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Tips for Reducing Waste at Home and When You Go Out To Eat

Help us celebrate our first-ever Imperfect’s Food Waste Week in New York City! From November 18th – 24th, our favorite restaurants across New York City are creating limited-edition dishes using Imperfect items. Check out the collaborative dishes, or tell an NYC friend, about Wayla, Una Pizza Napoletana, Two Boots, Hunky Dory, baba cool, Mille Nonne, and La Morada.

To invite people outside of NYC to get in the fun, we’re sharing some tips for reducing waste at home and when you go out to eat. We’ll be sharing some of the most interesting things we’ve learned so far, starting with the elephant in the room.

Photo from Jessica at @cheatdayeats!

Why does food waste happen in restaurants?

We asked our partner chef when and why they saw waste happening in their kitchens and they pointed out some themes that all of us can learn from.

  • Meal plans really matter at scale. Restaurants have to manage much bigger fridges and pantries than we do, and sometimes the staff lose touch with their inventory or don’t plan well, resulting in waste. Chef Anthony Mangieri of Una Pizza Napoletana stresses that all restaurants should be better about this, since managing their inventory helps with budgeting too. We can all take a page from Anthony’s book, since a family of four throws out an average of $1500 per year in wasted food.

  • Proper kitchen training prevents waste. Have you ever tossed a part of a veggie into your compost, only to learn later that it was edible? Believe it or not, this happens in restaurants as well. Erika Chou from Wayla explained that sometimes food waste happens just because new staff might not know how to chop certain ingredients or make certain dishes properly. This reminded us of the importance of practicing our knife skills and learning “root-to-leaf” recipes so we can better use everything we’re bringing into our kitchens.

  • The restaurant is only responsible for part of the waste. It’s also important to remember that chefs and cooks only have so much control over how much food goes to waste inside their doors. We, the eaters, also have a lot of responsibility when it comes to preventing waste in restaurants, which brings us to our next question.

How can you reduce waste when you go out to eat?

Follow these simple steps that every chef agreed are crucial when dining at a restaurant:

  • Don’t order more food then you can eat. Sometimes it really is that simple.

  • If you do order too much food, ask for a to-go container.

  • Even if you’re not interested in your leftovers, get a to-go container so that you can share them with a friend or someone in need. Generosity is one of the best ways to prevent waste!

  • Remember that restaurants are only part of the equation. Since over 40% of the food that goes to waste in this country happens in our homes, we have to be better about handling the food we’re cooking at home as well as the food we’re eating out, which brings us to our final question.

How can you reduce waste at home?

Here’s some advice from our New York City partner chefs:

  • Shop small. Chef Anthony Mangieri stressed that you can create or prevent waste by being mindful of the portion sizes you’re bringing into your home, adding that “you don’t need to go to a big box store and buy a 150 pound bag of potato chips.”

  • Be realistic and flexible. Have you ever wasted food simply because you shopped a bit aspirationally at the grocery store? You’re not alone! Erika Chou explained that “I sometimes get too excited when buying groceries and overestimate the energy and/or time I’ll have to cook during the week. So personally, I would simply advise moderation and also not to forget that you can always freeze things to preserve for later.”

We hope you found these chef tips as inspiring as we did. We’re deeply grateful to all of the chefs that participated in our first ever Food Waste Week and all of the folks who stopped by their restaurants to show their support. Thanks for helping us take a bite out of food waste!

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