Food Waste: What You Can Do About It

Far too often, good food goes bad before we get the chance to eat it. This video highlights simple methods to reduce food waste and lower your grocery bill.
Food Waste: What You Can Do About It - Videos


About 31 percent of all edible food is wasted in the U.S. This video explores the scope of food waste as well as how to reduce it in your home. Make simple lifestyle changes that include making shopping lists, incorporating what you have on hand, storing food correctly, and using leftovers. When possible, choose meals made with ingredients you already have at home to get the most out of your food.


Nutrition Health Food Safety

More by Dori Owczarzak, MS, RD, LDN 

View Transcript

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- [Dori] Food waste, what you can do about it.

There's something fundamentally wrong when about one-third of all food produced for people is lost or wasted, yet more than 800 million of us go to bed hungry each night.

It's alarming that 1.3 billion tons of food once fit to eat is wasted every year.

Forty percent of food in the US goes uneaten.

That is equal to 1,500 calories per person per day being lost.

Food waste costs Americans $165 billion annually.

In other words, each household spends $1,350 to $2,275 each year on foods that they will end up throwing away.

The amount of food that goes wasted is enough to feed all of the world's malnourished people.

As we recognize the scale of the world's food waste, note that Americans wasted over one-third of the vegetables and fruit bought in 2010.

Think of the inputs such as land, water, labor and energy used to produce, process, transport, prepare, store, and eventually dispose of wasted food.

The misused water, fertilizer, electricity, and landfill space, plus more than one-quarter of the world's available agricultural land should be available for beneficial purposes.

Further, all of our wasted food generates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases.

Our food choices have a 27% greater carbon footprint than our driving habits.

Let's take a look at developing our own skills to save more of the food we already have.

Strive to change your habits to minimize avoidable food losses.

Shop the refrigerator before going to the store.

Use food at home before buying more.

Designate one meal weekly as a "use it up" meal.

Again, before heading to the grocery store, developing a game plan can help you get organized and be effective at using the foods you already have.

Start by taking inventory, then sketching out a list of your meals for the week.

Lastly, make a grocery list based on what you will need.

Plan your next meal around your most perishable ingredient.

For example, sour cream from last night's tacos is perfect for tonight's baked potatoes.

Otherwise, the fresh green beans selected at the grocery store should be prepared early in the week, versus the canned and frozen vegetables that you also have at home.

Lastly, the leftover vegetable tray is just waiting to become soup or a stir fry.

Look for recipe ideas that use up ingredients you already have at home.

Use overripe fruit in a fruit smoothie.

If you prepare or purchase a whole chicken, repurpose the leftovers to make a soup, salad, sandwich, or casserole.

If you have several foods that might go to waste at the same time, try adding them to adaptable recipes for dishes such as salads, soups, pasta, and casseroles.

Half a bag of spinach added to leftover noodles with your favorite sauce can make for a quick, delicious meal.

Rather than buying an ingredient for use in only one recipe, check to see if you might already have a suitable substitute at home.

The Cook's Thesaurus website gives thousands of ingredient substitutions.

An example is swapping walnuts for pine nuts in pesto or a wrap.

Also, plain Greek yogurt always works well in the place of sour cream.

Buy misshapen fruits and vegetables at farmer's markets and elsewhere.

You might even get a good deal since they are more likely to get thrown away.

Ugly produce like those pictured here taste just as good and are equally nutritious as those with a perfect shape.

To extend the shelf life and keep perishable food safe to eat, set your refrigerator to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a thermometer to ensure cold foods in the fridge are held at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Milk kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit will be safe to use for up to seven days.

Serve just enough and save what will keep.

Is there a good reason to make more pork chops than your family will eat?

If you find yourself with leftovers, eat them or freeze them within just a few days.

Keep in mind, foods frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower will remain safe indefinitely, through the quality will go down over time.

When taking restaurant leftovers home, be sure to refrigerate them within two hours from when they were served.

As mentioned, eat or freeze leftovers within three to four days.

If portions look especially large, one idea is to ask for a take-home container at the beginning of the meal.

Remove half of what is served before you begin eating.

This will keep leftovers as appetizing as the original meal.

Dish up reasonable amounts of food and go back for more if you are still hungry.

The manufacturer's dates on food can be confusing.

Knowing about dates can save you from discarding wholesome foods.

Let's review what the dates on products actually mean.

A sell-by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.

You should buy the product before the date expires.

A best if used by date is recommended for best flavor or quality.

It is not a purchase or safety date.

A use-by date is the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality.

The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

To make sure foods will be eaten before they go bad, use the first in first out method.

To do this, move older food products to the front of the fridge, cupboard, and freezer, and place just-purchased ones in the back.

One of the best way to know which foods you're actually wasting is to check your trash.

We're not saying to dig through, per se.

Though take note.

If the same foods are constantly being tossed make a plan to eat them sooner, incorporate them into a recipe, freeze them, or buy less of them.

Donate safe food to your local food bank.

A good rule of thumb is to only donate something considered fit to eat.

In conclusion, make simple lifestyle changes that include making shopping lists, incorporating what you have on hand, freezing food, and using leftovers to reduce food waste in your home.


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