We’ve all heard the phrase “every little bit adds up.” Such is the case with food waste. It might not seem as if we throw away all that much food (whether it’s leftover pizza one day or lettuce scraps from the back of the refrigerator the next). However, the truth is that food waste is a significant problem in America and around the world.
The average American household throws away about 32% of the food that it buys, according to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that amounts to about $1,500 in wasted food each year for a family of four. Then, there are the larger environmental costs as food waste releases harmful methane emissions.
So how can you realistically reduce your food waste? It starts with your grocery trips. You should think carefully about how much food you typically eat each week and buy only as much as you need. Beyond that, think about keeping a food waste log.
Consider printing out this log each week and attaching it to your refrigerator or placing it on your kitchen counter. Every time you throw food away, be sure to record what you threw away, how much you threw away, why you threw it away and how much it likely cost.
The idea is that, as you fill out this log each week, you will gradually become more aware of how much you throw away and hopefully begin to throw away less.
In addition to maintaining a food waste log, you should also try to keep your food fresh for as long as possible. There are a number of unique tips and tricks that you can use. For example, you should store celery in foil, not plastic, to keep it crisp for longer periods of time. As another example, you should remove the green tops of carrots, which suck the moisture out of carrots. Print out this food saver cheat sheet with strategies on storing more than 20 common foods to maximize freshness.
Finally, you should familiarize yourself with the rules surrounding “best by” dates on products. In most cases (with the exception of infant formula), these dates are simply guidelines. They are not federal requirements. Therefore, many common foods could be safe to eat after their listed expiration dates.
Everyone has at least some work to do in cutting down the amount of food that they throw away! According to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, even the least wasteful American households throw away 9% of the food that they buy. Download all of these food waste reduction resources and reduce your food waste today.