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    How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    challenge posed by Kate Freeman 6 days 3 hours 59 minutes ago

    Category: World
    Challenge Forum

    How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Food waste in America is so pervasive, unless you’re a minimalist living off-the-grid, you probably throw away more food per year than you think. I recently watched a segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about food waste in America. Although John Oliver is a comedian, his writers/reporters do extensive and thorough research. The show also takes clips and interviews from credible news outlets such as PBS and MSNBC. About 40% of the food produced in the United States never gets eaten. That’s a massive waste of food, labor, water, and money, which is especially tragic when you consider that in 2013 nearly 50 million Americans lived in food-insecure households. And the amount of money lost due to food waste is $165 billion annually. In the PBS clip used for the segment one farmer said that it is more expensive to donate food because of boxing and transportations costs, than to just throw it in the garbage. The government could step in and offer better incentives to farmers who donate “imperfect” food – that is, food that is not aesthetically appealing and can’t be sold in a grocery store but perfectly healthy to eat. But what can the average person do to avoid wasting food? Learn how to properly store each food item; eat leafy greens first and other foods that wilt quickly so you don’t have to throw them out; plan your meals ahead so you can ensure you use all of your food; use the freezer if you don’t think you’ll eat something before it gets too old; throw out old produce immediately since it can ruin the rest of your produce. Do you have any more tips for how to combat food waste at home? What do you think farmers/supermarkets/the government can do to reduce food waste? Share your thoughts below.

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hey Kate!

    Having grown up in a developing country, I have seen many needy people who don't have enough to eat. I am a little disgusted when I see people throwing away perfectly good food. When I was growing up, my family always did everything we could to not waste food; eating fruit when it was ripe before it went rotten, finishing off leftovers before they went bad, and making sure greens were eaten quickly so they wouldn't go bad. My family threw away very little food.

    One of my jobs is at my church's summer day camp, and I see kids throwing away so much good food. Unopened ziplocs with sandwiches, grapes, chips, you name it inside. I cringe every time I see it. If parents don't teach their kids, their kids will do whatever the heck they want with food. They probably don't even realize what they are doing. Also, I feel like if kids packed their own lunches less food would be thrown out. A common thing I hear is that parents packed stuff they didn't like or too much of something (which they throw away instead of saving for another meal).

    It is really nice to have rabbits and a dog. You can feed the rabbits all your plant garbage (carrot peelings, etc) as long as it is not rotten. It will save you money too; you won't have to buy as much rabbit food. You can feed a dog pretty much everything, so if you know you are not going to eat something, at least it will be eaten. My family had this arrangement for a year or two when I was in Middle school and it was great. I felt like we threw out so little food-related trash, and that we threw away less in general.

    Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts!

    Thanks for the forum!

    Java

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hi Kate,

    This is a really great topic because food waste is something that is very relevant in society. Further, I think that plastics associated with food wastes are getting out of control. One of my husband and I's goals this year was to decrease the amount of food we waste, and trying to use less plastics associated with food.

    We eat at home a lot in our household, so the biggest food waste for us was the food we throw away from the refrigerator because it goes bad. One thing we are doing to help this situation is plan our meals around what will go bad first. Many times, we choose our vegetable based on what will go bad first.

    We also freeze our meat, and pull it out on the day before we plan to use it, so it has time to thaw and marinate.

    We planted a garden this year so we can grow our own vegetables. This is one of the things that I'm most excited about.

    Thanks for the forum!

    Megan

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hi Kate,
    This is a great topic and a very alarming statistic! I face this struggle so much right now with trying to feed my 2 year old. She is such a picky eater and sometimes really likes something and the next time, won't even touch it. I try to not waste a whole lot of food so I try and get creative with feeding her or making use of her leftovers. Previously, I used to overcook and would always have a ton of food leftover. My focus now is to cook smaller meals and in the case that I have to throw something away, my dog is always more than willing to eat it :)

    My goal is to have a garden where I can grow my own veggies and I hope to establish a big garden next spring!

    Thanks!
    morgan

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hi Kate,

    Your forum is very relevant to our family as I was just commenting about the massive amount of food we had leftover from my grad party on Sunday, and we have been eating as much as we can from them, but about 2 pounds of strawberries went bad before I had a chance to eat them. What a waste! This week has been super busy with working full time and Vacation Bible School in the evenings, there has been no time to even look at what is in the frig and try to plan around it.

    This week being the exception, we try to use up what we have before using anything new. I hate leftovers, but it is the right thing to do. Another thing that my mom does is that she doesn't automatically throw out expired food. For instance, eggs can still be good for up to a month after the expiration date. Test them in water, if it floats, throw it out, if it sinks, it is still good and safe to eat. Milk is still good for 3 or 4 days after "expiring". I wonder who determines and how they determine the expiration date. Is it some arbitrary date or is there some scientific formula for that determination? If the expiration date is June 14, does that mean that at 11:59 PM it is still good, but at 12:01 AM on the 15th, it isn't?

    My mom also goes to the store 2-3 times per week so that she can buy fresh, especially produce, and then we don't end up throwing away week old lettuce or something. I wonder what grocery stores do with unsold food, and I wonder if the statistics that you refer to includes that?

    Thank you for the forum. Have a wonderful day!

    Kasey

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hello Kate!

    This is an awesome topic that should be talked about more often! It is crazy that 40% of the food that is made never gets eaten. What amazes me is that approximately 554,000 (The Data Face) people in the United States are homeless.

    A way my family and I have been trying to reduce our food waste is not making as much food for one meal. Sometimes you make too much food and then it sits in the fridge and never gets eaten. If we do have left overs, we try and eat majority of them but sometimes that can be hard because we have so much left over that we get tired of eating it. Also going along with our food waste we try to reduce our plastic use by not using straws and plastic forks.

    Another issue is kids they waste a lot of their food because they get full pretty fast. In my household I have a younger sibling who gets full very fast. So to insure that he does not waste food we give him smaller portions. If he does not finish is meal we have him put it in a container and then next time he gets hungry he eats that.

    Thanks for this awesome forum!

    Madison

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    A rule in our house is that when we go out grocery shopping, get only what you're going to eat. If you're trying something new, get only one of it to see if you like it, and if you take one bite and don't like it, see if someone else might so the whole thing doesn't go to waste. Get enough to last you awhile, but not so much that you're stocking up like the world is about to end. The only time we throw out food is if it goes bad, which is rare. The only other time we threw out fresh food was because it was a package of lettuce that came from an e. coli ridden area, so my mother didn't want to chance it and threw it in the garbage.

    I think a good way to reduce food waste is to make sure that you're growing enough to feed people a healthy meal, and not make so much that it's overwhelming and might be thrown out.

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hey everyone,

    What a great topic and discussion thus far. Everyone posted a lot of good social, cultural, and planning methods to solving this problem.

    One good and possibly outlandish suggestion would be for more folks to start their own vegetable gardens. We are so removed from the labor intensive process, so the little amount of dollars & change in the garbage has less of an effect. Imagine spending a few hundred on setting up your own vegetable garden. Would you let that food then go bad? No, you'd make it a point to eat every ounce of ripe, fresh, delicious food you spent so much time growing, watering and protecting from animals and insects.

    Another kind of stretch idea is for more people to have chickens or pigs. They'll eat all your kitchen left overs and then you have really cheap & super fresh pork or eggs as a result of your left over food. Rather than rotting away or going into a landfill, it is helping to continue to sustain you and your family.

    Another method that should be mandatory across the U.S. is composting. All the food waste we have should not be contributing to our landfills. It should be benefiting our farmers and gardens to nourish our soil. Every coffee filter, egg shell, or fruit/vegetable scrap can go back into our soil to close the loop on growing, dying, decaying and feeding the next growth cycle. The ease of this process is incredible, and there are several organizations out there that can help if we don't want a smelly compost sitting around our yard.

    Thanks for reading! Although everyone can't implement these methods, those who can would surely make a difference on our food waste issue.

    -bella

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    First, never go to the grocery store hungry. Always have a premade list so you don’t end up buying food you don’t need/won’t eat. Similarly, have a meal plan for the week so you know what you need and how much of it.

    Second, invest in some plastic containers to store leftovers in. Not only do you get another meal out of what you don’t eat (which means less money spend and less time cooking) you also don’t waste a zipper bag because you wash out the container!

    Third, have a scheduled “clean out the fridge day.” At my house, Thursdays were days that my mom would “clean out the fridge-“ meaning she’d reheat leftovers and cook what was about to go bad, but she wouldn’t make anything new. It’s a great way to be sure food doesn’t go waste and that you aren’t making an unnecessary meal when there’s still food to eat.

    I grew up in a family where if you didn’t clean the plate, you didn’t leave the table. Working in the food industry showed me just how often people waste food. They’d barely touch their meals and leave without asking for a box! Americans need to recognize how privileged we are to have a surplus of food and learn not to take advantage of it.

    ~Bailey

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hi Kate,

    What an interesting and distressing topic. My first thought is of the hungry people that would benefit from all of the food that is wasted worldwide! I wish more would be done on that front. As I perused online articles, I found a few more horrifying statistics to add to yours. An article on food waste (Forbes, 2017) stated that such waste is the single largest component of what is being sent to landfills. And that the methane being emitted from that is the third largest source in the United States. As you pointed out, the amount of time, labor, water and resources wasted to produce food that is never eaten is staggering!

    Most of the articles I looked at simply "admired the problem" and discussed a few possible solutions but mostly addressed why those solutions were essentially ineffective. One article (Justin Cremer, 2018) suggested that the best solutions actually came from consumers. He discussed a few things that were met with success in Denmark. One I found interesting involved supermarkets offering deep discounts on food nearing expiration dates. Another involved an App (Too Good to Go) that connects consumers to businesses that want to sell leftover food,at deeply reduced prices, that would otherwise be put in the trash. The author also stated that most successful ideas to address food waste weren't altruistic in nature but were rather more self serving. That, in my opinion, is a truly interesting thought!

    On a personal note, I am absolutely guilty of wasting food! My biggest offense comes from wasting fresh produce. I have been working on this. Immediately prepping my fresh fruits and vegetables is key for me. And even though it means more trips to the store, buying smaller portions of fresh produce has also made a difference.

    Even though I couldn't find any all encompassing solutions, maybe small changes and consumer awareness are the answer! Awareness s is often the catalyst needed for change!


    Thanks for the forum and for reading my reply,

    Auntiec

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hi Kate,

    This is a topic I am passionate about because a work in the public school system and see kids hungry at school everyday and I see what they are served everyday in the cafeteria. I also see how much food gets wasted each day in the cafeteria. There must be a healthier better way to feed these kids and not waste foods. If the school district could work with the farmers to buy the imperfect fruits and vegetables and the school district could work on providing the resource to properly train employees to prepare it in a healthy delicious way the kids would eat it would solve many of the problems.

    As for tips I do at home not to waste food, some of them are serving smaller portions and then going back for seconds if necessary but that prevents my kids from throwing unwanted food in the sink. I package food and label it and freeze what I know I will not use right away, including bread so that it does not go bad before I use it. I only buy what I know I will eat during the week and sometimes only buy vegetables I will eat over a couple of days. I often split a meal with my mom when we go out to dinner because we never can finish a whole entree.

    I really think if everyone just did a few small things to try and not waste food it would make a big difference in helping improve the food waste problem in America.

    Thank you for the great forum,

    Karen

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hello all!!


    I think the best way to reduce your food waste is by making and ordering less!! Nine times out of ten we don't need as much food as we think. Don't have a lot of food you won't have a lot of food waste!!


    With love Shayla,

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hey!

    We rarely waste food. We always end up eating it next day or give it to our neighbors. I hate throwing stuff away.

    thanks
    Have a good day!

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    I'm with Savann: if you don't want to waste food, use some judgment before you buy it. In rough terms, I eat the same thing every week and I only have to plan for my own meals. If there is a week where something goes bad, I don't buy it again, I buy less of it or I eat it sooner. After a couple weeks of that, I rarely waste anything. I know exactly what I will buy each week and what I will eat each meal. It may be repetitive, but nothing gets wasted. I would be distracted at work if I had to think of food going bad back home.

    The only idea I have not seen listed is juicing. Yesterday I realized that I was about to loose some peppers and cucumbers so I cut out the bad parts and juiced what was left.

    Re: How Do You Reduce Your Food Waste?

    Hey Kate!

    My childhood was not quite completely off the grid, but I did grow up with a compost pile, a couple of goats, and very little food waste. After moving off the family farm and trying to make it on my own in the city, retaining the good habits I'd been taught regarding clean living became much harder. There is no room on my tiny strip of porch for a compost bin, no goats to feed half-rotting scraps to, and no money /not/ to buy excess things when they go on sale!

    Portions, I think, are key for managing food waste. The best habit I've developed for city life is to simply buy less food at a time, and cook less too. We only get what we need for the next couple of days, and so fruits and veggies don't rot before we can eat them. The other thing that's helped is lowering my own American standards of what counts as 'rotten' or 'inedible'. I've learned to cut the spots out of older or uglier fruits instead of throwing the whole thing away. Then there are the totally edible parts of veggies that often get throw out - broccoli stems, carrot tops, potato peels, pineapple hearts - in our house, everything gets thrown into the pot!

    I also have a couple of pet rats who are very happy to take care of any scraps or leftovers we make while cooking. They don't eat much, but they're certainly doing their part to help mitigate food waste! :)

    Peace,
    Chel