Healthy Habits: Food Waste
estyle encompasses more than just eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. Being a good steward of the environment and understanding the impact of food waste can help you make better decisions about how much food you grow, purchase and consume.
U.S. households waste approximately 76 billion pounds of food annually. This means the average person wastes 238 pounds of food costing a family of four about $1800 each year. While the financial cost of food waste is greatest for consumers, because we pay retail prices, the cost isn’t solely monetary. Food waste consumes 21 percent of all fresh water, 19 percent of all fertilizer, 18 percent of cropland and is responsible for 21 percent of landfill volume.
Consider the last time you went out to eat, cleaned out your refrigerator, or threw out your leftovers. How much food was wasted? Where did the food waste go?
How we shop and eat can dramatically impact the uneaten food getting tossed into the trash and ultimately ending up in our landfills. Changing our habits to include planning meals, reducing impulse and bulk purchases, and understanding date labels on food products will have a significant impact on your household food waste.
What you can do at home:
Consider date labels as estimates of top quality rather than the last day for safety
Prepare just enough food for the meal and save leftovers
Plan meals, shop with a list, and avoid impulse buying
Freeze food before it spoils
How to reduce food waste during food prep:
Use vegetable ends, skins and meat bones to make a broth for soups or sauces
Wash and cut fruits and vegetables and store in a clear container so they can be easily seen
Cook up meats in advance and freeze them for later use
Stale bread can be used for croutons or ground into bread crumbs
Make casseroles, stir-fry or frittatas from leftovers
What impact you can make by reducing food waste:
Saves you money by buying less food
Reduces methane emissions
Supports the community by donating untouched foods that otherwise would have been thrown away
Conserves energy and resources by preventing pollutions involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting and selling of food
Alternative solutions for household food waste include feeding livestock and composting. Keeping a bowl or container in the kitchen for food scraps provides a convenient way to reduce food waste from entering the trash. Composting food scraps can create a nutrient dense soil for production in your own garden.
Changing how we think about, buy and consume food can impact our health, home and environment. Making small changes can make a big difference. One person can impact a family and one family can impact an entire generation.
This week’s HEALTHY HABIT: Start a food scrap bowl in your kitchen and start reducing food waste in your home. Check out https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.