“Waste not, want not.” You may have heard this expression as a child when you wouldn’t eat your greens. In the U.S. alone, the amount of food that is wasted on a daily basis is staggering.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “if just 5 percent of Americans’ food scraps were recovered it would represent one day’s worth of food for 4 million people.” Moreover, according to CNN, “The U.N. World Food Program says the total surplus of the U.S. alone could satisfy “every empty stomach” in Africa (France’s leftovers could feed the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Italy’s could feed Ethiopia’s undernourished).”
In addition, it costs the U.S. close to one billion dollars every year to dispose of food waste. This poses a hidden danger to the environment. The EPA states that “when food rots, it releases methane – a greenhouse gas which the EPA says is 20 times more damaging to the environment that carbon dioxide.”
Food waste is not new to this country. The USDA asserts that 25.9 million tons of food gets thrown out every year. Some researchers estimate this statistic to be even higher given the amount of food that restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores throw out.
These statistics bring home the point that all of us need to do a better job of avoiding food waste at home. During this economic crisis, it is incumbent upon all of us to find new and alternative ways to save money.
While buying food in bulk has its merits, one of the best ways to avoid food waste is to prepare meals ahead of time or, at the very least, only buy those items that will be utilized for that night’s dinner preparation.
Consider the last time you visited a restaurant for breakfast, as an example. Perhaps you ordered bacon and eggs. Most restaurants add a large portion of home fries to the dish. Perhaps you didn’t eat the entire mound of home fries or maybe you didn’t have any of it. That is waste. Next time, ask to take it home in a doggie bag or ask that it not be included.
The point is that when we go out to eat or shop for groceries, we should only buy that which we intend to eat.
There is an old saying, “Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.” It happens to be true. We tend to buy more than is on our list when we are hungry.
If you have a pantry closet, it’s a good idea to sort the foods so that (1) you will not buy the items you already have in stock, (2) you can easily find those items you need to prepare dinner, and (3) whatever leftovers you have can be used to prepare the following night’s dinner.
Avoiding food waste is not only important to our environment, but it can save quite a bit of money in the long run.