Food is way too delicious and nutritious to waste. Yet 40% of the food the United States produces never reaches our stomachs. That is 20 pounds of food per person every month, amounting to a whopping $165 billion in wasted food dollars every year. Considering one in six Americans can’t afford sitting down at the dinner table every night that is a lot of food and food dollars being thrown away. If we reduce food waste just by 15%, we would be able to feed over 25 million Americans every year. And it doesn’t stop there. When we waste food, we’re also wasting away our environment. Food waste decomposing in landfills accounts for 23% of all methane emissions in the United States. Not to mention, when we throw away food we’re also throwing away all the resources that went into growing, harvesting, and preparing that food: 300 million barrels of oil, 25% of all freshwater, and acres upon acres of land.
While much of the food waste occurs before it makes it into our home, there are ways we can all do our part. The average American family wastes 25% of the food that they purchase or up to $2,275 annually for a family of four. It is common to hear people say that healthy food is too expensive, and with rising food costs it’s only going to get worse. Take a good look at how much food you and your family is wasting. If you’re throwing away 25% of the food that you purchase, your grocery bills will really add up. Here are ten tips for reducing waste and saving money at home, out shopping and when dining out.
- Don’t throw those seemingly useless food scraps away, use them for compost. Compost is great not just for the garden but any household or yard plant, herbs or flowers. It provides nourishment for the soil, boosting the health of your plants.
- Split your entrée when dining out. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and with extra large portion sizes at restaurants, it’s easy to overeat or not finish our plate. By sharing your entrée you’ll not only reduce food waste, but also save money. If you can’t finish you’re entire meal, commit to eating leftovers, even if it’s not enough food to make an entire meal. You could save it for a midday snack or incorporate it with another meal. That small juicy piece of leftover steak sure would taste great with eggs!
- Ask for substitutes, restaurants are aimed to please. If a meal isn’t exactly what you want, ask for substitutes. You can even ask for items not listed on the menu. You may be surprised at how willing they will accommodate and you’ll end up not wasting food that you don’t want.
- Say no thank you. If you’re not going to eat the complementary bread that is brought to the table, say no thank you. It’s going to waste if it’s just going to sit in front of you. Not to mention who needs the added temptation. That goes for the refill of chips and salsa!
- Skip the buffet. Buffets are notorious for wasting massive amounts of uneaten food. Skip the buffet and order an entrée instead. You’ll be less likely to overeat saving your waist line and reducing excessive waste. Not to mention buffets aren’t always the best option for your buck.
- Meal plan for the week and buy only what you need. Supermarkets are designed to get you to spend. Reduce the temptation to over buy by shopping from a food list. If you stick to buying just what you need for the week you’ll save money and the planet.
- Eat everything in the refrigerator. Before you make the next trip to the store go through everything leftover in your fridge. If there is something that is going to spoil, freeze it for future use or throw it into a meal. Get creative; you may be surprised at what you come up with.
- Store your food properly and know when it expires. Many times food spoils prematurely because it isn’t stored properly. Follow storage recommendations to keep your food fresh longer and know that as long as you are following safe storage procedures, most food can still be consumed beyond the buy/sell by date.
- Freeze, freeze, and freeze! One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is freeze your food. Only use a quarter of that tomato paste? Measure out the rest and freeze it. You’ll have to get organized but with adequate amounts of storage containers and clear labeling you can freeze virtually anything. Milk, bananas, spaghetti squash, you name it, freeze it. In the long run premeasured ingredients will save you time in the kitchen, reduce food waste and save you money.
- Eat from nose to tail. Respect the whole animal by eating from nose to tail. 20% of global meat production is lost or wasted. In the US, the largest share is lost during consumption, simply wasted and not eaten. Eating from nose to tail not only reduces waste at the butcher, but cuts other than muscle meat are incredibly nutritious and are usually a fraction of the cost.
What are ways you work towards reducing food waste? Please share with others by commenting below.
Lauren Brinkac, founder of DC Healthy Bites, received a dual BS in Biology and Biochemistry from Syracuse University and a MS in Bioinformatics from George Mason University. She is currently a Lead Bioinformatics Analyst conducting bacterial genomics research of infectious disease at The J. Craig Venter Institute. Lauren hopes to use her scientific background and the latest in scientific research to guide others in making informed dietary choices to optimize their own personalized health. Click here to read Lauren’s Story.