The average American family wastes a quarter of the food they buy – an average of $130 worth of food a month! Even if uneaten food gets composted, more than money goes to waste: so do the resources that went into growing, packing and transporting the food. Preventing food waste can save your family money and help the planet by preventing waste of water and fuel from food production.
Find out how much food you’re wasting this week
For one week, track how much edible food goes to waste in your home.
- Find a leak-proof container that will hold one week of wasted food, such as a paper bag with a compostable bag liner or a food scrap collection container. You’ll be collecting wasted food separately from your usual food scrap collection container.
- Put a notepad and pen next to the container.
- Place all your uneaten edible food, such as stale bread, moldy fruit, and old leftovers, in the container over the week.
- Do not include inedible food, like apple cores or egg shells. The goal of this exercise is to measure how much food could have been eaten but instead went to waste.
- If you’re worried about odor, store the container in the freezer.
- Do not collect liquid waste, like soup.
- As you add items to the container, note them on your notepad. You can also keep track of why items went bad:
- Bought too much
- Forgot what we had
- Prepared too much
- Spoiled before it was eaten
Don’t try any new steps to reduce your food waste this week. The goal is to get a baseline of how much food your family typically wastes.
At the end of the week, assess what food you wasted
- Go through your fridge to clear out lingering items that have gone bad. Check your crisper and your dairy drawer. Half a can of beans you can’t remember opening? Oops, that tub of feta turned pink! A bag of slime that once was spinach?
- Use a ruler to measure how much waste you accumulated over the week. Now you have a baseline to refer back to, and you can complete this week of tracking again after you change some habits to see how you compare.
- Read through the list of items that got discarded and see if there are any patterns about what is getting tossed, or why. Two-thirds of wasted food is thrown out because it spoils before it can be eaten.
- Decide what you can do differently to waste less food:
- Keep buying more than you need? Here’s a smart shopping guide.
- Do a lot of things go bad before you can get to them? Refer to this smart food prep guide and smart storage guide.
- Do you lose track of opened food? Reorganize your fridge by zone and set up an “Eat First” shelf so your family knows which snacks and leftovers to eat first.
- Do you toss things because you’re not sure whether they’re OK or not? Most date labels are relatively meaningless. Get a better sense for how long food lasts with Still Tasty.
- Do you get rid of lots of odds and ends, like half an onion, a handful of mushrooms, half a box of broth? Get ideas for recipes and other ways you can use up these little bits of food.
- Check out more ideas for rescuing food and sharing it with the community before it goes to waste – including a Little Free Pantry in Kirkland!