Wednesday, April 10, 2013

40% of Food in the U.S. is Wasted

Wasted!  I'm not even going to get into a discussion about how much of the food in the U.S. is not worth eating in the first place.

Let's just assume that what your family buys at the grocery store is good food.  How much do you buy? How much of it do you eat?  How much goes into the garbage?

I was completely shocked when I heard on ABC News tonight that 40% of food in this country is wasted.  A study found that the average American family throws out 20 pounds of food every month.  They followed one family for just one week and found that they threw out 13 pounds of food in that one week.  How is that even possible?

It sounds like they shop on a weekly basis and spend around $300 each week - for a family of four.  So, they buy way too much stuff and then have to throw out the stuff that goes bad.  I can't imagine how it's even possible to spend that much on groceries every week.  No wonder they can't use it all.

My family may not always have gotten exactly what they wanted to eat, in fact I heard, "There's nothing to eat!" from my teenagers' mouths many times - even though there was always plenty of food in the house.  Sometimes you just eat what's available or you don't eat at all.  Believe me, they never starved.  And oftentimes it was junk food they wanted, which they didn't need anyway.

Oh, when I did go shopping, which was usually once every 2 or 3 weeks - not counting having Jeffrey stop on his way home for milk, eggs, or something very basic - I did buy them things they liked.  And I also bought good stuff - fruits and vegetables, meats, beans, pasta, rice, etc. - and then I used what I bought.  Sure, occasionally something gets lost in the back of the fridge or at the bottom of the crisper drawer and goes bad, and I have to throw it out, but that is a rare thing, not the norm.

The key, I think, is to keep track of what you have and fix meals based on what you have in your fridge (and in your pantry) - and not necessarily what your family just happens to feel like eating that day.  Don't just run to the store because you need to fix something for dinner.  First, look to see what you already have.  If something needs used in the next few days - example: I had some broccoli that needed to be used, so I made this Beef Noodle Bowl for dinner - then use it.  Find a recipe, steam the broccoli - something.  Here are a couple sites that allow you to enter the ingredients you have on hand to find recipes using those ingredients.

Enter you ingredients, find recipes, use what you have on hand.

And if you can't use it - freeze it.  Don't wait until it goes bad and it's too late.  Ripe bananas can be peeled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and put into zipper bags in the freezer.  They're perfect for smoothies, banana bread or muffins, or just to eat frozen on a hot summer day.  Grapes can be washed and spread on a cookie sheet to freeze and then placed in zipper bags once frozen.  Bell pepper can be chopped and spread on cookie sheets to freeze the same way.  The same goes for leftovers.  Many meals can be frozen for later, whether in individual servings or family-size servings.  They're great for those busy times when you don't really have time to cook - like convenience foods, but they're way better for you because you made them yourself. 

Are you throwing away more food than you want to?  Do you have some tips to help avoid food waste and save money on groceries?  It sounds like there are lots of American families who could use the help.  The family on ABC News could put $4000 back in their pocket instead of in the trash - which is more than I actually spend on groceries in a year.  I can't imagine spending that just to throw the stuff I'd buy into the trash.
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