As Food Costs Rise, Consumers Look At Food Waste

food-globe.jpgI talked last week about how something that I struggle with as the cook/kitchen manager/stocker of our household is food waste–buying things with the good intentions of using them, only to find them two weeks later covered in mold or past the expiration date: food waste.  Interestingly enough, the New York Times ran an article this weekend on the excessive food waste that happens in American households.  With the cost of food skyrocketing, they’re not the only ones.

To be honest, the idea that we as a nation waste more food than some countries consume in a year is nothing new.  Freegans have made a point of living off others’ perfectly-good “waste” for quite some time now.

Green Options has discussed reducing food waste before; Jessica Jane French talked about food audits last year, Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn has tips and tricks for avoiding food waste, and readers there contributed several great tips of their own.   Author Jonathan Bloom is writing a book on food waste and is documenting his research on his site, Wasted Food. Even the UK is looking to  The UK government has funded the “Love Food, Hate Waste” campaign to educate consumers on how to eliminate food waste.

What are your tips for reducing food waste?

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About the Author

A former high school teacher, I'm currently a part-time writer/full-time doctoral student at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities, studying leadership in education from a critical pedagogy perspective along with public policy. On the green side, I'm interested in local food and agriculture (Iowa girl, born and raised), sustainability education, DIY projects, and grassroots activism. I'm slowly turning my South City, St Louis home into an urban farmstead. On the hoping-to-be-greener side, I love reading, yoga, soccer, music, backpacking, knitting, pop culture and trivia, my Tuesday Night Dinner Club, traveling, Guitar Hero, dive bars, and sitting on front porches with my husband and a cold beer. I came to Green Options via a post on Sustainablog,working the St Louis angle to get Jeff to let me in. I have a personal blog chronicling (what else?) life in South St. Louis. Follow me on Twitter!
  • Our farmers market is every Saturday morning. It’s hard to know how much to buy (will my hubby feel like veggies this week or will it just be me?) So on Friday, I pull together whatever veggies I have left over and make a big pot of soup. Once the soup has cooled, I ladle it into jars (a canning funnel works wonderfully and the jars I save from other canning jobs, peanut butter or mayo jars, etc), and put the jars in the freezer for those days (or months) when I might be low on veggies.

  • I love old-fashioned idea of the back-burner soup, always on the back of the stove on the lowest heat, barely simmering, into which goes unused leftovers that need to be used up that day. I’ve never done this, but I’d love to hear someone’s experiences with it.

  • My sister takes great advantage of her freezer by packaging her leftovers into lunches that she takes to work. She knows her husband won’t eat them, but she will, and it saves them a lot of money.

    I do similarly, either eating the leftovers myself or packing them for my daughter’s lunch at school.

  • Rachel

    Funny. I have a pot of chicken stock simmering away on my stove top at this exact moment, with the carcass from the Sunday roast chicken dinner! I take inspiration from Beth on this and turn one meal into at least three!

    I think part of the problem as well is the fact that we have very large fridges these days as well. When I lived in Paris, we only had a small, bar-sized fridge in our apartment; this is a very common size for most French apartments. As a result, we simply couldn’t buy so much food that there would be quantities going to waste. It necessitated more frequent shopping trips, but hey, those quaint, quirky street markets serve a great purpose.

    I imagine that as organic, CSA/farmer’s market shopping comes increasingly into vogue, we’ll see a decrease in wastage, either because organic produce doesn’t linger as long, or because people will see the food as more of an “investment” of dollars that need to be consumed.

  • Rachel

    PS: I note from the article that again the Bush administration undid a perfectly good Clinton-era food recovery program… How unsurprising:

    The federal government tried once before, during the Clinton administration, to get the nation fired up about food waste, but the effort was discontinued by the Bush administration. The secretary of agriculture at the time, Dan Glickman, created a program to encourage food recovery and gleaning, which means collecting leftover crops from farm fields.

    He assigned a member of his staff, Mr. Berg, to oversee the program, and Mr. Berg spent the next several years encouraging farmers, schools, hospitals and companies to donate extra crops and food to feeding charities. A Good Samaritan law was passed by Congress that protected food donors from liability for donating food and groceries, spurring more donations.

    “We made a dent,” said Mr. Berg, now at the New York City hunger group. “We reduced waste and increased the amount of people being fed. It wasn’t a panacea, but it helped.”

  • I’ve gotten much better about this, I’m proud to say. I have a strict grocery shopping schedule (every other Friday), I dutifully plan out our meals, and I shop directly from this list.

    I eat an apple a day; so I buy exactly that amount of apples. I limit the snacks I buy to pretty much frozen edamame, nuts, homemade granola, and hummus. I buy some frozen Amy’s meals for back-up lunch options. I also stick to the same menu each day for breakfast/lunch/snack; it’s easier to plan what to buy, and how much of it to buy, that way.

    I cook big dinners and make enough that I have leftovers to bring to work for lunch the next day (or two or three). I also always make sure to check our calendar, as I’ve learned my food waste often comes from buying groceries to make a dinner for a night when we’re actually going/eating out.

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  • Jill

    yeah, it surprises me just how much I used to waste before I started making an effort to actually not waste food. Research shows an average family with kids in the UK wastes about £610 a year.
    There are some good recipes and tips to help prevent food waste and so save you money on

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