Food Waste

Food waste is exactly how it sounds. It can be defined as edible food that is thrown away and goes uneaten. The U.S wastes 31 to 40% of food and this happens at any point during processing, retail, restaurants, or at the consumer level. This amount is equivalent to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion. (USDA ERA) This scary amount of wasted food also has an impact on our environment. When food goes uneaten, not only does it end up in a landfill but all the resources and energy that went into getting the food to your plate is wasted as well.  

Tips to Reduce your Food Waste:  

  1. The freezer is your friend! You can freeze almost anything and it should not affect the nutritional value or quality of the food. For example, if you buy meat in bulk, place individual portions in zip lock bags or containers and put whatever you know you will not eat right away in the freezer. That way when the time comes you can take out what you need, defrost it and enjoy! NOTE: Once you defrost a food, you cannot put it back in the freezer because this changes the quality. However, freezing portions at a time can be a quick trick to save food!  

  1. Check before grocery shopping. It is important to check your fridge, freezer, and pantry for items you already have so you do not over- purchase. Checking before may also inspire you to make a certain dish you might have a craving for. That way, when you go grocery shopping you buy things to go with what you already have and the home foods will not expire or also go to waste.  

  1. Meal plan. The words meal planning sound more daunting than it actually is! Just a general idea of what you want to make for the week can go a long way. This helps guarantee that all the food you buy can be turned into a meal or leftovers rather than in the trash. Planning dinners for 3 or 4 days at a time could be the first step. 

  1. Donate any extra food items to your local food pantry. Did you do a pantry search and find unopened cans or packages of food? Donate it to the nearby food pantry! Some food pantries have a list of food they will or will not accept so check before making the trip to donate. Never donate foods past their best by or use by dates.  

  1. Learn to compost. Composting is a great way to create rich soil for your plants or garden while also reducing food waste! You can compost almost anything from eggshells to newspaper to coffee grounds.  

  1. Understand food dates. Did you know that “best by date” doesn’t mean the food has expired? This label just means the quality may not be as good. But when in doubt, it is best to throw it out.  

  1. Think before throwing food away. Did your bananas turn brown? Make banana bread! Do you have leftover vegetable scraps or chicken? Make a broth or stock! Stale bread? Make croutons or breadcrumbs! There are many recipes out there designed for scraps or brown fruits.  

  1. Start paying attention to which foods you often throw away. Do you often throw away moldy bread or spinach? Make a note to buy less (half a loaf of bread) next time you go grocery shopping or do some recipe searching for how to use these items! For example, sautéing spinach can easily get rid of that extra bag laying around.  


Roni A. Neff, Marie L. Spiker, Patricia Truant Wasted Food: U.S. Consumers’ Reported Awareness Attitudes, and Behaviors