Combating Food Waste for Financial Savings and Environmental Conservation

Combating Food Waste for Financial Savings and Environmental Conservation
Image: Pixabay
September 23, 2015

The average consumer wastes $1,500 worth of food each year. To combat the problem on both the commercial and consumer level, federal officials are partnering with public and private organizations to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

The partnerships with charitable and faith-based organizations, the private sector, and local governments aim to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve natural resources.

Food waste happens at every point of production, from the growing fields to the home kitchen. Food loss and waste in the U.S. accounts for more than 30 percent – or 133 billion pounds – of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers. Food waste not only has financial costs, but it has environmental costs as well. Food makes up the largest portion of garbage that ends up in landfills. These landfills are the third largest source of methane in the U.S.

As global populations continue to increase, poverty and hunger grows with it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says experts project that reducing food loses by as little as 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans each year.

Start in Your Kitchen

If $1,500 sounds like a lot of money to be throwing in the garbage, small and easy changes can be made that will reduce food waste starting in your kitchen.

Meal Planning

There was a time when people went grocery shopping each day. Since that isn't feasible for most people, plan your meals at the start of the week and only buy the ingredients you need to make those meals. If you think food will go bad before the end of the week, split your weekly shopping trips into two.

If you have leftovers, build them into your meal plan to ensure that they are eaten. Have a Leftovers Night or repurpose them into a different meal. Leftover meatballs, for example, make a great pizza topping.

Use All the Parts, Especially the Ugly Ones

We may pick and choose which part of a vegetable we eat, but more often than not, the entire piece of produce is safe and healthy to eat. The leafy greens that come on top of root vegetables like turnips and radishes can be sautéed, and carrot tops can be added to soups for a rich orange color. Stale bread can be grated into breadcrumbs or baked and cut into croutons.

Commercial producers waste a lot food before it hits the grocery store because Americans have an aversion to ugly produce. For every perfectly round tomato there are more that are a bit more awkwardly shaped. Embrace ugly produce. Aside from appearances, ugly produce is just as safe to eat as their more aesthetically pleasing counterpart. Ugly, or scratch-and-dent produce can often be found at places like farmers market where they are sold in large quantities for a discounted price. You don't need pretty produce for making pies, jams, ice cream, soup or sauces.

Learn Proper Food Storage

One of the easiest ways to limit food waste is to keep it fresh as long as possible. Much of time, food is tossed in the garbage because it has spoiled before it could be used. We get it. We've all been there. It happens.

To keep it from happening less often, become familiar with how to properly store different foods. Take some time after your grocery shopping trip to cut and prep this food to keep it from spoiling from the get-go. Back in April, the USDA released a free FoodKeeper smartphone application that provides storage and preparation information for 400 different food items.

Utilizing you freezer will also help reduce waste. Frozen foods do need to be defrosted and prepared differently, so familiarize yourself with those techniques. For example, vegetables are best going from the freezer into the pot as they will get mushy as they defrost. Meat, if possible, should be defrosted slowly in the refrigerator to minimize the chances of bacteria growth. Meat can also be refrozen if it was defrosted in this manner.

With some simple changes and more planning, you'll be able to keep more money in your pocket and less food in a landfill.

Links for More Information

Beating the Expiration Date: USDA Combats Food Waste with FoodKeeper Smartphone App
Reducing Wasted Food Basics
USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation's First Food Waste Reduction Goals