Imagine a family dinner of three with a menu that could be anything from grilled chicken to pasta salad. But, imagine if one of those family members didn’t eat their meal, and it had gone to waste. Sadly, those circumstances parallel American society. For decades, wasted food was been problem hiding in plain sight. Thankfully the issue of food waste has gradually become one the food industry, press and now politicians–are noticing.
According to US Government Figures, more than 1,200 calories per American per day are wasted. These losses occur on the farm, at the retail level and in homes. We consumers often toss out foods because they've passed their sell-by date — but are still just fine to eat — or because we buy more than we can eat before it goes bad. In addition, Food waste is the single biggest material in U.S. landfills, according to the U.S. Agricultural Department. As this waste decomposes, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Given that food affects every single US Citizen in some shape of form, it’s easy for consumers to take action against food waste. Government Agencies, Researchers, and other parties have found that there are simple ways to decrease food waste and save money, such as:
1. Grocery Shopping Realistically:
When going shopping, make sure you don't buy too much food. This may mean going to the grocery store more often, and buying less food each time. A good way of solidifying this is by planning out meals in advance, and making a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you'll need.
2. Saving and Eating Leftovers
Saving uneaten food when you either cook too much or you get too much food at a restaurant can help reduce food waste. Labeling leftovers can help keep track of how long they've been in your fridge or freezer.
3. Don’t Over-Serve
The idea of massive portions is a problem in American Culture, and it’s consumers at home as well trickle into our homes. Refrain from over-serving friends and family when you're cooking meals. Using small plates can help with that.
4. Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines
When it comes to expiration and sell-by dates, this is a tricky subject. Most Expiration dates identify with food quality, not food safety. The "sell by" label tells the store how long to display the product for sale. This is basically a guide for the retailer, so the store knows when to pull the item. This is not mandatory, so reach in back and get the freshest. The issue is quality of the item (freshness, taste, and consistency) rather than whether it is on the verge of spoiling.
5. Donate to food banks and farms.
Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you're not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need. You can find local food banks through Feeding America and WhyHunger.
The good news about Food Waste, is that we as individuals can implement small changes that make a big difference in the amount of food we throw away each year.