Skip to main content

How to Avoid Food Waste

I used to help in our family restaurant. I love good food and enjoy thinking up creative ways to cook and use leftovers to avoid food waste.

Food Waste and Protecting the Environment Is Very Much in the News These Days

Of course, this is nothing new, just a little bit of history repeating itself.

There was food rationing during and for quite a long time after the World Wars I & II era and the shortages made people aware how precious every morsel of food was. In the UK even basic commodities like eggs were rationed to one a week per person. Then rationing began to fade from people's memories as we recovered from the devastation and shortages, and by the 1960's it was not so much of an issue.

New Crisis and Climate Change

However, more recently, with many countries in crisis and climate change in everyone's mind, we have once more become aware that we could be killing the planet and, before that stage is reached, causing a serious food shortage. Protection of the environment has become a very important concern, and food poverty has become not only more prevalent, but also more publicised, with more and more people relying on food banks and charity because of their dire circumstances.

So I am doing my humble bit by suggesting some ways in which you can save food which you might otherwise have thrown away because you thought it was not edible or was unappetising.

The following 5 ideas will save your pocket and will be a small step towards planet-saving too.

Here's a List of Foods Which Can Be Saved Rather Than Destroyed

Ideas for how to use these foods are set out in detail below the list

  1. Stale bread
  2. Over-ripe bananas
  3. Mouldy cheese
  4. Ageing mushrooms
  5. Unripe grapes and unripe green tomatoes including some with blight

1. Uses For Stale Bread

There are a number of uses for stale bread, as long as the bread hasn't gone mouldy. Before using it, you need to check carefully that there are no litte green particles, which would indicate that it is indeed mouldy.

  • You can use dry stale bread to make breadcrumbs. These can be used for toppings, for example sprinkle the crumbs over stuffed aubergine, then sprinkle some grated cheese over the breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the cheese has turned brown. It gives a nice crispy and flavoursome topping to an otherwise fairly bland dish.

    Similarly you can make a topping of breadcrumbs and grated cheese over cauliflower cheese, to add interest and flavour to the texture.

  • You could also cut the dry bread into cubes to use for soup croutons. In order to prevent mould developing in croutons which are going to be stored rather than used immediately, it is necessary to make sure that there is no dampness in the bread, so after cutting into cubes, the cubes should be dried out in a microwave oven for about 5 seconds, or a hot oven for about 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Stale white bread can also be sliced and made into tasty bread-and-butter pudding. This is very quick and easy to make, and only takes about five minutes to prepare, plus cooking time. When I was young, this was a very common popular dessert.

2. Bananas Which Have Gone Soft

It's so easy to think that because a banana has gone soft, it's had its day and should be thrown in the waste bin. But you can use soft bananas for making banana bread--in fact, the softer the better as long as the bananas haven't actually gone bad and brown inside.

3. Cheese That Looks Past Its Best

If cheese is going off, just cut off the mouldy bits to throw away and then use the rest for cooking--remember lots of blue cheeses have mould on purpose so it can't be all that bad for you. You can use the cheese for sauces and omelettes, grating it first.

It is also very tasty if you slice or grate it and place it on a slice of bread or toast and then heat it on a plate in a microwave oven for 30 seconds. The cheese melts all over the bread, and the fat is absorbed into the bread, so you don't need to use butter. Melting the cheese brings out the flavour ....mmmm.....I can smell it as I write.

Alternatively, you can make toasted cheese under a grill.

Mouldy Cheese

Mouldy Cheese

4. Ageing Mushrooms Can Be Saved

If mushrooms are looking a bit tired or just beginning to go slightly slimy but are still edible, you can make them last a little bit longer by cooking them and then storing them in your fridge. They will keep for about three or four days and you can use them for omelettes, on toast, over rice as a risotto, over pasta, in a stew or a stir-fry.

Scroll to Continue
A Tasty Fry-up With Mushrooms

A Tasty Fry-up With Mushrooms

5. Harvest Your Unripe Grapes and Green Tomatoes at the End of the Season

This year I have been very disappointed to find that, because of the harsh weather all round the U.K., with deluges of rain and very little sunshine during the ripening season, my grapes and tomatoes have failed to ripen satisfactorily. Many of my baby tomatoes suffered blight, and their stems wilted, almost melting in the constant downpour.

But all is not lost.

There's no need to discard grapes which have failed to ripen on your grapevine. They can be used for seasoning in baking, stews and soups, as an alternative to lemon or lime juice, or blended with other fruit or yogurt to make a slightly sharp flavoured juice drink. Seedless grapes are obviously easier to deal with, but if necessary, you can remove the pips.

I picked all my green tomatoes, washed them, then cut off all the parts which were brown from blight, and then sliced up what was left and fried them with onions and seasoning.

Damaged Green Tomatoes--Cut Off the Brown Bits and Use the Rest

Here's How to Cook Your Green Tomatoes

Flavoured with onions and other condiments according to your taste, the tomatoes make a tasty accompaniment to meat, fish or vegetarian food, and can be mixed with other vegetables or used in a stew, gravy or topping. They are also nice in omelettes, possibly mixed with mushrooms and/or grated cheese.

Cooking Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min

20 min

4 servings


Main Ingredients:

  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small to medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Seasoning (Optional):

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped and crushed
  • sprinkling chilli, ground or chopped small
  • sprinkling salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, preferably brown
  • half teaspoon thyme, and or oregano and or coriander, chopped small


  1. Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and add the chopped onions, heating gently for 5 minutes or so until they are translucent and have only slightly browned (this is called caramelising). Keep stirring them so that they don't burn. Do not crisp them.
  2. Then add the chopped tomatoes and all the other condiments, and cook gently for a further five minutes until they are soft, stirring to stop them sticking to the pan.
  3. Use immediately. Alternatively, after they have cooled down, store in a refrigerator for up to four or five days, or freeze them

Lightly Browned Onions--They Should Be Soft and Translucent Rather Than Crispy and Burnt

Save Yourself Some Time

If you have had to harvest a large quantity of green tomatoes, cook the whole lot in the manner described above, adjusting the subsidiary ingredients in accordance with the quantity of tomatoes, and then store the finished product in your fridge or freezer to use as required.

I find it very useful to be able to go to the fridge and have a ready-prepared mixture to throw into whatever I am cooking, be it omelette, soup or stew, without having to cut, chop and fry the ingredients, which would necessitate a whole lot of additional time and effort spent on peeling, chopping, frying, and then afterwards cleaning utensils, chopping board and surfaces.

Have You Started Thinking About How You Can Avoid Wasting Food, When So Many People Around the World Are Suffering Food Poverty?

Here Are Some More Useful Ideas to Avoid Food Waste

This is my first article on this subject, listing suggestions which are additional to the ones mentioned in the above article: How to Reduce Food Waste: 5 Tips

Then this article 8 Quick and Easy Recipes to Use Up Leftover Turkey and Chicken is particularly useful when the colder weather encourages people to have hot roast dinners at the weekend and there are small quantities of left-overs. And then after Christmas dinner, when you have masses of meat left over, this will guide you through several meal choices.

Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Serious and Funny in Equal Parts

© 2019 Diana Grant


JEREMIAH MWANIKI KILUNDA from Nairobi on September 29, 2020:

I concur. We should avoid wasting food. A good article.

Nell Rose from England on January 08, 2020:

Great Ideas! I do tend to do the banana thing, and I have made croutons with my bread too. Like you, I hate waste, so anything that can be 'thrown into the pot' so to speak, happens in my house.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 21, 2019:

I agree, food is not to be wasted, even a bit. Nice article. Well detailed. Thanks.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 10, 2019:

These are very good suggestions. I often throw away these things. I have to do what you suggest. After last night's dinner, I am now saddled with so much food. I have to learn to prepare just enough. This will go a long way in not wasting food.

Related Articles