Food Waste – How to stop it, save money and live healthy

food wasteIf you throw away the end piece of your bread loaf, chances are you are wasting food. You just don’t see it. Vegetables are wasted the most, followed by milk and milk products like yoghurt, sour cream and cheese. Gallons and gallons and gallons of the stuff.  And eggs of course and bread. Who wants stale bread right? And fresh herbs because you need to buy a lot to get a little. My calculations are that the average family wastes about $20 worth of food per week. Over a year that is $1040 per year. Over 18 years that is $18,720.

According to this Huffington Post article American Food waste is estimated at $165 Billion. This PBS documentary say 16 Million American children are hungry. This in the richest country in the world! What in the world is happening?!

We all know we waste food. I for one am terrified of that expiry date and will not eat anything even one day after the expiry date. And with all the liability issues, no business in their right mind will dare go over the expiry date. To do so and get caught is to face immense fines by the health departments of America.

As usual we Americans waste the most food at 1,675 lbs. per person, followed by Australia, Denmark. Switzerland and Canada according to Rediff. We do this because food is cheap. It is so cheap we have lost respect for it. We have lost respect for food because it is no longer good, but an assortment of chemicals with very little nutritional value. They strip away the fiber and sell you overpriced fiber separately. They dilute milk and strip away all the goodness of milk and call it low fat. If you drink milk in extreme moderation, as we should, we can afford good quality milk. The dairy industry is nothing but a marketing machine designed to sell overproduction of dairy subsidized by government.

Food waste is a learned cultural legacy, as well the product of crazy regulations and an attempt by the food industry to increase the shelf life food and make it even cheaper to store and transport.  As a society we have to stop wasting food for a number or reasons. Mostly because there are 16M American children who are hungry. Next time you shop, buy some food for the needy, find your local food bank and drop it off. But don’t buy junk food. Buy foods that offer great nutritional benefits. You don’t need to poison them just because they are poor and hungry. Admittedly most food banks cannot accept fresh vegetables, but think about how you can distribute fresh vegetables.

Food waste also affects our own health. Just take a look in your pantry and figure out whether you really need those bags of chips, sodas, cookies, muffins, salad dressing, 6 types of cheese and cake that you bought in a state of hunger. Don’t overbuy vegetables and throw it away. Do we need that much much milk and potatoes? If you buy less food, you can afford better quality food that will ultimately improve your health and reduce over consumption. We have been trained more is better by the big corporations. Less with more quality is better.

Last but not least, waste has an enormous environmental impact. According to this BBC article Hong Kong wastes so much food they are running out of landfills to dump it in. They are addressing it with novel ways pioneered by Korea and Taiwan. Both the consumer and the food industry and equally guilty of not factoring in the true environmental cost of this madness. Aren’t you sick of looking at your garbage bin and seeing how much food packaging you just used up? Don’t you abhor the amount of food packaging that is in your garbage? Plastic, Styrofoam, glass and cans. This is not going to end well.

I remember as a young boy living in my native Sri Lanka. A simpler time where we took our own cane shopping baskets to market. There was virtually no food packaging. Spices and vegetables were stacked in large barrels or gunny sacks. The shop keeper simply scooped up what was required, weighed it and emptied it into our shopping basket. It was not wrapped in a plastic bag. Fish or meat was wrapped in old newspaper. We didn’t even know what a plastic bag was.

So what practical steps can you take to stop wasting food? Here are a few easy steps you can take right now and improve your health in the process.

1. A clean start – Eating everything first
Start by eating everything that you have in the house. Slowly empty every bit of food in the house. Sauces, jams, pasta, vegetables, frozen food, biscuits and virtually anything you see in the kitchen that is edible. You will be surprised by the amount of food you have in the house and what creative ways you can use what you have, to make delicious meals.

2. Make a List 
If you have children they will complain that there is nothing to eat in the house, when there is plenty to eat. Here is a great opportunity to get them involved in the process. Ask them to make a list of foods they like to eat with the proviso it must be healthy food. And anything they put on their wish list must be eaten and not thrown away. Once you have depleted all your food stocks, then you can start fresh. Combine your list with those of your children and see what you really need for the house. Make a master list and don’t make any impulse purchases at the supermarket. OK you can have one. If you are buying a whole sack of potatoes because it is cheaper make sure you can eat all of it before it rots.

3. Eat before you shop
It is well known people who are hungry buy too much food that is not necessary and that leads to major waste. And we all know what the smell of roast chicken or
the aroma of freshly baked bread does to a hungry stomach. It makes you buy shit!

4. If it is packaged try not to buy it.
This is one of the best ways to force you to eat healthy and save the environment. Do you really have to buy that can of green peas or frozen peas packed in a plastic bag? Consider switching to fresh green beans instead.

Avoid buying those prepackaged salads or vegetables that come in a sealed plastic bags, even if it is cheaper. If you factor in the environmental cost, it’s not cheaper and God knows what contact with that plastic bag has done to those fresh salad leaves.

Buy fresh produce and avoid the plastic bag by reusing an old one if you can. You want bacon? Ok no choices there but maybe you can avoid eating so much bacon? Milk? Maybe you should buy the milk that comes in a glass that can be recycled. Juice? There is no need to buy any juice at all. Just make your own. Should you buy those muffins that come in those plastic containers? No! Buy the loose muffins from the local bakery and take your own bag. Of course it’s not possible to buy everything without a package, but often the same product can be bought without packaging. Most products that are packaged and have more than 5 ingredients are pretty bad for us anyway.

5. Cook fresh food & minimize perishable food purchases
Do you really need to buy that burger or Pizza on the way home? Could you not make some fresh food at home? Do you really need to keep so many vegetables that rot in the refrigerator? Or sauces and dressings that expire in a heartbeat? Buy a few loose onions and handful of mushrooms. No need to buy an entire sack just because it is available in a convenient container.

6. Keep your refrigerator 50% empty
If your refrigerator is full, you are wasting food. And if you have too many containers, food is going to waste. Whittle down the amount of left over containers you have to a minimum. If the amount of containers you have fill more than half the refrigerator you are wasting food. The more containers you have, the more you will stuff them with leftovers that will never be eaten. So donate those excess containers to Goodwill and keep just the bare minimum of containers. That way you will be forced to eat fresh and leave very little leftovers that go to waste.

7.Cook just the right amount – Minimize left Overs
Why do parents feel guilty if there is not enough food? Making correct portion size is so easy. This way the children will learn how to moderate their eating habits at an early age and not stuff themselves full of food and become obese. And if they are hungry it is often an indication they didn’t drink enough water. A healthy fruit snack will also solve this issue. If you minimize leftovers, you also control portion size and reduce waste because we all know part of the left overs will definitely go to waste. And less left overs leads to fresh cooking.