Faces of Food Waste E03: Why is Food Being Easily Wasted at Home
Households and the Food Waste Problem
Up to 40% of the content in household bins is food! Households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste. This is a statement that we need to focus more on, each and every one of us, because it’s about us.
Food waste is a global issue that needs to be tackled now more than ever. A third of our food that should be eaten, is wasted. When you think about it, that number is huge. Throughout the food’s different stages, from production until consumption, food is wasted for reasons that are not even logical or fair for the environment.
However, the shocking yet not surprising aspect, is that at homes, food waste is at its biggest. Most people are not aware of how much food they throw away daily from uneaten leftovers or spoiled produce. Let’s go into detail how food is easily wasted by households.
How is food wasted at home?
About two-thirds of food waste at home is due to food not being used before it goes bad. Half of the food spoiled or gone bad at home happens when we don’t store it properly or gets lost at the back of cupboards and fridges, as well as partially used ingredients that end up on the side.
Date Label Confusions
The expiry dates or date labels on food products can be misleading for the consumers. A large amount of safe food is wasted just by the confusion of the printed dates on the packages, e.g., “sell by,” “best if used by,” “expires by,” and so forth.
These dates might highlight the quality of food and how fresh it is, but they don’t necessarily mean that the food is spoiled and cannot be used or consumed after that date. The sell by a specific date that we sometimes see on the packaging is just an indication for the sellers on peak quality but not on the safety of the food.
Around 20% of all the food bought is wasted. That amounts to 1 in 5 bags of groceries bought is thrown away. One side is that people often do not check their cupboards before going grocery shopping or do not create food lists, and end up buying more than needed or inaccurate estimates of what and how many ingredients they will use during the week.
Another side of overbuying is the sales and promotions on unusual products that encourage impulse and bulk food purchases which in turn leads consumers to purchase items that do not fit into their regular meal plans.
Over-Preparing and Leftovers
How many people are cooking more than they need for their meals? How much more they are preparing that exceeds their portions? This is one of the most apparent reasons for food being wasted on a daily basis at homes.
For sure keeping leftovers to eat the next day lessens the issue of food waste, however when those leftovers are forgotten at the back of the fridge and spoil, it leads to the result we were trying to prevent… food thrown out.
Sudden take away food, or restaurant outings lead to these meals being thrown out. Yes, we can’t always say no to lunch outings or craving a take away meal every time, but the consequences are badly managed.
Here. we can mix the no-meal-prep and over shopping reasons to form the poor planning reason for food waste. People who don’t consider meal prepping tend to waste more food because they unconsciously buy more than the required amount or simply to have a wider range of food choices, but end up with an excess of food that is ultimately thrown away.
The poor planning for the daily meals or weekly one, lead to a chain reaction that ends up in food waste.
Food is lost for different reasons throughout its stages, from agriculture to distribution and long before it reaches stores and homes. However, one of the causes that contribute to food waste is at households by food spoilage, Date Label Confusions, overbuying, over-preparing and poor planning. Food ends up in household bins on a daily basis with grave consequences.
Most of the food waste is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed. Doesn’t throwing away a large sum of food is a result of unawareness of the actions that could have been easily managed or with a tiny tweak of a recipe?
This is one face of food waste out of many.
Natural Resources Defense Council. “Two-Thirds of Food Wasted at Home in Three Major U.S. Cities is Edible.” NRDC, October 25, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.nrdc.org/media/2017/171024-0
Gunders, Dana. “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.” Natural Resources Defense Council, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf
Food Marketing Institute, “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2015,” FMI, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.fmi.org/forms/store/ProductFormPublic/u-s-grocery-shopper-trends-2015-full-report
United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist. “U.S. Food Waste Challenge: FAQ’s.” USDA, June 2013. Retrieved April 2015, from