Food waste is a huge environmental, nutritional, and economic problem in the United States. In fact, to help combat kitchen food waste, the USDA, the EPA and the FDA have developed a joint initiative to reduce wasted food by 50 percent by 2030.
The Facts about Food Waste
According to the USDA, 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted in the United States every year. Additionally, the EPA estimates that 94 percent of that food waste ends up in landfills or combustion facilities.
Not only are their environmental implications, like wasted natural resources and unnecessary methane production, but food waste also means food is diverted from food insecure populations. For those not familiar with the term, food insecurity is a broad term that defines a lack of consistent access to nutritious foods.
The economic impacts of food waste are not to be mitigated either. For example, communities across the country are struggling as landfills are reaching their capacity and the cost of refuse disposal goes up. Consumers are paying for food at the cash register and again when they throw it in the garbage.
How to Reduce Kitchen Food Waste
Now that you are more aware of why food waste is a concern, you might be wondering, “What can I do about it?” Unlike some of the other challenges we face in life, the good news is that food waste is relatively simple to tackle.
- Buy less – It might seem like an obvious solution, but in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives buying less food takes a little practice. One tip is to consider food shopping more often, but to buy less with each trip. That way, you can plan out your household’s food needs for a few days lessening the likelihood of food getting pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about.
- Food preservation – Whether you grow your own food or purchase your fruits and veggies from the farmers’ market, sometimes we all end up with too much of a good thing. Food preservation can be a way to extend the life of fresh foods. Food preservation entails everything pickling, canning, drying, freezing, fermenting and more.
- Meal Planning – One of the best approaches to reducing food waste is to plan out meals for the week. Before I go food shopping, I think about what meals I want to cook that week and create a list based on those meals. Not only has this reduced food waste in my household, but we save money on grocery bills and on less takeout meals.
- Batch Cooking – Batch cooking is a natural extension of meal planning. The goal behind batch cooking is to cook up a week’s worth of meals (or longer if you freeze meals) in one cooking session. In my house, I eat a vegetarian diet while my husband eats a paleo diet. When I batch cook, I like to freeze individual portions to pull out of the freezer for each of us.
- Food Prep – One thing I have learned about myself is that sometimes I am lazy about cooking. That’s why I prepare what I can ahead of time for cooking during the week. I wash fruits and veggies before storing in the fridge and even cut them for use during the week.
- Compost – Some food waste is going to happen no matter how diligent you are, but composting food scraps and less than fresh fruits and vegetables keeps that waste out of the landfill. If you don’t have access to a yard, consider vermicomposting, which is composting utilizing worms.
- Fridge Clean Out Meals – If you are committed to reducing food waste, there are times that you are going to have to get creative and use up whatever you have left in your fridge. One pro tip is to make a frittata using whatever vegetables, herbs and cheeses that might still be hanging around.
Kitchen Food Waste Resources
To learn more about how you can reduce food waste in your kitchen, here’s a list of resources for further research.
- EPA – Reducing Food Waste at Home
- USDA – Food Loss & Waste
- EPA – Sustainable Management of Food
- Feeding America – Hunger and Health
- NRDC – Food Waste