Preventing Food Waste in Your Home

Americans lead the world in food waste, with as much as 40 percent of food going to landfills. When compared to most other countries, many places in the U.S. seemingly have an abundance of food, and because of this, people often don't give much thought to the amount of food wasted yearly. When buying produce, the trend is to only purchase those items that look perfect. Produce that's ugly or irregular is often almost immediately thrown away by retailers, as they are items that most won't buy. This is a serious problem, as much of this food could be used to feed people. Every family can do their part to reduce or stop food waste by making smarter and more thoughtful choices when purchasing food.

Preventing Food Waste in Your Home

Only Buy What's Needed

Shopping only for what one needs and has plans to use goes a long way toward reducing food waste. When buying groceries, it isn't uncommon for people to walk out of the store with more items than were actually needed. This happens for a number of reasons, such as not knowing how to buy food and shopping while hungry. Hunger can affect one's judgment about what items they place in their cart or basket and how much they purchase. Sales can also cause people to buy items that they don't actually need due to the temptation of saving a few dollars. Consumers must also understand how supermarkets trick them into buying more, which can ultimately lead to more waste as well. A grocery store's layout is intentionally set up in a way that entices shoppers to buy certain items. To avoid buying more than what's needed, people should prepare in advance by planning shopping trips and making a list of items based on future meals and foods that they've run out of.

Buy Local

A significant amount of food is lost before it ever makes it to supermarkets or the tables of consumers. This loss begins during the harvest and continues through the supply chain. During the packaging and manufacturing process, food is wasted while it's being sorted as portions of produce are removed for being less than perfect. Rotting occurs from food being stored too long, and mishandling can lead to broken eggshells or punctures in the skins of fruit. When food travels from farms to retailers, it may need to go long distances, and this process can lead to more damaged food that must be discarded upon its arrival at stores. At grocery stores, unattractive produce is often discarded, and perishable foods sit on shelves or bins where they may spoil and need to be discarded.

To reduce this problem, consumers can skip the middleman and buy local food instead. There are many advantages to buying local produce. It's fresher, less likely to be damaged and discarded as a result of being transported long distances, and typically won't spoil from sitting too long before it is bought. To buy locally, consumers can visit farmers' markets, buy directly from farms when possible, or locate small grocers that specialize in local goods.

Buy Smaller Quantities as Opposed to Value Options

Discount warehouses and big-box retailers are a popular shopping option for many consumers who are looking for ways to save money. The temptation to buy in bulk can be hard to resist. While this may be a smart choice for larger families, consideration has to be given to the shelf life of these items, as having too much can easily lead to costly food waste in smaller households. These items can exceed the food product dating on their labels and decrease in quality or go bad before they can be eaten. Instead of buying food items that are in bulk or marketed as value options, consider buying smaller quantities instead. By doing this, food is less likely to spoil before it can be eaten.

Eat Leftovers

Of all of the steps to reduce waste, one of the easiest is to eat the leftovers from previous meals. Leftover food should never be discarded or left to spoil. Food should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container and served the next day for lunch or dinner; however, refrigerated leftovers should not be left uneaten for more than two or three days. Many items may even be safely stored in the freezer and reheated as a quick meal at a much later date. Uneaten portions of previous meals also can be repurposed or recycled by using them to create other meals. There are a range of different recipes for leftovers. For example, leftover roasted chicken can be used to make soup or chicken salad sandwiches. For food safety, leftovers must be handled safely throughout the cooking, serving, and storing process.

By: Jim Olenbush