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Reducing Food Waste is Child's Play

Posted by Alena Marovitz, Intern, Office of Chief Economist in Food and Nutrition
Sep 03, 2015

The famous Julia Child once said “people who love to eat are always the best people,” but what would Julia say about eaters who waste food? In the United States, consumers discard about 20 percent of all food purchased. That adds up to approximately 90 billion pounds of food each year, costing each person $370 annually. For a family of four, that’s nearly $1,500.

While it may seem daunting, there are many simple ways to reduce food waste right at home. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your groceries:

Leftover Love: Learn to love your leftovers and you’ll be amazed by the ways you can repurpose them. How about creating your own barbecue chicken pizza with leftover grilled chicken? In order to maintain freshness, remember to tightly wrap your masterpieces or utilize storage containers. And if your friend pretended to be the muffin man and baked four dozen blueberry muffins – don’t panic. As long as leftovers are tightly wrapped, they can chill in your freezer (kept under 0° F) indefinitely. See? It’s easy to join the reuse-a-palooza!

Shipshape Shopping: Shopping lists are life savers. They save us from wandering around grocery stores aimlessly and buying things we don’t need. When I forget mine, I always end up in the frozen section, drawn by the siren song of the fudge-swirled ice cream. A simple shopping list is a great reminder that I already have two-year’s worth of fudge swirl in my freezer.

Shopping lists also help us remember ingredient quantities, like if the cookie recipe calls for 3 cups or 4 cups of flour. When it comes to super sizes, shopping in bulk can be economical, but only if you can finish or freeze the product before it spoils (you can check out safe storage times here). Sorry Dad, the six-pound container of potato salad is way too much, even for you.

Reduce Restaurant Rubbish: Buffets can be magical. Where else can you sample ten different foods during one meal? Please note that I used the term “sample,” and not “take heaping helpings.” Aunt Paula will not win the clean plate award if she scoops mashed potato mountains and casserole castles, but fails to conquer her creation. Some restaurants abroad charge customers for abandoning food on their plates. Instead of contributing to global food waste, ask your waiter to pack up your abundant leftovers. Those honey roasted carrots and amandine beans can brighten your next meal and lessen the amount of food you need to purchase at the grocery store.

After an eventful summer internship in Washington, DC, I’m heading back to college more mindful about the need for food waste reduction. Taking steps to reduce food waste saves money, increases creativity in what we eat, and will ultimately reduce our overall environmental footprint. Let’s heed Ms. Child’s motto “life itself is the proper binge” and work together to curb food waste across America.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition