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Saving Money and the Planet: Simple Habits to Reduce Food Waste at Home

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The first week in April is deemed as Food Waste Prevention Week (April 1-7). It’s a national campaign focused on raising awareness around the issue of food waste and inspiring change at home, at work, and in our communities. Why is there so much attention on the food waste crisis? Because it has economic, social and environmental implications.

Consider this: Would you indulge in a 42-minute shower? How about luxuriating under the water for a whopping 6 hours? It may seem absurd, as who would squander that much water needlessly?

Let me explain…the hidden cost of food waste extends far beyond the discarded scraps. Every time you toss out food, whether at home or in a restaurant, you're also squandering the energy, resources, water, and labor invested in growing, processing, and transporting that food to your plate.

For instance, ponder the amount of water flushed away with discarded food—it can be quantified in shower minutes. A pound of bananas tossed into the trash equates to a 42-minute shower, while a pound of ground beef wastage clocks in at over 6 hours of continuous water flow!

But why are we so cavalier with a resource we hold so dear? Shockingly, it's estimated that U.S. consumers waste a pound of food per person per day. This accumulates over time and could be draining your family's finances by an average of $1500 per year or more.

Beyond the financial strain, food waste also exacerbates our carbon footprint. If the combined GHG emissions associated with food loss and waste were integrated into a country, it would rank as the third-largest emitter, trailing only behind China and the U.S.

Reducing food waste is a collective endeavor, and we all have a role to play in achieving the national food waste reduction goal—to slash food waste by 50% by 2030. Simple tweaks to our food planning, preparation, and storage habits can make a significant difference, curbing waste at home, saving money, and safeguarding the environment.

Let’s review a few simple habits to reduce food waste at home:

1. Habits take time to build, including checking your kitchen food inventory before going shopping. Shop your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry first to avoid unwanted waste. Make a shopping list based on your weekly meal plan to avoid impulse buys.

2. Use the fresh ingredients first. Nearly half of all fruits and vegetables go to waste so make it a point to use these items quickly before they end up in the trash. You can also increase shelf-life by storing produce appropriately, whether in the fridge or on the counter.

3. Be mindful of waste when dining out. Restaurants serve large portions that could easily be shared or taken home for another meal. Avoid waste when ordering food by sharing meals, bringing leftovers home, or selecting smaller portions if you’re not a “leftovers person”.

With more people opting to cook at home, it's crucial to monitor how much food ends up in the trash. Studies reveal that food waste escalates alongside home-cooked meals and fresh produce usage. Over time, even small amounts of waste can accumulate unnoticed, underscoring the importance of consumers tracking their waste and reassessing their habits—both at home and when dining out.

You can find food waste trackers online or create your own. Its an eye-opening exercise and a good place to start to learn more about your household’s habits. I’ve also linked one in the resources that I like to use.

Regrettably, food waste reigns as the predominant material in U.S. landfills, yet it doesn't have to be this way! Numerous tools and techniques related to planning, preparation, and storage exist to help mitigate food waste at home. It's time to take action and make a difference—one mindful meal at a time.

April is Earth Month, a time to celebrate our planet and take action to protect it. This month I challenge you to try some of these techniques and also tell your friends and family about what they can do, too. For more food waste resources, volunteer opportunities, and a recording of today’s episode, visit WVIK.org/wellness.

Food Waste Resources:

· Food Waste Challenge- get to you know your food waste habits at home.

· Food Rescue US – Quad Cities

For volunteer opportunities contact Taelor Denton at taelor@foodrescue.us or (971)832-0364

· Quad Cities Food Rescue Partnership

· River Bend Foodbank

· Try these storage tips for extending shelf-life of fruits and vegetables (PDF).

· Follow these Easy Steps to Freezing Foods (PDF).

· Stilltasty.com is another source for “eating past the date” guidance.


· Save Food for a Better Climate. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2017. Accessed March 18, 2021 from http://www.fao.org/3/i8000e/i8000e.pdf

· www.savethefood.com

· www.refed.com

Kristin Bogdonas believes that everyone deserves access to fresh, affordable food and is committed to helping people improve their health literacy. In this digital age it can be difficult to decipher what nutrition information is accurate and what is hype. Connecting people with factual information and evidenced-based programs will help people build the skills and attain the knowledge necessary for positive behavior change. Although nutrition is important for a long and healthy life, one should not overlook the other dimensions of health required for overall wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional, vocational, spiritual, environmental and social. Each dimension impacting the next.