Reducing Your Food Waste
In 2010, the single largest component of municipal solid waste being sent to landfills was not
paper or plastic, aluminum cans or glass, but food waste. Roughly 33 million tons of food waste
was thrown out in 2010. Food waste, which includes uneaten food and food preparation scraps,
can be hard on our environment and our wallets. Think about your last meal. What resources
did it take to get that food to your fork? Consider the soil, nutrients, water, and energy required
to produce, process, and transport that bite. Chew on these practical tips to reduce your food
waste and stretch your food dollars.
Plan ahead. Make a list of ingredients and items needed for your menu and purchase only
those items. Before purchasing items at the store, shop in your pantry. Use up items you
Buy only what you need. Purchasing items in bulk can reduce packaging. However, make
sure you can properly store and use those items by the expiration date.
Think portion size. Have you ever heard the saying “my eyes were bigger than my
stomach”? Take only what you can eat. Eating out? Portion sizes at some restaurants can
be too large, resulting in more food waste. Ask your server if you can split your entrée with
a friend or order from the children’s menu (as their portion sizes tend to be smaller).
If you have too much of a food item or ingredient that you aren’t able to use before the
expiration date, contact a local food shelter or pantry to see if they can use the item. To
find local food banks in your area, type “food donations” with your zip code or city and
state on your computer Internet browser, or contact your local county Extension office.
Save and eat your leftovers. Leftovers can be used for lunches the next day or to create new
dishes and meals. Designate one weeknight as leftover night – set leftovers out in buffet
style for the family to enjoy. Who knows what tasty creation may result.
Compost food scraps. Any organic materials can be composted, however, some materials
are easier and more desirable to work with than others. Items to include in your compost
bin include cardboard rolls, clean paper, coffee grounds and filters, cotton and wool rags,
dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, eggshells, fireplace ashes, fruits and vegetables, grass
clippings, hair and fur, hay and straw, houseplants, leaves, nut shells, sawdust, shredded
newspaper, tea bags, wood chips, and yard trimmings. Items to avoid and NOT include in
your compost bin include black walnut tree leaves and twigs, coal or charcoal ash, dairy
products, diseased or insect-ridden plants, fats, greases, oils, meats, fish bones, pet wastes,
and yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides. For more information contact your
county Extension office or Solid Waste Coordinator.
Household Food Waste – US EPA. Retrieved at
http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/food/fd-house.htm on August 20, 2012.
Wasted Food. Retrieved at http://www.wastedfood.com/ on August 20, 2012.
Ashley Osborne, Extension Associate for Environmental Issues. August 2012.