Food Waste in America and How You Can Help Reduce It

It’s Sunday night, you’re rummaging through the fridge trying to figure out what to eat for dinner when you find a handful of shriveled up vegetables, a tupperware full of rotten leftovers, and an expired carton of milk. You hastily grab the deteriorated food and toss it in the compost, wondering how you could have forgotten about all that food? We’ve all found ourselves in this scenario. In fact, Americans throw away billions of pounds of food each year, worth billions of dollars, which is enough to feed millions of people.

We’re not trying to intentionally waste food and money, as a matter of fact, studies show that overall we feel a sense of guilt when we do. So why do both our food and money find there way to the garbage so often?

One reason is that food is cheaper in the US than anywhere else in the world. We simply don’t value things we don’t spend much on, and inexpensive food makes it easier to over purchase.

Another reason people toss so much food is simply because they’re confused about food expiration date labels. Here is a quick breakdown on the two kinds of dates that commonly appear on food products - A “sell by” date is the message from the food manufacturer to the retailer, telling them how long to display an item. The product will still have great shelf life once it reaches the consumer’s home.

  • “Best by” dates refer to quality, not safety, and signifies when to eat it for peak quality and taste. A product will still be edible for several days afterward.

A third explanation for food waste is the desire of ultimate freshness. This usually means perfectly good food (usually produce) gets trashed prematurely. A peach doesn’t need to be thrown away because of a blemish and bananas don’t need to get tossed because they are ripening too quickly. Chop them up, throw them in the freezer and you’re halfway to a nutritious smoothie!

Here are a few ways that we can reduce our personal food waste and get the most out of our grocery purchases:

  • Shop smart and stick to a list: We’re often lured by great deals (hello 2 for 1 special!) or those last minute impulse buys at the register, but sticking to a list will cut back on your grocery bill and future waste.

  • Be proactive about eating leftovers- What’s not to like? You did all the work to cook a great meal and now you get to eat it twice.

  • Store food in the right places- Learn how certain foods like to be stored. For examples certain fruits and vegetables should be kept at room temperature instead of going into the fridge.

  • Organize the fridge- If things are hidden, it’s out of sight and out of mind. Keep items visible and do a sweep once a week to make sure you’re using what you’ve purchased.