Food Waste: A Problem We can Solve


About half the food that is grown around the world is never eaten. Much of that waste occurs on farms, processing plants, and supermarkets.  On average, every one of us throws away 23 pounds of food per month—close to 25% of what we buy, adding up to 1,365 pounds or $2,275 annually (NRDC, 2012).

Think of the impact of fuel, water, fertilizer and other resources used to grow, process, transport, and then dispose of all that food; think of the billions of dollars – $162 billion ! (Time July 2014) we’re discarding. Aren’t there better ways to spend it?  Consumers and producers throw away enough to feed twice the people who live here today. Food waste is a problem we can solve.


  • Make lists, for just a few days, weekly, or monthly. Avoid impulse buys—if you don’t know when you’re going to use it, don’t buy it/
  • Try to choose dishes that incorporate the same ingredients. If you’re making a pasta sauce with tomato paste on Monday, slot in a veggie loaf that uses the rest of the can on Wednesday.
  • When we decide how much of an ingredient to buy, we usually figure out how much we need and then buy a little more, just in case. Here’s a new policy: Buy a little less. Keep quick-cooking ingredients (quinoa, pasta) on hand if someone is hungry.
  • Buy the smaller package, even if it costs more per serving. An 8-oz. container of cottage cheese may cost only a little bit less than the 16-oz. container. But if you’re going to throw away half of it, it’s cheaper to buy the smaller package.
  • If you’ve thrown something out three times in the past few months, don’t buy it again unless you know exactly when you’ll be eating it.



Taking a few extra minutes to store foods properly makes them last longer.

  • After opening containers of cottage cheese, sour cream, or yogurt with liquid mixed in thoroughly —close them tightly and place container upside down on the refrigerator shelf. This reduces the amount of air –which is needed to form mold–on the top layer.
  • Before freezing fresh meat over wrap it with air tight plastic wrap or a plastic bag. It will keep longer.
  • If you’re going to freeze food, do it when food is fresh, not when it’s already halfway bad.
  • Put lettuce and greens in the crisper, wrapped loosely in plastic bags with holes in them.



Don’t throw food away for cosmetic reasons:

  • Cut away blemishes or rot to make great sauces or compotes
  • Give food a second chance. Collect recipes that use leftovers; instead of preparing pre-cooked ingredients, use what’s left over from a previous meal.
  • Expiration dates don’t tell the whole story. If a food smells and tastes ok, even if it’s past its expiration date, don’t give up on it. Just don’t serve it to babies, the elderly, or people with health problems. Be careful, though—any meat, fish, or jarred/canned food that smells even slightly off should be discarded.
  • Look for  discount shelves and clean dumpsters that provide great opportunities to rescue food.



  • Cultivate friends, neighbors, and groups that are happy to take leftovers and bits and pieces that you can’t use—whether it’s half a jar of a jam you don’t love or ten pounds of meat leftover from a major bash.
  • Join or support groups that salvage food and distribute it to the needy.



If all else fails, most food can be recycled as compost. There are compost stations throughout the city and more are coming. Most food—vegetables, bread, pasta– can be composted.




LOVE FOOD, HATE WASTE: A free downloadable app

Address the Excess – A Recipe for Cutting Food Waste: NRDC’s Peter Lehner at TEDxManhattan

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