Food Waste

Why Does Food Waste Matter?

Did you know the average U.S. household throws away one quarter of all the food it purchases, wasting almost $1,600 per year? Not only does food waste cost families a significant amount of money, it wastes valuable resources that went into producing the food. 25% of all freshwater, 4% of oil consumption, and 135 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions go into producing food we never consume.

SMART Tips for Preventing Food Waste:

By making small shifts in how we shop for, prepare, and store food, we can save time and money, and keep the valuable resources used to produce and distribute the food from going to waste!

  • Smart Shopping: Buy What You Need: Make a shopping list using the Meals-In-Mind Shopping List (PDF) based on how many meals you expect to eat at home before your next shopping trip. By buying no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to use it up and keep it fresh.
    • Make sure to shop your refrigerator, counter, and cupboards before heading to the store to avoid buying extra.
    • Buy in bulk when possible so you can purchase only the amount you need.
    • Don't be afraid of blemished or misshapen fruits and veggies. There are great benefits to buying ugly produce.
    • Try to buy local and in-season produce as it will last longer that food shipped long distances.
Food on a Plate
  • Smart Storage: Keep Fruits and Vegetables Fresh: Store produce so it stays fresh longer with the help of the A to Z Food Storage Guide (PDF).
    • Check out this guide (PDF) to learn how to use your refrigerator better.
    • Ripe fruits like bananas, tomatoes, and apples produce gases that make other produce ripe, so store separately if you can.
    • To prevent mold, wash berries just before you eat them.
    • If you like your fruit at room temperature, take out what you think you will eat for the day out of the fridge instead of keeping everything in a fruit bowl.
    • If you are confused by what "sell-by," "use-buy," and other date labels mean, check out this guide (PDF).
  • Smart Prep: Prep Now, Eat Later: By preparing perishable foods as soon as possible, preferably post-shopping, you'll make it easier to serve snacks and meals later in the week, saving time, effort and money.
    • Store prepped food in air-tight storage containers to preserve freshness.
    • At the beginning of the week, cook in large batches and store in meal-sized containers, for easy meals throughout the week. This will also make it easy to freeze if you can't get to it all in time.
  • Smart Saving: Eat What You Buy: This involves being mindful of leftovers and old ingredients that need using up. The "Eat Me First" (PDF)prompt can be used to designate an area in your refrigerator for leftovers and food that won't keep long.
    • Your freezer is your friend! If you know you aren't going to finish an item in time, throw it in the freezer to extend its life by months or more. Check out this guide for help with freezing.
    • Even if your berries, carrots, or other produce are no longer fresh enough to eat raw, they are still great for using in a smoothie, soup, stir-fry, or other meals.
    • If you aren't sure how to use an item that you need to get rid of, check out this webpage full of great recipes for using up leftovers.