Reducing Food Waste

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT

Access to nutritious food is crucial to the health of both children and adults. Unfortunately, hunger is a concern in countries across the world, including the United States. There are numerous factors that cause hunger, one of which is food waste. Food waste is the loss of uneaten food by individuals and establishments, including grocers and restaurants that discard or dispose of food despite it being fit for consumption, while poorer individuals and families may not have access to the nutritional foods necessary for a healthy diet. Globally, one-third of food is lost before it can reach the people who need it. In the U.S., up to 40 percent of food is uneaten and ends up in landfills. This problem can be resolved if individuals and businesses alter their practices to reduce the amount of food that is wasted annually. Consumers, in particular, can do their part by taking action to change wasteful habits.

Buy Food with Care

When buying food, shop only for items that are needed. These items, if fresh, should be foods that will be used up quickly, ideally within a week. To reduce impulse purchasing, plan out meals for the week before going shopping. Use this meal plan to create a list of foods that are needed to create these meals. On shopping days, follow the list and avoid shopping when hungry, as this can result in buying more food than required, increasing the chance it will be wasted.

Understand the Dates

The dates on cans, jars, meat, and other items can be a source of confusion that results in food being thrown away prematurely. In some cases, foods may be safely eaten beyond the date that is listed; however, one must first understand what the dates mean. “Sell by” on a food package indicates that the stores should sell the item before or by the date that has been listed. A “Best if Used By” date is meant to inform the consumer that the quality and flavor of the item is at its best before the day, month, and year that is listed. Both of these types of dating are not meant to imply the food is inedible or that it has gone bad. Only foods that are labeled with “Use-By” or “Expires on” should be used before the date arrives. These indicate that the manufacturer has determined that food should not be used beyond the given date.


Leftover food items are often pushed to the back of one’s refrigerator when new meals are prepared. To prevent this from happening, food should be properly stored and placed in an area that is up front and highly visible. Labeling leftovers with the date and contents may also prove helpful in ensuring food is consumed in a timely fashion and not forgotten and eventually thrown out. Certain foods, such as leftover roast chicken or turkey, can be used creatively to make new meals. Meal replacements similar to Almased or Shakeology can claim to help with food waste, but we are always skeptical about the side effects and effectiveness of meal replacements.

Use the Freezer

Sometimes it isn’t possible to eat food before it spoils or loses its freshness. To prevent this from happening, one can put items in the freezer to keep them fresh longer. Before freezing food it is important to know how to do so safely. In general raw chicken and other meat can be wrapped in freezer paper and placed into a freezer bag. It is also safe and simple to freeze most fruits and vegetables. These can be put into the freezer without preparation or, if they won’t be used for a while, they can be blanched to help preserve their vitamin content and color. When using freezer bags, remove all air from the bag to minimize the formation of ice crystals. Excess or leftover food may also be frozen. A helpful tip for some is to freeze food in usable portion sizes, so that one can thaw out exactly what is needed for a meal or snack. Although foods are frozen, they cannot be kept indefinitely. Label items with the date that they were frozen and incorporate them into meals and snacks.

Misshapen Food

Most people pass over fruits and vegetables that are irregular. Often, this is out of fear that it is inferior in some way to food that has formed properly. Although these foods are unattractive, they have the same nutritional value and taste as perfectly-shaped items. Make a conscious effort to purchase these misshapen, misfit foods as they are often thrown away by stores that only want to sell the most appealing items.

Donate Food

There are times when a person may have excess food from a fruit tree or a garden. At other times, people may purchase more food than they or their family requires. When this happens, they may discard the excess or leave it uneaten so that it eventually rots. Rather than waste good food, donate it to a local food bank or food rescue program that helps feed those less fortunate.

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.