Just how much food do you think we waste in a year? The best estimate is 1.3 billion tons. That’s about 25lb of food per person every month, about 5 days’ worth of food on average. John Oliver can’t believe it either.
Somehow we’ve become careless towards food. I remember when I was growing up in Honduras just how strict my parents were about not wasting food. We weren’t allowed to walk away from the table until we finished everything on our plates. I also remember going to the grocery store or the farmers market and buying produce that looked bruised without thinking twice about its appearance.
All of a sudden, food started to look different. Restaurants started serving larger portions and people demanded perfection.
So how can we go back to being more conscious about the impact of food waste? On an individual level, it starts with changing things at home.
1. Measure your food waste for at least a week. There’s only one way of knowing how much we’re wasting and that’s by measuring.
– After every meal, bag leftovers with any spoiled food that’s piling up in your refrigerator or pantry. Weigh that bag everyday and you’ll have an idea of the amount of food you’re wasting by the end of the week
2. Buy only what you need.
– Browse your refrigerator and pantry first and then create your shopping list. You’ll be amazed what you find lurking in that back drawer.
– Eat before you go shopping to prevent any impulse purchases you likely won’t finish.
3. Rotate your go-to’s constantly. One good rule to follow is first in, first out. Learn how to properly store your food so your items can last long enough for you to eat them.
4. Find creative ways to toss “expiring” food.
– Look for an interesting recipe and try to use your expiring ingredients in a few meals and freeze them.
– Trust your nose over the expiration dates. Dates on food labels typically have nothing to do with the product’s safety and don’t take into account how you handle the product.
– For instance the “sell-by date” tells the store the date by which they can sell the product.
– The “best if used by” date refers to the best time to eat the product for quality. After that there may be changes in flavor or texture, but it doesn’t mean the product has gone bad. For more information on labels and proper handling of expiring food, you can look at the USDA.
– If you can’t do anything else with expiring or expired food, don’t toss it. First try donating or if it’s already expired, send it to a farm for animal feed. If there’s no other way of disposing it, compost the food.
5. Make friends with leftovers.
– Split a restaurant meal or at least take leftovers home. Even if you think you don’t have enough food for a second meal, combine the scraps with whatever else you have in your fridge for an entirely new dish.
– Freeze leftovers at home. Those lazy nights will thank you later.
6. Start a conversation.
– Talk to your family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends about this problem. Become an educator.
If you’re inspired to take on a bigger role, voice your concerns on food waste to your local government. Programs already exist, but they can’t make a difference unless people know about them in each one of our communities.
Author: Mabel Ramirez, Product Developer
Illustration: Matt Brown