Save Money and Resources by Reducing Food Waste

Learn how to reduce your food waste, save money, and preserve precious resources by shopping wisely, eating leftovers and more.

  • Food Waste Graphic
    The repercussions of wasted food go way beyond money down the drain; other negative consequences include wasted fresh water and energy as well as increased methane production.
    Illustration By the Natural Resources Defense Council

  • Food Waste Graphic

This article is reposted with permission from The Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Saving Leftovers Saves Money and Resources

Feeding the U.S. population requires an enormous amount of land and resources. Yet, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste. When the resources to grow that food are considered, this amounts to approximately 25 percent of all freshwater, 4 percent of the oil we consume, and more than $165 billion dollars all dedicated to producing food that never gets eaten. Reducing your own food waste is an easy way to trim down your bills and your environmental footprint.

How Much Do We Waste?

In the U.S., we waste around 40 percent of all edible food. A large portion of that waste is caused by consumers. The average American throws away between $28-43 in the form of about 20 pounds of food each month.If we
wasted just 15 percent less food, it would be enough to feed 25 million Americans.Feeding the planet is already a struggle, and will only become more difficult with 9-10 billion people expected on the planet in 2050. This makes food conservation all the more important. The United Nations has predicted that we’ll need up to 70 percent more food to feed that projected population. Developing habits to save food now could dramatically reduce the need for increased food production in the future.

What Does Food Waste Cost Us?

The cost of wasted food is staggering. In addition to the wasting of water, energy, chemicals, and global warming pollution that goes into producing, packaging, and transporting discarded food, nearly all of the food waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Consider these cost estimates of all the food that never gets eaten in the U.S., and imagine just how much we can save by wasting less food:

  • 25 percent of all freshwater used in U.S.
  • 4 percent of total U.S. oil consumption
  • $165 billion per year (more than $40 billion from households)
  • $750 million per year just to dispose of the food
  • 33 million tons of landfill waste (leading to greenhouse gas emissions)

Where Does Food Waste Come From?

Food waste is a complex problem with losses occurring throughout the supply chain from “farm to fork.” Crops are sometimes left unharvested because their appearance does not meet strict quality standards imposed by supermarkets. Food can be mishandled or stored improperly during transport. Large portions, large menus, and poor training for food handlers contribute to food waste in restaurants. In households, fresh products make up most of the wasted food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a typical American throws out 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk. Citrus fruits and cherries top the list for fruits, and sweet potatoes, onions, and greens are commonly wasted vegetables.

Much of household waste is due to overpurchasing, food spoilage, and plate waste. About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much. Single households produce proportionately more waste per person than multiple occupancy situations with more than one adult. Children, however, can add to the waste tally too. In fact, in a study of British households, those with children produced 41 percent more food waste than similarly sized households without children.The good news is we can reverse this costly food waste trend. Follow these tips and you’ll finish your plate feeling satisfied in a whole new way.

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