stasher bags: these are awesome for storing little snacks or sandwiches! 
  • Any Tupperware you already have in your kitchen

6. Wrap and cover food properly 

Wrapping and covering food can help prolong and preserve its freshness. 

While plastic wrap and aluminum foil are great for that, try to stay away from them as much as you can.

They are incredibly wasteful as they are made to be disposed of immediately after one use. 

Instead, opt for reusable options like beeswax wraps, which are biodegradable and completely plastic-free!

You can use them to cover and wrap any food, from fruits and vegetables that you’ve cut to sandwiches, cheese, and even a slice of cake.

You can also use them to cover opened cans or cups. 

If you don’t like beeswax wraps, you can also find food huggers (sold in various sizes) that you can put over your half-eaten fruits and veggies.

There are even ones made to cover larger items, like bowls or plates, which come in handy if we don’t want the contents to dry out or go bad as fast. 

And sometimes, covering a plate with another plate is a great option as well! 

Read more: 15 eco-friendly alternatives to aluminum foil for cooking, baking, and storage

7. Keep your fruit bowl visible

For the fruits you don’t need to put in the fridge, have a fruit bowl visible on your kitchen counters or table.

Some of us keep it out of sight in a cupboard, but by doing so, we risk forgetting about the fruits and letting them go bad. 

I particularly recommend a fruit bowl in which you can easily see things (mine has big holes in it, so it’s perfect).

That way, you will be reminded to pick a piece of fruit and eat it every time you go into your kitchen! 

Have a similar system for other perishable foods that don’t go in the fridge, like bread.

Keep them in a visible spot so you don’t forget about them. 

8. Avoid washing produce before storing it away

While we may be tempted to wash our fruits and veggies as soon we get them, try not to do so.

Washing them before storing them away can make them turn bad quicker.

So consider only washing them before eating or cooking them. 

Only wash produce when you're about to eat it.

9. Take advantage of the freezer 

If you have leftovers from your meals or any excess food, utilize the freezer to save them for a later date

It’s an effective method for preserving food for an extended period!

One of the best ways to store food in the freezer is to keep it in glass jars or containers.

Whether you decide to store your leftovers or anything else in them, make sure to label and date them so you know how old they are.

You can use this great label maker for that! 

An important thing to remember when using glass jars in the freezer is to never fill them all the way to the top.

The content might expand a bit, so leave a bit of room in it to prevent the jar from breaking. 

And of course, let your food cool down before placing it in your freezer!

You can also store food in the freezer in a metal container, or any plastic container you already have at home.

Reusable silicone ziploc bags are another option that comes in handy and can be used in the freezer! 

What’s more, you can freeze liquids in ice cube trays if you want to have little portions on hand without having to defrost an entire jar. 

10. Preserve food through canning and pickling

Humans have been pickling and canning their food for ages.

These two preservation techniques help significantly extend the shelf life of produce, which reduces food waste. 

So if you have an excess of fruits or vegetables and you don’t want to freeze them, why don’t you try canning or pickling them? 

You’ll be able to eat them months or even years later!

There are tons of resources on the internet that will teach you how to do it yourself.

And it’s incredibly satisfying to do so! 

11. Learn how to properly store specific foods to make them last longer

Some types of food have specific storage requirements.

We can also make them last longer if we store them in a certain way. 


Trim their stems, put them in a jar with water at the bottom, and place them in the fridge.

They will stay fresh for a lot longer that way!

One exception would be basil; I find it does a lot better on the counter.

Fresh produce 

Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, asparagus, celery, and leeks do very well when stored in a jar or glass of water.

Place them in the fridge and remember to change the water every few days to keep them fresh and make them last longer.

For leafy greens like salads, my favorite storing method is to take a kitchen towel and make it damp.

I then put the salad on the towel and roll it up as if I made a sandwich wrap out of it.

Damp the towel every few days and your greens will stay crisp for a lot longer!

If you’re looking for an easier option, you can also get a veggie saver produce bag.

I’ve never tried them but heard good things about them. 

Keep your leafy greens in a damp towel in the fridge to make them last longer.

Potatoes, onions, garlic, squash, and eggplants should always be stored out of the fridge.

Keep them in a dry, dark, and cool place with good ventilation. 

Store citrus fruits, apples, and bananas on the counter.

Some of these may even lose their flavor if stored in the fridge!

Some fruits like apples, pears, bananas, and avocados make other produce stored next to them ripen faster.

So keep these fruits away from other produce to prevent any accidental spoilage. 

Finally, if you’ve cut any fruits or veggies, make sure to store the leftover part in the fridge.

Cover them with a beeswax wrap or a food hugger.

Or place them in a jar or stasher bag

Grains, nuts, and other dry goods 

Always keep dry goods in your pantry in an airtight container to prevent them from becoming stale.

It will also keep pests away. 

Meat, fish, dairy, eggs

Meat, fish, and dairy products should always be stored in the fridge, otherwise, they may no longer be safe to eat. 

For eggs, it’s a bit more complicated: they should be kept at a consistent temperature.

So to avoid big temperature fluctuations, I pay attention to how they were stored at the store.

If they were refrigerated, I then store them in my fridge.

But if not, I keep them in my pantry at room temperature. 

12. Don’t store food you know you won’t eat

Sometimes, we keep food in our fridge, freezer, or pantry without thinking about whether we will actually eat it.

So it’s great to reassess what we have in our kitchen from time to time to see what we will eat before it goes bad.

If you know you won’t eat something, don’t keep it there.

Give it away so someone else can eat it while it’s still good!

Give it to neighbors, family members, friends, or your local food bank. 

Final thoughts on how to store food to reduce food waste (in a sustainable way)

Food waste is inevitable, particularly in a society where companies waste so much of it before it even reaches consumers. 

While we cannot eradicate it, we can still take action as consumers and make sure we do not contribute to this problem.

Of course, we are not perfect, but we can do our best

One way we can do that is to store food properly to make it last as long as possible and make sure we eat it before it’s too late. 

I hope that you could learn some things thanks to these tips on how to store food to reduce food waste (in a sustainable way) and that you could implement some of them into your daily life! 

What are your favorite tips on how to store food to reduce food waste?

How do you do it sustainably?

What are some other things you do to prevent food from going to the landfill? 

Please share your helpful tips in the comment section!

Don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends to help them learn how to store food sustainably to reduce food waste!

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