The Food Waste Challenge

Photo credit: onebluelight
Photo credit: onebluelight

I never imagined that I would ever recommend that we Americans should learn from the French, but that was before I learned that every year, 40% of our food in the United States is lost to waste.  Over 50% of this food waste is happening right inside the typical American home.  Wouldn’t you rather have some of the 165 billion dollars that this costs us put into your pocket rather than the trash?  I know I would!

It’s a staggering statistic and unfortunately, we’re not alone.  Europeans waste about 30% of their food and Canadians annually throw away somewhere in the neighborhood of $27 billion of uneaten food. So, along with being the world’s largest users of natural resources and highest contributors of greenhouse gases, we now have dubious distinction of being a charter member of another club: those who can’t seem to waste enough edible food.



According to Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm Institute of Water, “Today, over 900 million people suffer from hunger, and two billion more face serious health risks from undernourishment.  At the same time, 1.5 billion people overeat and over one-third of all food is lost or wasted.”   Although the math is pretty straightforward, due to the complexities of our food production and distribution systems, the solution is anything but.  However, if each one of us does our part and implements a few or all of the following best practices, we can begin to reduce our own waste of good food and even put a few of those $165 billion back into our wallets, which could be as much as $2,000 per household.  So, are you ready to take the Food Waste Challenge?

  •  Like the French, serve, or when eating out, order smaller portions.  You can have seconds if needed and reduce your inclination to overeat.
  • Plan your weekly meal menus ahead of time and buy your food according to your menu needs.  This helps prevent the over-buying that leads to food spoilage in your refrigerator.
  • Buy local and purchase groceries only as needed.  This helps you avoid shopping at big box food outlets, where you know that as soon as you cross over the threshold your entire sense of self-control goes out the window.  This not only helps support the local economy but it also helps you keep your food buying in sync with what you really need.
  • Keep your refrigerator organized so you can reduce the amount of food that gets lost in it and minimize the number of lab experiments spontaneously erupting at any given time.
  • Refrigerate your leftovers in airtight containers.  A reheated meal from the previous night’s dinner is usually far more enjoyable than your typical lunch sandwich.
  • And most important of all, never shop for groceries when you’re hungry.  Because then, even your best laid plans will go to waste.

Share the ways you save money on food in our comments below and we’ll post reader favorites to our facebook page.


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