According to Frugal Families, the average American family wastes up to 50 percent of the food they buy.
Leftovers, spills and spoils, this is a waste of food, energy and money. Who needs to spend half their food budget on compost?
Plus that food represents a lot of petroleum, unless you grew it organically yourself in the back yard by hand, or shot it with a handmade bow and arrow. Author Jonathan Bloom claims that we waste the equivalent of 70 Gulf Oil spews every year in wasted food. A University of Texas study found that 2% of all US energy consumption foes into growing, processing, and shipping, cooling and cooking food that ultimately gets tossed. That represents 350 million barrels of oil. And that's a conservative estimate- it is likely higher.
Wasted food often ends up in landfills and creates methane that can speed climate change. Around the holidays we worry about food that goes to our WAIST- how can we avoid that, as well as the food that goes to WASTE?
Here are some tips we scavenged from the web- thanks to Frugal Families, The Kitchn, and The Guardian for these easy tips.
- Start by buying less and shopping conservatively. 25 % of all food purchased winds up as waste, so buying less makes sense. Make a list of what you keep in the house, and when you use it up, add it to your shopping list. Knowing what you've got, especially produce and perishables, means you won't buy what you don't need. When shopping, stick to the list- avoid impulse buys, and shop after you've eaten, not when you are hungry.
- Plan your meals. And then buy accordingly. You don't have to slavishly stick to the plan, but it helps to know how much of what you need to buy. Try not to prepare more than you'll eat at a given meal.
- Keep track of what you throw out. A 'food waste" diary can help you change habits upstream. My kids often waste cereals, so I monitor them and make sure they take smaller portions to start with. 6 bananas don't spoil at our house, but 12 do.
- Keep perishable items in the front of the fridge. Having leftovers, carry-out, milk and other perishables "front and center" keeps them in mind for your next meal or snack. "Out of sight", out of mind makes for nasty experiments in the fridge. Don't use the fridge as your composter.
- Starve the kids. Not literally, but dishing out small portions with a promise of more when they finish prevents the "I'm too full" complaint as you pour a pile of played with food into your compost bin. Wrap half glasses of milk and juice up and serve them for breakfast.
- Get creative with what you have. Leftovers or food that is on the verge can usually make a great stir fry, soup or smoothie. See what you can make into tomorrow's lunch rather than buy that chicken salad sandwich form the deli.
- Freeze it before it goes bad. My wife and I keep a supply of frozen bananas that were beginning to turn on hand for smoothies or to mush into ice cream. Freezing keeps most of the nutrition in- just be sure to look in the freezer and use those leftovers, too.
- Take expiration dates with a grain of salt. Give it the smell or taste test to see if it can still be used, especially if it was never opened. If it is spoiled, see if you can find another use for it. Our dog loves moldy cheese and sour milk, and seems no worse for wear.
- Get a doggie bag at restaurants. Some of my best meals have been last night's Chinese or Indian food. Bring a small cooler when you go out if you are going to have to leave the food in the car for a while. The restaurant will usually give you a cup of ice to keep it cool.
- There's an app for that! The Green Egg app helps avoid food waste in several creative ways. It allows you to make a handy grocery list and cross items off as you shop so you don't buy too much to begin with. It offers waste reduction tips. But best of all, it allows you to enter expiration dates on food that you buy. Then you check the "Use me now" list and make your menu accordingly. You can decide how long a given food gets before it goes on the list. The Green Egg also helps track how much you've spent on groceries.
So enjoy your holidays, and as you ramp up for the New Year, you might want to make a resolution to get to zero food waste. It'll save resources, and will leave your wallet a little fatter at the end of next year.