Save Money By Cutting Food Waste

I barely brushed the surface of combating food waste in a  recent article, but the comments added so much to the article that I thought I could stop at just one. And then I found some  more statistics.

In the U.S.:
  • We waste 40 percent of edible food
  • It costs $750 million just to dispose of the food we waste
  • And when you consider the extra costs of packaging, transporting, and storing wasted food, the overall cost of wasting food goes up to $165 billion.

But there's more - 33 percent of purchased meat is wasted, followed by 25 percent of seafood. Even 15 percent of purchased fruit is wasted. That's not good, especially when you consider that meat is so expensive, not to mention all food.

But what matters most is what happens in your household. And according to the same statistics, each U.S. household wastes between $28-43 per month on food. I've seen other statistics that put that number closer to $600 annually per household. That's not a huge amount of money, but  wasting money on food doesn't make sense any way you slice (or dice or julienne or…) it.

Smart storage

Food storage has changed a lot since my grandparents were growing up in the 30s. They preserved their meat by smoking it. They killed a chicken after lunch and dressed it for dinner. They say that they ate bad apples all winter. They started out eating the not-so-good apples first, but by the time they got to the good apples, they weren't very good, either. (But I don't know. This comes from the same grandfather who walked up hill to school both ways. And I think he was barefoot in the winter, too.)

Without question, freezers and refrigerators have  extended the life of produce and other foods, but I still waste food. I am getting better as using up the produce, but I am also trying to learn the best ways to store produce so it lasts as long as possible.

This winter, I noticed that my onions were getting moldy more quickly than they ever had before. After throwing out a handful of onions three times, I looked at how and where I was storing the onions. In a plastic bag, in a warm cabinet, next to a heat register. Well, according to the  National Onion Association (doesn't that make you want to cry?), there was nothing right about that. Onions should be not be stored in plastic bags; they need to breathe and prefer a cool, dry, well-ventilated environment.

Potatoes also  prefer a cool and dark, ventilated environment. A refrigerator, kept slightly warmer than normal, was recommended as a good place to store pounds of potatoes through the winter.

Refrigerator management

If you have produce drawers in your refrigerator that have different humidity settings, in general, vegetables should be at a high humidity setting. This keeps the water vapor inside the drawer which prevents vegetables from wilting.