Many individuals don't realize the amount of food they are wasting each day, from spoiled produce to uneaten leftovers. According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, around 94% of the food that gets thrown away winds up in combustion facilities or landfills. There were 38.1 million tons of disposed of food waste in 2017. But, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says everyone can play their part in contributing to the national goal for food waste reduction to decrease food waste by 50% by 2030.
Benefits of Reducing Food Waste
There are many benefits of reducing food waste, including:
- Lowering your carbon footprint and reducing landfill methane emissions.
- Saving money from purchasing less food.
- Supporting your community by offering untouched, donated food that otherwise would have ended up being wasted.
- Conserving resources and energy, preventing pollution that's involved in manufacturing, growing, selling and transporting food.
Ideas for Reducing Food Waste
Some ways you can reduce food waste at home are:
- Plan Your Meals
Just making a weekly meal list can help save you time and money and allow you to consume healthier food. If you purchase no more than what is on your planned meal list, you will be more likely to use it all and keep it fresh.
Some things you can do are:
- Maintain a running list of ingredients and meals your household already favors. That will allow you to easily select, purchase and prepare meals.
- Create a shopping list around the number of meals you plan on eating at home and account for any days you plan on eating out.
- Check your cupboards and refrigerator first to prevent you from purchasing food you have already.
- Before you go shopping, plan your meals for that week and only purchase those things you require for those meals.
- Only purchase what you will need and plan on using. Buy in bulk to save money if you can and know you will use off of it before it goes bad.
- Eat Out
When you eat out, request smaller portions to avoid wasting leftover food on your plate and to keep you from overeating. Or, instead of leaving leftover food on your plate, ask for a takeaway box so you can bring the leftovers home.
- Use Your Freezer
You can store quite a bit of food in your freezer, and this will keep it from spoiling until you are ready to eat it. There is also a "FoodKeeper App" you can use to learn information on how long you can store various items in your freezer.
- Shop Realistically and Smart
While it sounds easy enough, this is not always an easy thing to do — but it is essential. When shopping for food, ensure you do not purchase too much. That might mean you will have to go shopping more often or buy less food every time.
- Save Leftovers and Eat Them
If you have food leftover because you cooked too much or ordered too much while eating out, save it, and make sure you eat it. Put a label on your leftovers to help you keep track of the length of time they have been in your freezer or fridge and incorporate your leftovers into your weekly meal plans.
- Take Food Label Dates Lightly
Review food label dates. That is because they are not federally regulated (except for baby formula). A "best by" or "use by" date usually indicates when the food is of its highest quality. There could be a change in texture, color, or taste after its “best by” dates. Chances are if you have been going by food label "best by" or "use by" dates, you have been throwing away perfectly good food. That said, if you have milk that has an expired date, and it smells spoiled, it most likely is.
- Keep a Food Tracking Journal
Maintain a waste log to keep track of what you are tossing out, which can help prevent you from continuing this habit. You might even want to attach a dollar sign on the food you throw out. That will help you see the actual "money" you are wasting.
- Use "Ugly" Fruits and Veggies
These are the vegetables and fruits that are imperfect, maybe bruised a little, or have brown spots on them. But they are still good. You can whip up some "ugly" fruits or veggies into a healthy smoothie or soup for your family or friends, and they will not even notice the difference.
- Use the Two-Hour Rule
Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours at room temperature, for safety reasons. Refrigerate all leftovers within a couple of hours of eating them.
- Compete With Your Friends
Compete with family and friends to see who can reduce food waste the most.
You do have control over the food you waste. If it is not possible to decrease food you waste, at least keep it out of the landfills. You can donate safe, untouched, and nutritious food to food banks to help feed people in need. You can also compost food waste instead of tossing it out.