Next week, my mom will cook a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. She will also load me up with bags of leftovers. I’m thankful for the food, but always feel guilty if anything spoils before it makes it to my plate.
I’m not the only person who struggles to eat all their leftovers. Each year between 30 to 40 percent of food goes to waste in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This waste takes a heavy toll on the environment, as each uneaten piece of food negates the resources that went into producing it. “Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States,” states a 2012 report by the National Resources Defense Council.
Additionally, if Americans cut food losses by just 15 percent, enough food would be saved to “feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables,” the report says.
While restaurants and other commercial operations account for a part of this waste, consumers can help by reducing the amount of food they throw out at home. About 25 percent of the food U.S. consumers buy ends up in the trash, which amounts to around $124 billion in food purchases each year.
The EPA launched the Food: Too Good to Waste program in 2012 to combat household food waste. The program includes tools to make grocery shopping more efficient and provides strategies for how to store food to minimize what goes bad. Some counties that participated in the program also created how-to videos.
Here’s a selection of some of the kit’s helpful tips:
- Shop your fridge: Plan meals around the food you already have, this can help you avoid buying the same item twice.
- Avoid overstocking: Include quantities in your shopping list to ensure you don’t go overboard. (This tool can help.)
- Be a little fresh: Purchase fresh ingredients in smaller quantities, while you stock up on items that won’t spoil.
- Store smart: Learn the best way to store different types of food, and know what food you can freeze to make it last longer.
- Prioritize: Give food that will spoil first prime real estate in your fridge. Either move it to the front of a shelf or to an “eat now” area that you will remember.
- Go digital: Use mobile apps and Web-based tools to help you wherever you go.
By using the EPA’s kit, families could reduce food waste by 25 percent and save over $1,600 a year. I not only plan on following these tips after Thanksgiving, but am going to make wasting less food my New Year’s resolution. That way, I can fight hunger, reduce my environmental footprint, and avoid sadly tossing out any of those delicious leftovers.