The High Cost of Wasted Food

Food waste: Bad for your wallet, bad for the planet

There was a time when kids who didn't finish every bite of their dinner heard the same refrain: Clean your plate because children were starving in China or Africa.

That was back before obesity had emerged as a national epidemic and parents worried more about waste than waistlines.

These days, all of us are trying to eat less. But if we eat smarter — by throwing away less food — we'll help save money, and the planet.

I was surprised to learn that food waste now makes up roughly 12 percent of landfill material. According to an article on, uneaten food that has spoiled or been tossed out takes up a sizeable chunk of space in our collective trash heaps.

Worse, when fruits, veggies and grains — in other words, foods that spoil quickly — get tossed out, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is damaging the planet.

Fortunately, experts have some suggestions on how to make a few, simple changes to prevent throwing out food.

Four ways to fight food waste:

  • Don't over-shop. Who isn't tempted to try a new product, two-for-one specials and all those tantalizing snacks that are cleverly placed on the endcaps at the grocery store? Experts say that savvy marketing often means we bring home more food than we planned on buying. Stay aware of how much food you realistically need, and you'll reduce the amount of food that winds up in the trash.
  • Make a shopping list. If you — like me — tend to walk into a grocery store without a plan, you're more likely to throw out food. Arm yourself with a shopping list, however, and the advance planning lessens the chance that you'll buy more than you need.
  • Buy foods you like. It sounds simple enough, but I've got a few condiments and canned goods that I bought on a whim, even though I know they're not my favorites. The result? I've had a tin of smoked oysters in my cupboard for about five years.
  • Repurpose leftovers. MSNBC experts suggest planning ahead to turn leftovers into another meal each week. Try using extra fish or chicken on a salad or in a soup. Toss aging veggies into stir-fry or a soup, and add fruit to cereal bowl or a green salad.

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