Help! I'm A Food Waster

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My name is Heather and I'm a food waster. 

"Hi, Heather"

For breakfast this morning I decided I wanted some juicy peaches in my oatmeal. When I went looking in the fridge, I realized that the peaches I bought had gone mushy and gross. Well, that sucks. Then I went rummaging around further fridge only to discover that someone had put produce in my beer crisper and almost all the fruits and vegetables were soft and unfit for eating (at least to me...I don't eat wrinkly tomatoes). 

That's when it hit me. I'm a produce hoarder & a food waster. 

Granted I've been going on lots of trips lately and I'm not home most weekends. It's still not ok. I threw away a garbage bag worth of produce and dinner leftovers today which is MY (limited) money and energy down the drain.

But I'm not alone. In the US 40% of our food goes to waste which amounts to about $165 billion dollars, according to this article on CNN. This figure includes waste from all points of the food supply chain including stores, restaurants, farms, etc. Just think of the people we could feed with all that wasted food! The article mentions that with just a 15% reduction in food losses, we could feed 25 million Americans! 

On top of just losing money, throwing away food has a tremendous impact on the environment. Wasted food means wasted energy. Someone had to plant, harvest, refine, pack, ship, display, and sell our food unless we grow it ourselves. All of those processes require energy whether it's energy from the sun, manual labor, or mechanization.  

There are a lot of reasons food waste has increased 50% since 1970's - we can produce food more cheaply, portions have ballooned, stores want to project an air of abundance, conveinence through ready-to-eat meals, and more. There has to be a way to combat these problems.

One of my biggest problems I create for myself is that in my effort to get healthy, I want to buy A LOT of items like produce at one time. I have visions of huge salads and plates of crudites with hummus and big bowls of fruit salad but it almost never pans out. I'm only one person but I buy for a family of four half the time. 

This issue needs to be remedied quickly; both on a personal level and in our country. Soon I'm going to be living on a pretty tight budget so I cannot afford to waste so much healthy food! Here are several ways you and I can be better consumers and reduce our wastefulness:

1. Buy Smaller Quantities
If you're like me and you buy for just one or two people, buy less food at a time. The Europeans have it right! Not only is their food just plain healthier and fresher, but they go to the grocery store several times a week. Some of the best food I ever had was when I stayed with my host family in Germany. The fruit was small, ripe, and natural. The meats were free from preservatives and sodium. The bread was still warm from the bakery. We may not be able to emulate their lifestyle completely but learning to buy less at a time is a great step.

2. Less Variety
I've been "re-trying" foods I didn't like as a kid which is great but I don't need to re-try them all in one week. Sometimes I get over zealous and buy too many different things at once. It's overwhelming! 
This week I bought bell peppers instead of buying bell peppers, brussel sprouts, lima beans, and chicken liver (ok, that's NEVER happening). Take things slow.

3. Plan Ahead
This is where I fail, big time! Meal prepping is not something I've mastered yet. Heck, I barely know how to cook more than eggs and toast. But in order to prevent food waste, you have to plan ahead. Go to the store with meal plans already in mind, make a list, and stick to it! No grabbing 10 Chobani yogurts just because they are 10 for 10. 

4. Stick To The Plan
Something that happens a lot to me are impromptu dinners out. My mom and I have a horrible habit of going to "get a salad" after Boot Camp because we're both too tired lazy to make anything when we get home. First of all, if I actually end up getting a salad, that's just a waste of what I have at home. If I don't then I probably shouldn't be eating what I picked - it's laden with added sugar, sodium, fat, etc. that I could avoid by eating at home. Just don't do it.

5. Buy Local/Organic
The reasons are endless to buy from your local farmers market - sustainability, support small business, fresher products, etc. One of the biggest reasons for me is that local produce lasts longer. Think about it - less travel time to get to the consumer which means less energy, less packaging, fewer preservatives, etc. I think local and organic food products taste better as well.

6. Start A Garden/Compost
I won't be able to do this anytime soon while living in an apartment but what's better than fresh tomatoes, peppers, corn, and herbs straight from your backyard? Not only is it great for you but you can get a little activity in through maintaining your patch of earth! 

As for compost, it's natural fertilizer for your plants and garden. It's much better than sending it to a landfill to rot.

7. Be Smart When Buying In Bulk
Buying in bulk isn't all bad! Things that are less perishable like spices are great purchases at those big clubs like Costco. With produce, you can always freeze or can items for later. Sometimes if I don't eat bananas quick enough, I freeze them for Green Monster smoothies later during the week. I've also done this with gazpacho, homemade applesauce, and smoothies. 

I hope these tips help! I used them when I went to the farmer's market and grocery store today. I also have a few new recipes to try this week so look for those soon! My goal this week is to severely reduce my food waste which also means limiting eating out and cleaning up my diet again. Will you join me?

How do you prevent food waste?


  1. Aaaand now I feel totally guilty about the cherry tomatoes and spring onions that are languishing in my fridge... And I have no excuse! I'm living in Germany! I go to the shop a few times a week! And still I somehow STILL waste food. I'm going to get the hang of it eventually!

  2. I guess I'm pretty lucky... When food doesn't pass my "I'll eat this still" test, my husband pretty much eats anything unless there is mold on it haha. It's gross but less waste I guess~

  3. Ha! Ashley, my husband is the same way. ;)

  4. liveandbeawesomeJuly 23, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    My solution to this problem, mainly with veggies, is to just buy frozen veggies. The only time I eat them anyway is in stir-fries (other than my fave carrot stick snack haha), so buying bags of frozen veggies just ready to be dumped in my wok is perfect. :)

    It's hard, though! Especially when you live alone or with one other person.

  5. I am a terrible food waster as well, it's too easy to do. I am actually working to quit it as well. I told my fiance that for every item I throw away I am deducting it from the next weeks grocery budget.. motivation to eat (produce) that I buy :)

  6. I was so bad at this in the past. I'm not the best at it now, but I've gotten a lot better. I try to put things that need to be eaten quickly towards the front or try to plan meals with it right away!

  7. I am not a huge food waster but I have worked for companies that do waste incredibly amounts of food and throw out perfectly find food that could be donated because it did not sell out. I will not state the NAME of the company but it is a
    Considering poverty is still such a big issue I find this disgusting.

    As for personal food waste, I think because I plan my meals I do not waste food because I end up using the things I have bought either way :3


  8. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    Bahaha. I would make Germany my example, right? That's nothing compared to what I threw away, I promise! Americans are way, way worse!

  9. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    I'm confident that when my boyfriend and I get married, I won't have this problem. He is like a human garbage disposal :)

  10. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    I'll probably be doing a lot of frozen veggies in med school. Just heat & serve. (minus maybe spinach and tomatoes).

    I'm just super picky and don't like eating the same thing for days in a row. Terrible with leftovers!

  11. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    That's a great way to do it! I guess I need to establish a budget, too. I'm going to be terrible at budgeting!

  12. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Another great tip! I hate that when I buy fruit it's not ripe and ready to eat for a few days and then all of a sudden it's almost going bad and I have two days to eat five bananas. :( Just have to keep trying, I guess!

  13. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 25, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    That's probably where I'm headed - planned meals. BLAH.

    Companies who waste food make me so sad. People are STARVING and they just let it go to waste. My college town had a great repackaging program where restaurants in the area would donate their leftovers and we would repackage it to give to families. Obviously there were guidelines but it was a great program.

  14. liveandbeawesomeJuly 26, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    Fair enough! I'm not a big fan of leftovers either. How I get around that is if I'm making some kind of casserole or dish or whatever, I'll make the full recipe but freeze half and cook the other. Then when I want to eat the other half, all you do is thaw it out and pop it in the oven. :)