Reduce Your Wasted Food Challenge

Vegetables and fruit, including cauliflower, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, strawberries, lemons, apples, and oranges.

Preventing wasted food is one of the biggest opportunities for everyday Minnesotans to impact climate change – period. Our uneaten and tossed groceries are an enormous contributor to climate change, accounting for a full 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

And households are the biggest contributor to this waste. The truth is that growing all that food, just to waste it, uses many resources — from water and land to the diesel and emissions behind farm equipment and refrigerated tractor trailers.

The good news is that we, as consumers, can be a real part of the climate change solution and work towards food security for all. Small changes in our behavior can make a huge difference in preventing otherwise good food from going to waste. Eating leftovers, reducing animal protein in your diet by eating more fruits and vegetables, and planning out meals for the week are just a few simple things we can do. All it takes is a little time and planning.

How does the challenge work?

The Reduce Your Wasted Food Challenge spans 5 weeks and guides participants through how to track their food waste at home, prevent waste, and save money. Participants can use the tips and tools found on this website to help with storage, planning, shopping, and cooking.

  • Start by learning how to track the volume of food that is tossed each week.
  • At the end of each week, look at what you wasted and why and determine steps you can take to prevent that food from going to waste the next week.
  • Learn more about the tools and how to reduce wasted food.


A woman stands in front of an open refrigerator with a notebook and pen to make a list.

Week 1: Track the volume of your wasted food

To begin the challenge, you will practice tracking your wasted food and get a baseline volume. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. The baseline week should reflect your day to day activities. It’s okay if this amount of wasted food seems high to you. Tracking alone helps us become more aware of what food we are tossing and why it is being wasted.

Step 1: Look at the Tracking Guide and set up your collection bag and tracking sheet

Step 2: Track your wasted food volume and reasons for wasting food throughout the week


A refrigerator full of food with both doors standing open.

Week 2: Shopping and storage

Learning to store our food properly can help us maximize its freshness and make sure it gets eaten. This week the required tools help us better understand different areas of the fridge, the best storage strategies for various food items, and what date labels really mean. Additional tools are interactive and help you find where you can buy food locally and what food is in season.

Step 1 (required): Learn about food storage

Step 2 (optional): Learn to shop smarter. Shop local and seasonal, and scrutinize deals.

Step 3: Continue to track your wasted food throughout the week


Carrot slices and chopped parsley being pushed from cutting board into a pot of water on a stovetop.

Week 3: Planning and prepping

Before you buy food or start preparing meals this week, take a little time to plan. This can help prevent buying too much food or food you already had, and it can help limit impulse purchases. The required tools this week walk you through an inventory of what you have, incorporate it into a grocery list, and creates personalized weekly meal suggestions. Additional tools include fun food-saving recipes and ways to portion for guests and kids.

Step 1 (required): Inventory what you already have and make a grocery list

Step 2 (optional): Experiment with fun new recipes and plan your portions

Step 3: Continue to track your wasted food throughout the week


A shopper hands a cashier a U.S. 10-dollar bill at a grocery store.

Week 4: Costs and food systems

A huge benefit of working to save food is saving money. This week, keep track of your receipts or the costs of your food items to see how much you could save. Learn about the importance of saving our food and watch a news story or documentary.

Step 1: Look at the cost calculator guide and track the costs of food tossed this week

  • PDF icon Cost calculator guide and sheet: Keep receipts from your purchases to help track the costs of wasted food, and use this tracking sheet to estimate how much money is lost because of wasted food.

Step 2: Watch a video about our food systems and wasted food

Step 3: Continue to track your wasted food throughout the week


Closeup of hands holding a marker and a notebook with meal plan grid in front of an open refrigerator.

Week 5: Final tracking

Continue to track wasted food using the tracking guide. There are no tools for this final week, however, feel free to use any tools from the past weeks if they were helpful. If you’ve incorporated some of these tools into your routine, continue to use what works for you.

Step 1: Use any tools from the past weeks that were helpful to you or you did not have time to try out.

Step 2: Continue to track your wasted food throughout the week