Most American Families Threw Away $1,500 Last Year.
Food waste for most American families is the equivalent of buying 5 bags of groceries, driving home, and directly dumping two bags into the garbage. The slightly better version -- dumping it in an organics bin.
All that food waste ends up costing a family of four, around a $120 dollars a month in wasted groceries.
According to the Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), author of of the ultimate guide to reducing food waste in your home, The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, and all-around rock-star
‘Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.” (NRCD, 2012)
While a lot of food waste issues in the US need to be addressed by more systematic policy measures, such as consistency in food labels.
Individual consumers make up the biggest piece of the food waste pie. Luckily, that means there are lots of small steps we can take that will reduce food waste, and help us save some serious cash.
Step 1: Gain Awareness.
First. Awareness is typically the first step in making any lasting change. If you take a moment to be more mindful about your behavior with food, how much you cook, how much you eat, and how much you end up throwing away you will inevitably start to make some significant changes. And if everyone did just a 1% better, that would end up being some truly incredible numbers.
'The average American consumer wasting 10 times as much as food as the average consumer in Southeast Asia.'
Habit change is hard. I think its easier to make big changes in your habits when you first clear the clutter. In this case, I’d recommend cleaning out your cupboards and fridge to get an idea of what foods you have, get rid of expired food and use up the food you do have stored.
Quick Note: Did you know that “best by,” “use by,” and “sell by” labels are not regulated in the USA (except on baby formula). That means if you’ve been throwing food products based on those dates, you might be throwing away perfectly good food — and your money. Currently, policy makers are suggesting a more uniformed approach in labeling food, instead of only being suggestions from manufactures (who’s goal is to sell you more food) on when food is safe to eat and when it’s not.
Step 2: Shop Intentionally.
The second big change you can make to reduce your food waste is to become more intentional about what you buy. Work on planning your meals and shop with a list. It’s easier to avoid impulse purchases, when you have done both. Don’t shop hungry - that’s when lots of random items get tossed into the cart — and avoid bulk purchases unless you have a plan for the items. Also, keep reusable bags in the car. That way if you need to shop, they’re already there.
Quick Note: I try to use (mostly) the app from Real Plans. (They aren't paying me to say this). I say try - because some weeks life gets a little hectic and we just end up running to the store to get some basic items - or in a pinch an Evol meal in-a-bag. Services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron, are appealing for having ingredients on hand, but the waste of all the packaging is pretty hard to overcome. Hy-Vee and a lot of other grocery store chains also allow you to buy online and pick up your groceries, or in some areas they'll actually deliver them.
I like the Real Plans app because it allows you to import recipes you have, adjust for how many people you’re cooking for. The app then creates a shopping list, and you can click off the items you already have in the house. That way when we arrive at the grocery store, we buy exactly what we need. Jim likes it, because when its his turn to cook dinner during the week, the recipe and all the ingredients are already in the fridge, which makes it really easy to make delicious and healthy meals - that won’t be wasted!
In the next article, we’ll share additional steps you can take to reduce food waste, by learning how to store your food properly, and how to up-cycle your meals.