The Denver Post, 11-7-18 Hey, take a gander at your kitchen wastebasket and see all the
money in there.
Statistics come in from several directions to show how much food we regularly waste
(closer-to-the-truth verbs would be “toss” or “throw out”).
In 2015, the last year for which it offers these sorts of numbers, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency found that Americans threw out 37.6 million tons of food.
That’s more than 200 pounds of wasted food per person. It’s the EPA that’s on this
because most of that food waste went into landfills, where it decomposed and released
methane, a greenhouse gas.
Another environmental stat: It took 20 million acres of land and 4.2 trillion gallons of
water to make just the food that was tossed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us (again, for 2015) that the average household spent $4,015 on food. The American Chemical Council adds that that year the same household threw out 16 percent of that amount, or $640 worth of food. That’s a lot of money.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that, overall, 30 to 40 percent of the
U.S. food supply is wasted, an appalling figure.
Eaters, shoppers, home cooks and chefs marshal many reasons to excuse these statistics:
that so-called expiration dates on foods are a measure of safety (when more often they are
marketing or aesthetic measures, or simply arbitrary); that food is spoiled or disfigured
and therefore unsafe (when it may be merely unsightly); or that leftovers are boring.
Close to three-quarters of all U.S. households dispose of leftovers — of their own cooking
or from the restaurants they’ve visited — at least once a month.
Over the past three or four years, I’ve tried many commonsense food management
recommendations. Some, I find, I too easily violate, such as “don’t grocery shop
when hungry.” Others become unrealistic or are too much bother, such as “keep a
food diary,” so I fail them.
Still others are simple and easy, and have become habit. Bananas that over-ripen
get frozen into chunks that turn into my favorite freezer candy. I try to grocery shop
with a menu in mind; it doesn’t matter if it is for today’s dinner only, or for a dinner party
a couple days away, or for a few meals ahead. If coupons or sales and deals goad me
into buying food that I know I customarily don’t cook and eat, I try to stave off the retail