Wasted: How You Can Help Stop Food Waste
by Tim Devaney
What if you took nearly half the food you buy and threw it away? That’s what we do as a nation every year. Around 40% of the food we produce is wasted an average of 400 pounds per person annually. Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, along with all the work, water, energy and land that goes into producing it.
In fact, the world cultivates enough food to nourish every person on the planet. And yet 1 out of 7 people in the world goes hungry–a number of people higher than the population of the U.S., Canada and the EU put together.
Annually, 9 million people die of hunger–more than die of malaria, AIDs and tuberculosis combined. That’s the population of New York City, dead every year because they can’t get enough to eat.
We canâ’t solve the problem of global hunger without changing the economic systems that condemn so many people around the world, including in the United States, to hunger and food insecurity while others the privilege to waste. But there are things you can do reduce food waste yourself. You’ll save resources– including your own. Wasted food costs the average U.S. household of four as much as $2,275 a year.
Don’t buy more than you need. This sounds obvious. And yet we do it so often. To buy only what you’ll use, plan your meals and make a detailed shopping list. Check what you already have on your shelf before you go. While you’re shopping, think twice: do you really need that much? Don’t shop hungry (seriously, it works). And don’t buy food just because it’s on sale.
Restaurants have for years been increasing their portion sizes to keep customers coming back. And the trend is seeping into our kitchens at home. Resist the urge to overcook. Use small plates to remind yourself what a reasonable portion is.
Eat your leftovers.
Here’s what a lot of people do when they have leftover food. They put it in the fridge to ease their conscience, ignore it, then toss it when it finally goes bad. The road to food waste is paved with good intentions. You’ll be more likely to actually eat your leftovers if you get good containers and label them with a date. Try a new routine at lunchtime and enjoy your leftovers in the fresh air rather than eating at a cafe.
Declutter your kitchen.
Too often we forget what food we have until it’s too late. Keep your food organized and visible. Follow the first-in-first-out strategy to keep food from spoiling.
Ignore (most) expiration dates.
These dates, which started back in the ’70s, indicate “peak quality,” not edibility. And yet more than half of Americans now think they signal the point after which food is not safe to consume. In fact, the dates are not federally regulated or required (except for infant formula) and they vary by manufacturer. Instead, use your eyes and your nose.
You can find local food banks at Feeding America and WhyHunger.
If you have a garden, composting is a great way to use leftover food productively. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can compost in your apartment to keep your houseplants healthy. Read our blog on how to compost indoors.
With a little care and planning, we can all reduce the amount of food we waste and help make our planet a healthier place.