Why Do We Waste Food?

As layoffs loom at my company, I’ve started to analyze my budget more and look for areas where I can save money.  I’ve also spent more time on personal finance blogs reading up on topics such as saving money, investing, being frugal, and how to budget and track my spending better. Since I already have a love for accounting and finance, these topics are right up my alley and are actually fun to learn about.  Granted it takes the threat of potentially losing my job to push me in this direction, but sometimes we need to big motivator.  One of the areas of saving money, being frugal and budgeting I’ve found being discussed a ton on the blogs is food – groceries, eating out, snacks, healthy eating, etc.  Then last week, there was an article that popped up in my Arizona Republic newsfeed on a University of Arizona study titled Nation Wastes Nearly Half Its Food. What? Why?

When I think about it though, it’s not really that surprising. Americans love their food, hence the huge obesity problem we have in the United States.  But then, wouldn’t people be eating all the food, rather than throwing it away?  Although I am definitely more conscious of it now, I have been guilty of wasting food in many different ways. Here are a few of the typical ways we waste food:

  • Fruits and veggies that spoil before we can eat them.
  • Food hits the expiration date before we realize it
  • Go out to eat, eat only half of the huge portion, and leave the rest
  • Buy something new to try and decide you don’t like it

Even though there are a lot of ways to waste food, there are also a lot of ways to save before we waste it as well:

  • Don’t buy too much to begin with.  This can be a hard habit to break unless you stay disciplined – bring a list, don’t shop hungry, and know how much you and your family can eat.
  • If you eat out, take home leftovers. And remember to eat the leftovers!
  • Watch expiration dates closely and plan your meals based on food that will spoil first.
  • Make your freezer your friend.  Freeze food before it goes bad – cut up fruits and veggies and put in freezer bags to consume later, buy plastic containers to store leftovers for easy to reheat meals, freeze bread (it actually stays fresher in the freezer).

There are lots of ways to save money on food as well, but these are some helpful tips on how to not waste the precious food you buy. Of course, these changes probably involve creating new habits and lifestyle changes. I used to be bad at wasting food, mostly because I wouldn’t think about the impact it was having, primarily on my budget. As I watch my pennies now, the impact becomes more clear.  Here are some of my quirky examples of past food waste:

  • I would buy a whole sandwich, and as I got full, I would just eat the parts I really liked and then throw the rest of away (even though the food was actually still good). Now, I either order only a half, or if I order a whole, save the other half for dinner or lunch the next day.
  • I would do the same thing with pizza, and eat two or more slices, but not eat the crust or some of the toppings.  Now, I stick to one slice to begin with and eat the entire thing. If I want more, I’ll cut the next one in half first; pizza is always a good leftover.

  • I would buy all the produce that’s on sale and then end up throwing away at least 25% of it because I couldn’t eat it all.  Now I will not only buy less each week, but also if there is extra, cut up and freeze the fruit and veggies, as well as cook the veggies for ready-to-eat freezer meals.

You just have to get creative, try new things and find what works and what doesn’t! It takes motivation to develop new habits and it takes more motivation to keep them… there are lots of temptations to buy more and waste more every day.  As Leo Babauta says in his book The Power of Less, “We live in a world where, more often than not, more is better.” There is only so much we can consume, and when our tanks our full, the rest, sadly, goes to waste. What can you do to reduce your waste? #newhabits #reducewaste