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Top tips for reducing food waste at a bed and breakfast

recipe running a bed and breakfast Nov 11, 2021

This week's blog post is also available as a podcast >>> Listen to the podcast here

As the spotlight is very much on the environment at the moment, I thought it might be useful to look at different ways of reducing food waste at your B&B.

I have a few ideas of my own and also went out to the Facebook Group of Past Course Attendees to ask for their tips. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

"calculations from the UK estimate that about 18% of annual food waste is created by the hospitality and food service industry"

Compared to many hospitality businesses, smaller B&Bs have the advantage of being able to consume much of their surplus ingredients themselves. I would often find myself eating breakfast for every meal of the day. Luckily I'm a big fan of sausages!

Of course, this only works if you actually eat the food you're serving. If you're a vegan B&B owner dishing up a meaty full english, you're going to need to look at different solutions.

So how can you do your bit to reduce the waste?

The three principles of the waste hierarchy are:

  1. reduce
  2. reuse
  3. recycle

How to reduce food waste

The first step is only buying what you need and then using everything you buy.

When you've been running your B&B for a while you get a pretty good feel for how much food you're going to get through at breakfast. But even then you can't always predict what people are going to order.

I might have a week when every breakfast was meat laden feast, followed by a week when everyone ordered the vegetarian options.

One week I’d have to go out and buy extra mushrooms and then the next, I'd have 4 boxes of mushrooms staring at me accusingly when I opened the fridge door at the end of the week.

Review your menu

Breakfast was always my "thing" at my bed and breakfast and I liked offering lots of choice, but I’d  invariably get food left over on the buffet or not use ingredients I’d bought in.

As I mentioned, if you're able to eat the food yourself it's not a problem. But there were some items I offered that we didn't eat such as fruit yoghurt - we eat lots of natural greek yoghurt, but not the added sugar variety. So an awful lot of fruit yoghurt was getting thrown out.

If you're throwing a lot of an item away ask yourself if it's time to stop offering it, just in case the occasional guest wants it.

I decided to stop buying fruit yoghurt and only offered the full fat natural version.

The same thing happened with fruit juices. I used to offer apple, freshly squeezed orange, grapefruit and tomato but I was pouring away a lot of leftover juice.

So I stopped offering grapefruit and tomato, bought local apple juice in individual glass bottles with a long life and squeezed fresh oranges - which last in the fridge for ages - to order.

Consider your portion sizes

It's very difficult to get the size of a cooked breakfast right for everyone.

Some guests see the cooked breakfast as a “man versus food” challenge and others look terrified when you put the plate in front of them.

If you're getting a lot of food left on the plate because guests couldn't manage it, then it may be time to reconsider your portion sizes.

I used to ask people how much of each item they wanted e.g. how many eggs, single or double portion of eggs benedict. It was very rare for me to get any uneaten food being returned to the kitchen - much to the dogs’ disappointment. 

I have a couple of recipes that I adapted so that I could make just small quantities of baked goods.

How to make a small batch of muffins

With my blueberry and lime scones ( surprisingly popular at breakfast ) I make up the scone mix and store in the freezer. Then I can just scoop out what I need and make just a couple of scones. These scones also use those leftover frozen blueberries! Scones can also be frozen uncooked. I defrost at room temperature and bake just before guests are due to arrive for breakfast

Blueberry and lime scones 

The ginger scones also freeze beautifully uncooked

Maple and ginger oat scones 

Ask guests in advance of their stay

You should already be asking guests if they have any special dietary requirements, food intolerances or allergies in advance of their stay. But if they do tell you they are on a specific diet, it's a good idea to ask what they like to eat rather than guessing or buying in lots of options.

For example, there are so many non dairy alternatives these days such as soy, rice, pea, hazelnut, coconut, oat and almond milk, that it would be impossible for a small B&B to have all of these in stock. Even the very long lasting UHT versions would end up going out of date in my cupboard. 

Therefore it's a good idea to ask guests what non dairy substitute they'd prefer.

When my very first vegan guest booked in, I found myself disappearing down a pinterest rabbit hole, devising an elaborate menu for him. Luckily, I came to my senses and emailed him asking him if there was anything he'd particularly like for breakfast and he replied with - I'll have beans on toast, oat milk and peanut butter to spread on toast!

I've also had similar problems  catering for gluten free guests. I'd buy in both brown and white gluten free bread and it would not get eaten. Instead, I started contacting the guest to ask if they wanted me to get gluten free bread in and what sort.

Of course with gluten free bread, provided you can store it properly without risk of contamination, you can always freeze it.

Find out more about catering for guests with special dietary requirements in this blog post here --> How to cater for B&B guest's dietary requirements and restrictions

Pre-order breakfast menu

When I went out to the Facebook group, quite a few B&B owners came back and said they'd started doing a pre order breakfast menu during Covid and had seen a big decrease in the amount of food waste.

I've always asked my guests to order the night before, as I was on my own in the kitchen cooking and serving, and couldn't have offered the wide breakfast choice I did without the pre-order menu.

I always made it clear that it wasn't compulsory for guests to pre-order but explained why it was helpful to me and how it would speed up their breakfast!

And most guests had no issue with them - with the exception of one guest, which is a whole other story!

Even though I had the pre-order menu, I would still put items out on the buffet such as juice and white and granary bread, fruit etc. During Covid times I put juice, bread choice etc back on the pre-order menu and I saw a reduction in waste from the buffet.

If  you sign up for the bed and breakfast online course, you'll get access to my standard, vegetarian and vegan breakfast menus to copy.

Using bake at home pastries means you can bake to order and reduce waste.

Offer a doggy bag

Rob and I were once in a chinese restaurant in New England. We were very tired and jet lagged and didn't manage to eat much of the very lovely food sadly. They offered us a doggy bag to take away and we mumbled yes, but left it on the table, as there was no way we'd be eating anything else.

Just after leaving the restaurant we heard shouting behind us and hot on our heels was the waiter with our doggy bag. I think we did contemplate running from him, but he caught up and handed the doggy bag over...

I'm not suggesting you offer guests bags of cooked breakfast to take away with them. But one thing I always did was offer guests bags so that they could take away leftover food on the buffet, such as muffins or croissants. Nisbets has paper bags you could offer >> Compostable sandwich bags

If you leave a cake in the B&B room, you could leave a little note and bag so guests knew they could take it away with them


Food storage

One of the first things you can do to reduce food waste is ensure it's stored properly. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Freeze sausage, smoked salmon, bacon and black pudding individually in the freezer on a tray, then pop them into a sealed container in a freezer. You can then just take out what you need for breakfast
  • Rotate food in the fridge so that the newest items are always at the back and the oldest get used first
  • If you make toast for guests ( as opposed to providing them with bread and a toaster ), you can slice bread and store it in the freezer and toast from frozen
  • Label all jars etc with the date they are opened and the date they are to be used by.
  • Once packets of dry ingredients such as flour are opened, decant them into an airtight container and label them with the use by date - I use kilner jars.

You can read more about my favourite kitchen gadgets here 

Reusing food items

If you do have leftover food, it's worth having some inventive ways to reuse it.

I'm not talking about scraping leftovers that come back on a guest's plate into the fridge and reusing.

Though maybe if you have a pet dog, they may appreciate the odd sausage... Note that some food is  dangerous for dogs - you can find out more here on the Battersea website

Also, if you keep chickens ( or any other farmed animals), it's worth noting that it is actually illegal to give them any scraps from the kitchen. You can find out more here

I'm talking about food, like leftover bread, unused milk, yoghurt etc.

My biggest food waste was always bread as I just couldn't eat all that was leftover.

I did reduce the amount of leftover breadmaker bread by just using the dough setting and making 3 individual loaves which I left in the fridge to prove, and baked over 3 days. You can see my method here - How to enjoy freshly baked bread every morning

Here are some quick ideas for using up leftover ingredients:


The internet is full of ideas for using leftover bread but here are a few of my favourites. I've not included bread and butter pudding - sorry, it reminds me to much of school dinners...

  • Make fresh breadcrumbs by whizzing in the food processor and then store in a sealed container or bag in the freezer - the mini processor I mention in this blog post here is perfect for processing small quantities of bread >>> Top 11 B&B Kitchen Essentials List
  •  Make your own panko style breadcrumbs by putting fresh breadcrumbs onto a baking sheet into a low oven ( about 130 degrees celsius in a fan oven ) and baking for about 10 minutes or until they'll completely dry, cool, then decanting into a kilner jar where they'll live for several months
  • Make breadcrumbs and turn them into vegetarian sausages. This recipe is also a great way of using up bits of leftover cheese >>> cheese and herb vegetarian sausages recipe
  • Stale bread makes amazing French toast 
  • I use breadcrumbs from the freezer in this savoury cheese pudding recipe - it's a great economical dish from my childhood for using up bits of cheese and breadcrumbs


  • I will sometimes use milk that's about to go out of date to make greek yoghurt. I use Nigel slater's recipe >>> Nigel slater yoghurt recipe then strain it through muslin in the fridge to get greek yoghurt and whey - which is a great buttermilk substitute. Note that it you decide to invest in a Ninja 9 in 1 it has a yoghurt making function!
  • You can also make your own cultured buttermilk. It's probably only worth doing this if you're using a lot of buttermilk, as it needs making weekly. I used to use an awful lot in my lemon drizzle cake and buttermilk pancakes. You'll need to buy a cultured buttermilk starter to begin with but then you just use a bit of your own starter to start the next batch - much like sourdough. You can buy the starter here >>> Organic cultured buttermilk starter 


I usually managed to eat all of the leftover berries from the buffet. But when I couldn't manage this I'd freeze them and use it as follows:

  • Make smoothies
  • Use in baking - scones, cake and muffins
  • Turn into compote - blueberry compote is delicious with natural greek yoghurt
  • Make into jam
  • Make into ice cream

I always had bananas in the fruit bowl. Any that got too brown to eat were either frozen or made straight into banana bread >>> Cinnamon swirl banana bread recipe

Garden plums were always frozen individually on a tray then popped into a sealed container or bag, then used straight from the freezer to make  roast plums >>> Spiced Roast Plum Recipe

Apples past their best work really well turned into a compote for the breakfast table or chopped into muffins with some cinnamon >>>  How to make a small batch of muffins

There are of course thousands of recipe out there on the internet for using up leftover ingredients, but these are the ones I used most.

Recycle leftover food

Once you've reduced and reused as much as you can, the final step in the waste hierarchy is recycling.

If you're lucky you'll have space for a compost heap in your garden >>> RHS Composting advice

If you don't have space for a compost heap, then maybe consider a wormery. This one is from WIggly Wigglers >>> Worm Composter Another option is a Bokashi Compost Waste Bin >>> Bokashi Compost waste Bin

Thank you to the following B&B owners who contributed to this blog post

I've included their suggestions throughout this blog post but here's the complete list!

  • Pre-ordering breakfast has reduced waste hugely with hardly any leftovers
  • Purchase ( or make ) bread and freeze in slices. Ask guests what they want and only defrost what's needed
  • Buy frozen bake to order pastries - from Bookers, Brakes or supermarket
  • Use leftover fruit in jams or cake
  • Yoghurt pots can be frozen or made into ice cream
  • Put bacon and smoked salmon into the freezer
  • Review your menu and drop things that are not being ordered often or eaten from the buffet
  • Use marmalade and jams in cake making
  • Turn fruits into compotes
  • Use leftover butter in cake and bread making
  • Part bake scones
  • Flash freeze blueberries and use in chia pudding
  • Roast tomatoes and make into soup
  • Use breadcrumbs to make homemade sausage rolls
  • Excess eggs into baking cakes etc
  • Buy frozen fruit and use in granola pots and fruit compote

Lynne Fisher  St. Johns Guest House Weymouth

Vanja Sutich-Ursell Franklin Mount Boutique Guesthouse Harrogate

Sarah Radford Ocean Drive Barmouth

Emily Victoria Russell Kiltearn House Dingwall

Ursula Wacher 7 Longport Bed and Breakfast Canterbury

Debbie Deakins Montague House Sheringham Norfolk

Fiona Dodds The Rumblie Guest House Laggan

Lucy Cullen Hir Kemmyns Bed and Breakfast, St Mawes

Carolyn Patridge Easter Garth Guest House Rosneath

Catriona Haskell-Ward Millburn Bed and Breakfast, Skye

Melanie Nunn Longmead House Bed and Breakfast Lynton

Fiona Elise Potts Gwaenynog Bed and Breakfast and Campsite Welshpool

Clare Wright The School House, Chapel Lawn Shropshire

Katharine Wolstenholme College Farm Norfolk

Sharon Alldis Holly Tree House Wingfield Suffolk


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