17+ Tips to Reduce Student Food Waste

Imagine going to the grocery store, buying three shopping bags with food, then dropping one of them on the way, and not going back for it.

Crazy, right?

Well, that’s exactly how much food we are wasting daily. 

Food waste costs the world about 750 billion USD per year. And young people (age 18-34) waste more food than any other demographic

Food waste not only hurts your pockets but is extremely harmful to the environment. But there are measures you can take to minimize it.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Why Do Students Waste Food?
  • 17+ Tips To Reduce Food Waste as a Student

Why Do Students Waste Food?

Throwing away food costs your students pockets around 6.9 USD per week. That’s 358 USD per year!

The most commonly wasted foods for students are leftover meals, fresh vegetables and fruit, bread, and chips.

And some of the main reasons students throw food away are:

  • Trying something new and you don’t like it
  • Cooking portions that are too big
  • Throwing away leftovers
  • Food expires before you get to cook it

That’s normal. You’re probably used to home-cooked meals and your family taking care of all of the leftovers. Now that you’ve moved out on your own, you sometimes don’t have access to a kitchen and have a limited budget.

You might not even know how to cook or when to eat. In the next section, we’ll offer some tips to help.

17+ Tips to Reduce Student Food Waste

You might feel lost, but you can quickly get control of your food. You just need a bit more knowledge on how to store food effectively, how to use leftovers, and how to control your food choices and reduce your student food waste.

#1 – Store and organize your food 

Putting food in a place that isn’t visible makes you forget you even have it. So make sure everything in your fridge or pantry is organized and visible.

When you get new groceries, bring all the old things in front and put all the newly purchased items in the back. 

This way, you’ll be more likely to eat food that expires sooner.

#2 – Seal food properly 

Did you open a pack of chicken breasts and only used one or two?

Usually, the rest of the chicken starts smelling pretty fast.

This is why sealing your food is super important. Wrap unused chicken, fish, or steak and secure it with food clips. Alternatively, you can put it in containers or Tupperware.

#3 – Prepare portion sizes correctly

Before you start cooking, get a feeling of how many people will be eating. You’ll be tempted to make excess food. 


If you’re overcooking, you increase the likelihood that you’ll waste your food. You might then be tempted to throw the excess food away or dispose of the next-day leftovers.

#4 – Switch up breakfast

You can substitute your bowl of cereal or eggs with some of the leftovers from the previous day. Or, you can put it in a Tupperware and take it with you for lunch.

You do not end up throwing your leftovers. You also save cooking time, lunch money, and some of your breakfast food.

#5 – Cook with leftovers

Got a bunch of cooked veggies or leftover rice? Throw them together in a pan. 

You can cook awesome meals with your leftover food. Anything from paella with a twist to a leftover-food omelet, to fried rice works.

There’s plenty of room to be creative!

#6 – Freeze bread

You got a huge loaf of fresh bread that you can’t eat before it goes bad?

Just throw it in the freezer!

Then take it out and throw it in the oven or let it defrost when you decide to have it. After reheating, the bread tastes as fresh as the first day. 

#7 – Buy more frozen foods

It’s nice to support local farmers and to eat fresh foods. But if you end up throwing away most of your vegetables or fruits because you didn’t get to eat that in time….then it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Frozen food is cheaper and offers more variety. You can get several bean types and various vegetables in one pack. And they take years to go bad!

#8 – Don’t buy food in bulk

Some foods, like potatoes and carrots, don’t expire. So it’s okay if you buy them in bulk.

However, if you buy 1 KG of chicken and don’t freeze it, things can turn sour fast. To save your fresh food from expiring, just buy less of it at a time.

#9 – Check your fridge temperature

Your fridge temperature should be below 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit). And your freezer should not exceed -18 degrees Celcius (0 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Get a simple fridge thermometer to monitor these thresholds. 

The shelves in the fridge also vary in their temperatures. Store different types of food on separate shelves to make sure they don’t expire.

fridge placement shelves

#10 – Understand expiration dates

There are many ways the store, the factory, or the distribution facility put in the expiration date in the food packaging. However, there are three main wordings:

  • “Best before” means that the food won’t be harmful if you consume it after the shown date. But it’s best to consume it before the expiration date for the best taste and quality. Be careful with eggs, because they can develop salmonella if a long time passes.
  • “Exp.” means that the food will expire after the given date. However, sometimes, food might be okay to cook with even if expired. Go for the “look, smell, taste” test. Only throw away food if it looks and smells expired.
  • “Display until” or “Disp” is an indicator for grocery store clerks. Don’t pay much attention to it.

Understanding what these expiration dates mean can help you prioritize when you eat food. So, if at some point your choice is between food that expires tomorrow and food that is best before tomorrow, go for the first one.

#11 – Take home restaurant leftovers

There’s nothing wrong with asking your waiter to pack up your leftovers in a container and take it home. The food is yours once it’s prepared!

The restaurant avoids food waste and you get an extra meal or side dish from food that you’ve already paid for.

#12 – Donate food you don’t want anymore

You might have a bunch of cans and other foods sitting around the house. They haven’t expired yet. And you’re probably tempted to throw them away since you don’t plan on eating them anytime soon.

Considering donating them instead. There should be food banks in your area or local organizations that give the food to the less fortunate. Food isn’t wasted but instead given to someone who needs it. There are 135 million of these people throughout the world.

#13 – Plan your meals

At the beginning of the week, create a diary with all the meals you plan to eat that week. Write down a shopping list for all those meals and only buy those ingredients.

Meal planning makes it easier for you to know what and how you’re eating and eliminates stress and time spent on thinking and cooking. It also ensures that you’re not buying food that you won’t use.

#14 – Eat less meat

Meat is extremely harmful to the environment. Each kilogram of beef, for example, produces 17 kg of CO2. Eating more plant-based foods is a sure way to reduce your carbon footprint.

#15 – Find recipes online

There are thousands of online recipe websites out there that you can use for inspiration. And some are easy and fast to make. 

Online recipes also show all ingredients, which adds variety to your meal and gives you inspiration for your shopping list.

#16 – Use food waste applications

There are mobile apps out there that make planning and cooking meals super easy. Total Ctrl Home is probably the most convenient.

The app allows you to get alerts before food expires and create shopping lists. It also gives you recipe recommendations based on the food you have at hand.

#17 – Spread the word

Inform your friends and family about all the negative effects of food waste. Share posts and updates on your social media, so that everyone can participate.

The more people know about how unnecessary and avoidable food waste is, the closer we are to our sustainable development goal of halving the world’s food waste.

Wrapping Up Student Food Waste

We discussed many tips on this article about how to reduce student food waste. However, you don’t have to dive into all of them at once.

Start with small changes, like eating leftovers, downloading TotalCtrl Home, and organizing your fridge. Then work your way through meal planning and educating others about the threat of wasted food.

By working together to change our habits, we can all make an impact towards a waste-free world.

student food waste
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