As you walk the aisles of your local grocery store, do you ever wonder if some of the food you’re about to put in your cart might end up in the trash?
You’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans throw away 30 to 40 percent of their food every year, which amounts to $161 billion worth of edible food. That’s roughly equivalent to each household throwing out $630 each year – or a lot of perfectly good groceries! Plus, it requires energy and water to transport and dispose of unusable food. This waste creates an added burden on the planet and its resources.
Food waste is a global phenomenon. Not only is the amount of food wasted each year staggering, but it is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change. It’s easy to see how a large-scale loss of edible food contributes to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. What might not be so clear is that every time you throw out food or spoil it by letting it sit in the fridge too long, you are making your own contribution to this urgent problem.
How to Stop Wasting Food
Plan Your Next Grocery Store Excursion
Make a shopping list before going to the supermarket and stick to it. That way, you’ll only buy what you need and won’t end up with a fridge full of rotting vegetables, unhealthy packaged foods, or a cabinet full of stale herbs. Yes, the ads and signs that offer incredible deals and the bright packaging are tempting, but keep blinders on when you shop. You won’t waste money on impulse purchases if you stick to your shopping list. Most impulse buys are unhealthy items anyway. They’re not good for the environment or your health.
Plan Your Meals
Plan your meals in advance, so you know what ingredients to buy and can use them before they expire. And put those leftovers to work, they’re free! Planning meals without considering what you already have is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Make a list of what’s in your freezer and use that list when planning future meals and your next trip to the grocery store. Think about how much money you’ll save when you use items you already have.
Stop Letting Good Food Rot
Eat fruit as soon as you get home from the supermarket. Don’t let it sit around for a week on the counter, waiting for you to decide what to do with it. And don’t buy more than you can eat at that time either. If there are too many apples in the bowl and they start to turn brown, give them away. The same goes for vegetables. Don’t purchase more than you can eat by their use-by date. Make fresh produce a priority, and remember, the longer the produce sits around, the more nutrients it loses. It’s healthiest for you when it first arrives from the store.
Use Your Freezer
Freezing food is a way to preserve it for months. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutrient-dense as fresh produce, since freezing locks in a food’s nutrients. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen, so you can store items longer and avoid wastage, and also consider freezing your own items. Follow the guidelines for freezing leftovers safely.
Other tips for using your freezing to reduce food waste:
1. Freeze leftovers in serving sizes, so they’re ready to reheat without needing to thaw all the way.
2. Use up perishable food before it goes bad, using the first-in-first-out rule.
3. Make extra of anything you can freeze and use later, preferably in single-serving sizes.
4. If you have a small freezer, consider adding a second one in the basement so you have more freezer space.
Separate Foods that Produce Ethylene Oxide
Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene oxide gas, which causes other fruits and vegetables to go bad prematurely. Examples of ethylene oxide producers are pears, cantaloupes, peaches, tomatoes, bananas, and avocados. Separate these foods, so the ethylene oxide gas from one piece of produce doesn’t cause the other to rot prematurely.
Buy Ugly Produce
Don’t be afraid of less-than-perfect produce at the grocery store. Misshapen and imperfect produce are just as nutritious as produce that’s more pleasing to the eye. Consumers tend to pick the most perfect and leave the uglier fruits and vegetables behind. Collectively, this contributes to food waste, since these items are thrown out. Some stores also discount these items, so buying them can save money too.
Don’t just throw recyclables into the trash. Recycle them into compost instead. The compost pile is a free garden fertilizing tool. It’s like planting your own little forest garden in your backyard. Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce by making it something useful.
The Bottom Line
Stop wasting food, and you’ll save a lot of money – and help the planet. You won’t even have to make any big changes in your life. Use these ideas to make a few small changes that will help you cut food waste and nurture the planet.
USDA.gov. “Food Waste FAQs”7 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Save Money
Thank you for coming up with this! We’ve wasted lots of food and money because of the pandemic.
Love this! I’ve always been pretty good at not wasting food…until kids! However, they have just learned to give it to the dogs, so I guess it’s not wasted!
Great tips! Sometimes we waste a lot of food and these tips will help a lot. Thank you for sharing!
Im so bad for this! I’ll definitely check out a few of these. Thank you!
This is something we are trying to be better about in our house. I have gone back to meal planning which helps. We also work from home so always have our dinner leftovers for lunch the next day, but sometimes we have more left and let it go to waste. I’ve started doing a “eat up the leftovers” day each week to help!
Thank you for these reminders. I just realized that yes, we are wasting money with all these extra food. I should definitely start freezing food to preserve them.
It is so necessary that we do not waste food. These are some really practical tips in this direction. Cooking the right quantity, and shopping optimally are great ways to minimize food wastage.
I don’t like to waste food. So it’s very important for me to improve myself in this field!
I’m ashamed to admit that we waste a lot of food. However, I never knew that I should separate ethylene oxide-producing produce. Great tips!
You have said it all beautifully! “And don’t buy more than you can eat at that time either”. This is something we all need to do.
This is great advice! I don’t think most people know to separate fruits that produce ethylene oxide gas. I will definitely keep this in mind.
No not very often, I visit the store once a week and I only buy what we need for the week. We also have “left over” nights to eat any leftovers there might be so we don’t waste food.
so very true.. i try to use up my fruits and vegetables in the order of how long they can stay (like carrots can stay longer while spinach is used up first)
yes, planning is very important and helpful. So I always planned of what menu to serve for a week so I can buy the things needed
I am all about saving money when I can. I will keep these tips in mind. I need to get better at not wasting food too!
Great post. Very helpful and super informative. Saving this one for my kids. They waste so much food.
What a great post! I do plan my meals before I head to the store, that helps me keep control of what I’m spending and what I need. I try not to overdo it, so I won’t waste any food!
I have had to start implementing a few of these ideas myself. Since we are now empty-nesters I am constantly over cooking. I have learned to lessen some recipes and freezing others!
When we didn’t meal plan we would waste a ton of food. Its really so helpful.
Quite essential post for the next generation to know to save earth. All the points you mentioned are so important. Proper meal planning and buying will be a great help to save food waste.
These are all really great tips to remember! Thanks for sharing this I’m gonna take note of these!
These are all really great tips and ideas! This is so helpful thank you
I also plan my meals before going to the grocery. It saves time and money!
These are all fantastic ideas! I’ve never thought about how the look of produce can affect its price or availability before.
Great tips. I actually belong to a produce service that delivers ugly produce every month. it’s high-quality, but none of it is pretty. It’s a great way to save money and make sure food gets used.
We’ve been trying to eliminate waste. We started shopping every day just for the food we needed for that day.
I love this! We try not to be careful with what we buy. I think meal planning really helps. That way when you buy something you can use it up for all your meals.