A Consumer’s Guide to Reducing Food Waste

A Consumer’s Guide to Reducing Food Waste

Jannat Touehid Jul 24 , 2018

With about one third of the food produced in the US being wasted it is up to consumers to help drive change. There are a number of strategies we can incorporate into our daily routine to better manage how we buy, cook, and dispose of food. Here are some tips to get you started:


1)    Shop your refrigerator and pantry before buying more food at the grocery store

We all lead hectic lives, but before heading to the grocery store, spend five minutes checking your fridge and pantry to see what you already have. Arrive at the store prepared with a list of fruits, vegetables, and other items you need and know you will have time to cook that week. A quick assessment of your fridge and pantry and a grocery list will keep you from falling into the trap of buying excessive amounts of food that will go to waste. You will find you won’t have to clean out your fridge quite so often and better yet save money in the process.


2)      ‘Best by, sell by, use by’ – don’t be fooled by these confusing food labels.   

There is widespread confusion around the meaning of expiration dates. A study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic found that more than 90 percent of Americans misinterpret food labels as indicators of food safety, resulting in tossing food prematurely. The lack of consistency and regulation of food date labeling creates widespread confusion, leading consumers to waste money and throw away perfectly good food. A recent ReFED report found that standardizing date labels could prevent eight million pounds of good, safe food from going to waste. So what is the best course of action? Trusting your senses – sight, smell, and taste. Use good judgement when deciding if a food product is no longer usable.  


3)      Buy imperfect fruit and vegetables.

A key part of solving the food waste crisis is changing cultural norms. We have become so accustomed to cosmetically perfect produce that we won’t accept anything that strays from these stringent aesthetic standards. Let’s not conflate perfection with flavor. Imperfections in shape, size, and color do not impact the flavor or nutrition of a fruit or vegetable. European supermarkets such as the French grocery chain Intermarche and UK retailers Asda and Tesco are jumping on the imperfect produce bandwagon, offering ‘Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables’ and ‘Wonky Veg’ at a reduced price to consumers. In the US, a west coast supermarket chain Raley’s launched the pilot program ‘Real Good,’ aimed at educating customers about the virtues of less-than-perfect produce. A growing demand for imperfect produce is already putting pressure on big grocery chains to adjust their strict cosmetic standards.


4)      Change your approach to prepping and cooking food.

A shift in the way you think about what is deemed usable is carried into the kitchen. Instead of thinking of the leftover peels and tops from dicing a carrot as a waste product, think of this as usable product. Every time you are chopping vegetables in your kitchen, collect the trimmings and store them in a sealable container in your freezer. At the end of the week, you have a base for a delicious soup stock.



5)      Collect and compost the food scraps you cannot repurpose.

When food is thrown into landfill it emits methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In the US, food waste makes up 26 percent of what is sent to landfill. Hauling several tons of food scraps from people’s homes to rot in a landfill is no longer a viable option. Starting a compost pile in your back yard will greatly reduce the amount of trash you send to landfill each week and turn your food scraps into rich fertilizer for your garden. For all you urbanites living in a tiny apartment, you too can start composting your food scraps. A number of cities across the United States offer curbside composting. In New York City, the NYC Compost Project now manages several food scrap drop off sites throughout the five boroughs. For more information on how you can start composting in NYC click here.




Baldor’s Director of Food Service Sales and Sustainability, Thomas McQuillan, shares simple strategies everyone can implement at home to reduce food waste. Tune in below!


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