For the last year or so, I've really been trying to waste less food. In the US, the average household throws out a pound and a half of food every day (or in a year, almost $600 worth). I'd like to think that my household never reached that level of waste, but I'm not so sure.
Since I've become more conscious of waste, I have seen the amount of food I end up throwing away go down drastically. Here are some things I did which worked for me:
1. I buy less perishable food to begin with and keep my refrigerator about half empty. I can easily see what I have and use it up before it spoils. Is it nice to have 3 kinds of lettuce, 6 fruit choices and 5 kinds of cheese? Sure, but if I'm realistic, I know that much of that is going to go bad before it gets eaten. Instead of having a lot of choices simultaneously, I just vary what I buy from week to week.
2. I shop several times a week instead of once a week (but buy much less each time). This works if you go past a grocery store frequently as part of your regular routine. It's not such a good strategy if you have to make an extra trip into town. Really organized people can accomplish the same thing by careful meal planning. That's not realistic for me, but buying (only what I actually need in the next few days) spontaneously does seem to work in much the same way.
3. I cook smaller portions (and we eat everything up). If we are honest with ourselves, most of us could stand to eat a bit less of even the most healthy foods. Cooking just enough eliminates the very real possibility of leftovers rotting away in the back of the refrigerator. Some people love left-overs and actually eat them, but if you don't, consider cutting down on what you cook up in the first place.
What good does it do to cut down on food waste?
It's good for the environment: Food takes an enormous amount of energy and water to produce, process and transport. Wasted food is wasted water, wasted fossil fuels, and needless pollution.
It saves you a lot of money: Imagine if every household in the US saved $600 a year on food and turned around and donated that amount to their local food bank or to programs promoting food security in impoverished countries. Yes, shipping loads of food over to starving nations has never produced a lasting solution, but there are many organizations working to promote real food security based on a more complex strategy. And, while some people would argue that therapeutic food to save the life of a starving child doesn't accomplish anything in the long run, I'm not one of them. Every life matters.
I watched this very interesting documentary on food waste a few days ago. If you have Netflix streaming, you can find the full version there.
Love Food Hate Waste Top Tips
Love Food Hate Waste Campaign
Dive! (the film)
The US Wastes Half its Food
Charities Promoting Food Security and Providing Emergency Food Assistance:
Your Local Food Bank
ADRA (this is the program I personally support)