Did you know: about one-third of food bought among households across the U.S. is wasted. The average American throws away over 200 pounds of food every year. While restaurants and other entities contribute to the food waste crisis, these food waste facts make it clear that the impact of individuals and households on overall food waste is significant. 

The food wasted in the United States every year is equivalent to 130 billion meals, which could have a significant impact on the 12.8% of households who are food insecure in the U.S.

Further, because it ends up in landfills, wasted food is a major contributor to global warming. By reducing our impact on food waste in America, we can help reduce our impact on climate change as well.

However, the benefits of reducing food waste go beyond the environment and even the food itself: the average U.S. household wastes over $1,800 dollars worth of food every year

Keep reading for 5 ways to reduce food waste that you can easily incorporate into your everyday household routines.

1. Eat Your Leftovers

Arguably, the simplest way to reduce food waste at home is to eat your leftovers! Instead of throwing away what you don’t eat at dinner, put it in a container and save it for lunch the next day. The average American throws away over 200 pounds of food every year. By saving leftovers, you can reduce your individual impact on food waste, especially because cooked food can’t be composted.

If you’re not a fan of leftovers, portion food so that it can be eaten in one meal. Using a weekly meal plan and freezing food in smaller portions to preserve it can make it easy to cook meals in smaller portions.


2. Buy the Ugly Fruit

Studies show that consumers avoid buying ugly fruit and produce almost always when grocery shopping. As a result, much of this produce is wasted, as it goes bad from sitting on the shelf for long periods.

In reality, ugly fruit and produce is perfectly fine to buy and eat. We’re taught to inspect the food we buy for marks and irregularities, but odd shapes or marks on the produce’s skin are not an indication that it is spoiled. There is nothing wrong with produce on the inside, even if it doesn’t look like other fruits and veggies on the outside. 

Buying ugly fruit doesn’t change its taste or what you can do with it, and it prevents good food from going to waste.

If you’re not a fan of leftovers, portion food so that it can be eaten in one meal. Using a weekly meal plan and freezing food in smaller portions to preserve it can make it easy to cook meals in smaller portions.


3. Store Food Smartly

Storing food properly has a big impact in preserving it for longer. Meats can be portioned and frozen to extend their shelf life by a matter of months. When you’re ready to use frozen meat, simply thaw and it’s ready to go. Bread, which is one of the most wasted food items in the U.S., can also be frozen to avoid spoiling.

Utilizing airtight containers is another way to keep food fresh. Produce, for instance, stays fresh longer in airtight containers than in the bags you buy them in. Put fruit and vegetables in ziploc bags or sealed containers to preserve them for longer. Try some of these strategies to reduce food waste at home!


4. Compost

Food outputs methane and accounts for 8% of all greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to reduce food waste that goes into landfills- composting! 

Composting allows you to put food scraps back into the environment. Scraps like fruit peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds can be composted. Simply use a mason jar, bin, or other container as a composting bin to collect your food scraps. It’s best to use a container with a lid to avoid odor or any pests.

When you’re ready to dispose of your compost, bring it to a local compost site. During summer months, compost can be used directly in home or community gardens.


5. Know What Food Expiration Dates Mean

It’s frustrating when milk, eggs, and bread pass their listed expiration dates before you can use the ingredients. However, this piece of knowledge can give you a little more time to use food items and reduce food waste at home: most of the time, food is safe to eat past the listed expiration date. 

You may notice that most expiration dates start with the phrase, ‘Best if used by.’ Therefore, food is actually good a couple of days past its listed expiration date.

It’s estimated that 4 million tons of food each year goes to waste because consumers don’t understand food expiration labels. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ‘Best if used by’ labels indicate “when a product will be of best flavor or quality.” However, despite public belief, these dates do not indicate a deadline for how long the product is safe to eat.

Next time you check expiration dates to throw food away, remember that you have a little more time than you may think to consume the product. If you are concerned about identifying spoiled food, use your senses to check for odd smells, mold, or other indications that food may truly be spoiled. 


Reducing Food Waste at Home Makes a Difference

While there are a lot of conversations about how to reduce food waste in restaurants, grocery stores, and farms, reducing food waste at home can make a big difference. Food waste solutions like eating leftovers, composting, and proper food storage are easy ways to reduce your household’s food waste. When thinking about how to reduce food waste globally, adjusting individual habits is a great first step.


Midwest Food Connection teaches food education in classrooms across the Twin Cities and beyond. We help students build relationships with their food, and understand how their food choices connect to their environment and community. Through exploring new foods, healthy cooking, and gardening, kids get excited about learning how to nurture their bodies and the environment. 

Want to bring MFC to your classroom? Sign up for lessons or follow us on social media to keep up with what we’re up to!