The U.S. produces about 591 billion pounds of food each year, and up to half of it goes to waste, costing farmers, consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars. Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, conducted a study which revealed that consumers in the U.S. throw out about 14% of all foods purchased and of that 15% of that food is still within “expiration dates”.

The Frugal Girl has been holding herself accountable for the food she wastes each and every week in Food Waste Friday…and I have to say that in the past year, she’s learned to not waste much of anything. It’s a great blog and really you’ll probably pick up a few more tips about ending food waste. Plus, if you want to challenge yourself to stop wasting food, you can also join in and link up to her blog every week. I’m thinking about doing it myself. I think you tend to forget how much you’re throwing away each week when you toss stuff out on a daily basis. But when you see it all written out together at the end of the week, it’s got to have a whole lot more impact.

You can also check out American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom. It’s a book that will make you start to reconsider the way you live when it comes to food.

Or this great article from the Wall Street Journal with some rather alarming facts about food that is wasted before it even hits the table. Foods are left in the fields because they don’t look perfect and because food travels 1500 miles on average, there a 10-15% spoilage rate before it even hits the stores.

stop wasting food

10 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

  1. Stop accidentally adding too much salt or pepper to foods. If your salt and pepper mills are unmarked, you can sniff the bottom of the grinder to determine which spice it is.
  2. Pack your heads of lettuce in newspaper, spritzed with water. They’ll stay fresh a lot longer. Whenever you take lettuce off the head, spritz the paper again to make sure it stays moist. If salad gets too dried out (not crispy) just spray the lettuce and paper and give it at least a few hours to sit; most of it will perk up enough to still eat.
  3. If you let your tomatoes get old and they start to shrivel, put them in a bowl of water. They will reabsorb the water they’ve lost and be perfectly edible again.
  4. Oversalted a pot of soup or sauce? Throw in a raw potato and let it absorb the salt from the dish. If it’s just a couple cups of thin soup, it doesn’t take long to equalize the flavor. But you may need to cut the potato into chunks or leave it for 30 minutes or more with a big pot of stew.
  5. Make your own bread, muffins, rolls, dressings, dinner, etc. I think that if you prepare the food yourself and put a lot of effort into it, you’re less likely to want to waste it.
  6. Know what you can freeze, dehydrate, can or otherwise save for latter so it doesn’t go bad. There are a lot of things that you can freeze from meat to milk to cheese. You just need to be aware of how to best preserve those foods so you can use them later…and in the case of fruits, figure out what you want to bake them in or blend them with!
  7. Inventory your fridge and pantry on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You need to know what is in there and what might soon start growing but I’m not saying you need to make a written list. If you know what you need to use or freeze, you will be better equipped to use up items before they go bad. I also keep an inventory list of our trunk freezer so I know what I have in there to use for dinner without needing to dig through everything.
  8. Start planning your meals ahead of time. If you have some idea of what you will eat before you go grocery shopping and make a thorough list that you can stick to, you will be less likely to buy foods that you won’t end up consuming before they expire. This will also allow you to check for things you need to use in kitchen already that you need to use up and plan better around them.
  9. Make sure your refrigerator maintains the correct temperature. The ideal temperature in a refrigerator should be 3 to 5 °C (37 to 41 °F). Just get yourself a cheap thermometer and check it out. If it’s not cold enough, adjust your settings. And if your fridge won’t get any colder, you need to either have it serviced or replaced. After our last fridge died we bought a few side-by-side. It not only is more energy efficient, but food stays fresh inside for much, much longer.
  10. Learn what the expiration, born on, sell by and other dates on your food actually mean. And know that they often have some flexibility to them if the food is kept at proper temperatures. Most of these dates are just voluntary guidelines anyway. Eggs are good for 3-5 weeks after you purchase them (assuming you get them before the “sell by” date). Milk is good for up to a week after that date. And to be honest, in a well cooled fridge, things like cheese, lunch meat, sour cream, yogurt and so on will keep for at least a week after the “Sell by” date. If in doubt, sniff it. If it still smells like it’s supposed to smell and there is nothing growing on it, use it up! Obviously if you’re going to feed it to small children or people with compromised immune systems, you need to be more careful.

What do you do to keep your family from wasting food?