Hello Loyal Soup People! This week I’d like to return to the issue of food waste. I know I’ve touched on this before, but I have read even more about the issue, and I’d like to share my thoughts. Here’s a staggering statistic: In the United States, we throw away 40% of the available calories in our food supply, while up to 15% of households nationally experience food insecurity. Literally more than a billion pounds of edible food gets thrown away every year. One billion pounds. That statistic is staggering.
What’s worse is that decomposing food in landfills releases methane which is a huge contributor to climate change. Tossing food is not only incredibly wasteful (it represents a loss of $240 billion to the US economy), but it is also terrible for the environment.
Why do we waste so much? Quite simply, we produce too much! In the US, we are accustomed to seeing shelves always full of fresh produce, dairy, eggs, etc. We find the sight of empty supermarket shelves ahead of snowstorms to be hilarious and unfamiliar. Rest assured, on a normal day, markets don’t come close to selling all of that fresh food. They factor huge amounts of waste into their budgets.
Quite simply, we must stop wasting so much. We must stop over-buying, so we can stop over-producing! We must start being responsible shoppers and consumers. Here are a few tips to help you waste less food:
– Be a smart shopper. Always bring a list with you when you shop. Avoid impulse buys. Be aware of your schedule for the week. If you know you are going to have a busy week and won’t be home for dinner most nights, avoid purchasing highly perishable items.
– Embrace your freezer. If you think you won’t finish eating certain foods in your refrigerator, freeze them! Instead of buying fresh items the next week, head to your freezer! Many items freeze incredibly well – especially soup!!
– Be smart about expiration dates. As I’ve mentioned before, expiration dates on many foods are really arbitrary. Many food items are safe to eat well beyond the dates listed on the containers. Also, sell-by dates are very different than use-by dates. If something looks, smells, and tastes good, don’t throw it away!
– Use your scraps. We often over-peel and toss away valuable peels and scraps. If you wash your potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes – there is no need to peel them! You are simply throwing away valuable nutrients and vitamins. If you do end up peeling, use the peels to make vegetable stock! Bake the potato peels for homemade chips! Just be sure to wash the produce before cooking.
– Embrace composting. Avoid throwing away food by signing up for a compost service. Fortunately, the DC area is home to many wonderful compost companies. We love the crew at Compost Cab! They pick up right at your door, or you can bring your compost to them at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market every Sunday.
The most important thing you can do is to simply be aware. Be thoughtful about your food choices. Simply paying more attention to your buying habits can make a huge difference. If we make changes on an individual level, we can impact our entire food system.
*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!