Other useful tools in reducing wasted food is to purchase what is needed and to measure and track the amount of wasted food generated. Over-purchasing food that spoils leads to wasted food and wasted money. On average, a family of four spends about $1,800 per year on food that is never consumed.1 One way to shop smarter at the supermarket is to come prepared with a list of necessary items for the week to avoid impulse buying and buying in bulk. By measuring and tracking wasted food, a person can get a sense of how much and what kind of food is wasted. Spinach that has spoiled is often thrown out. Buy frozen spinach and only defrost the amount needed for a meal. EPA has developed two useful tools for meal planning and measuring and tracking wasted food.
Many of us have the experience of purchasing food at the supermarket and, a few days later, throwing away a portion of our purchase because of spoilage. Whether it be fruits, vegetables, or meats, one common theme is wasted food and money. Therefore, it's important to understand the most optimal storage option for our food purchases. For example, apples, berries, and most vegetables are best preserved inside the fridge, while bananas, potatoes, and onions are best outside the fridge. Some items, such as fresh herbs, require additional storage techniques. By understanding how to preserve food at its optimal quality for a longer period, you'll be able to avoid unnecessary waste.
Most consumers mistake some of these phrases for measurements of food safety, as opposed to food quality. Because of this, food that might not be at its prime flavor, but still safe to eat, may be thrown away. One common way to prevent wasted food is to evaluate the food for its quality, while using best judgement. Food that is past the "sell by date" is often edible. Taste it, smell it, and then decide whether it is edible!
Most date labels are an indicator of food quality, not food safety, decided by manufacturers. Consumers mistakenly believe that all date labels are connected to food safety, whereas date labels are more commonly a means for producers and manufacturers to indicate prime condition of the item for sale purposes. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product's safety and are not required by federal law. Confusion surrounding the interpretation around date labels leads to the disposal of perfectly edible food. Below are some common phrases found on food packaging:
Currently New Jersey law only requires dairy products and shellfish to display a date label on the product, in addition to the federal law requiring baby formula to display a date label. All dairy products are required to be date labeled and any sales of product after the date marked is not permitted under NJ law. All shellfish products with a capacity of less than one-half gallon are required to display a date label but there is no restriction to selling shellfish that is past the sell-by date.
To learn more about NJ Law concerning date labels click here.
After all efforts to reduce food waste have been utilized and waste is still being generated, composting can be applied to deter excess food waste from being disposed of in landfills. A common residential source of food waste is generated right in your kitchen. Fruit and vegetable trimmings, for example, are often thrown away because they are considered inedible. Instead of landfilling these scraps, residents can turn food and garden waste into usable fertilizer. This process is more commonly known as composting.
By combining "greens" (coffee grounds, fruits and vegetables etc.) and "browns" (branches, egg shells, leaves etc.) into a compost, decomposers (worms and microbes) with the help of air and moisture, break down the food into an organic material. This breakdown releases nutrients from the food back into the soil for plants to use. By composting, you are diverting waste from landfills to be used as an organic fertilizer for agricultural purposes.
1 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Wasted: How America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. p. 4