Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, and other biotech bullies are still telling the world they are trying to feed us with their GM foods, but I think most of us are on to their shady tactics. I will venture that in order to feed a growing population, one thing we need to start doing is STOP wasting so much food.
Americans Waste so Much Food!
In making food, we also waste 25% of our fresh water, and don’t get me started on all the plastic packaging we create to ship and store this food that is full of hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-a (BPA). When you realize that most Americans don’t think its their house causing the food waste problem, consider this:
- One study found that when consumers were shown two different cucumbers, one wrapped in plastic, and the other – just a cucumber – 75% would choose the unwrapped cucumber. Tell the consumer that the wrapped cucumber would last longer, though, and the number totally flips.
- Almost everyone has thrown away leftovers because no one wants to eat them.
- Have you ever thrown our a bruised apple or browning banana?
- Have you thrown out food because it became stale or started to ‘go bad?’
- Consumers often confuse ‘sell by’ dates with ‘consume by’ dates and waste this food.
- Many ‘best before’ dates that are used by food producers are completely arbitrary.
- Have you ever ‘shopped without a list’ and bought food that ends up in the trash bin?
- The transport of food over long distances often causes it to actually spoil before it ever reaches your table.
An article from US News says that “Americans really are throwing money into the trash bins on the curb” with all the food we waste.
According to a report published by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American throws away about 25 percent of food and beverages purchased. For a family of four, the money wasted likely totals between $1,365 and $2,275.
This totals to an annual food waste in the US, according to Second Harvest, of over 41 billion pounds, or $43 billion dollars worth of food. Fifteen percent of that includes products that are within their expiration date but are never even opened. According USDA stats, 133 billion pounds of food went uneaten in 2010 alone.
And it doesn’t stop there. Yearly, America’s convenience stores, restaurants and supermarkets also throw out about 27 million tons of edible food worth $30 billion.
We should start thinking more about the hungry families that can’t even afford to buy a sack of rice in third world countries. Or the farmers in India that have gown bankrupt trying to grow GM crops. Or the homeless right here in America.
10 Ways to Stop the Food Waste
The good news is that there is much we can do to change this consumer-driven, gluttonous behavior. Here are just 10 ways to stop the food waste:
- 1. Plan your meals. I know – who has time to actually look at a recipe and go shopping with a list? It may seem like an obnoxious thing to ask of people who are already over-worked and too tired to even pull a frozen dinner out of the fridge, but not only will your health likely be affected positively by cooking and eating at home since you’ll actually know what is in your food, but you won’t waste so much of it or contribute to fast food establishments who do. Shopping ‘on the fly’ also means you are more likely to purchase things on a whim that you don’t get around to eating, and then end up rotting in your fridge or pantry.
- 2. Don’t throw out browning and bruised fruit. You can do so much with fruit that is a ‘little too ripe” or is starting to show its age. It doesn’t have to end up in the trashcan. You can make all-fruit jellies, throw browning bananas or mangoes in the freezer and pull them out later to add to green smoothies, or make fruit compote – a lovely addition to healthy, gluten-free desserts.
- 3. Don’t throw those food scraps out. Consider adding the last bits of uneaten meat and vegetables for a savory broth, or another future meal. Imagine how delicious a few carrots, a random piece of onion, some wilted celery, and a few herbs can be in a soup or stew.
- 4. Got stale bread? Feed it to the birds at the park, or even better, make bread crumbs in the oven for salads. Or for those of you with a sweet tooth – bread pudding is lovely made with stale, hard bread.
- 5. Preserve Your Herbs. If you buy fresh herbs from the farmers market or even grow them yourself, use them up if you can. Any herbs you aren’t going to consume before they start to go bad can be fried or frozen. You can also add herbs with a little water to ice-cube trays and freeze them and pull them out whenever you are going to make a soup – now you have instant flavoring.
- 6. Cook more than one meal at a time. To reduce energy and water waste, consider cooking more than one thing in your oven at once. It takes about the same amount of energy to cook one meal as it does multiple, so why not double it, and freeze the rest so that fresh ingredients don’t go bad. There are tons or recipes for ‘cooking in advance.’ This will also save you a trip to those fast food death traps.
- 7. If you use cooking oil frequently, you can strain it to reuse it more than once. Just be sure that your oil doesn’t go rancid. If it is stored properly, you can re-use oil many times. Just stay away from highly processed, hydrogenated oils.
- 8. Freeze milk that is about to turn sour. You may not want to drink milk that has been frozen, but it can be used in baking, or other recipes and you’ll never know the difference.
- 9. Don’t throw away the top of celery stalks – The leafy part of celery always gets a bad wrap. If you dehydrate celery and grind it, it is a wonderful seasoning.
- 10. Compost. The mother of all food waste reduction is composting your food scraps. Natural Society has lots of articles about composting, but check out this one in particular. You can also learn all you need to know about using your kitchen scraps, yard waste, and even farm animal manure in compost on a multitude of sites.
Featured image credit: The Daily Hiit
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.