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Americans Toss Out 40% of All Food
Old 12-16-2009, 01:13 PM   #1
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Americans Toss Out 40% of All Food

Americans Toss Out 40% of All Food
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:08 PM   #2
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Not too surprising. I bet a relatively small proportion is regular meals eaten at home and a larger proportion is uneaten food at restaurants, catered events, parties, etc. I'm always amazed at these catered parties and events I go to where by the end of the night, 80% of the food we started with is still there.

On a personal level, our family wastes very little food. We eat leftovers or freeze then eat leftovers. We often take food home from the office events/parties (within reason, I'm not that cheap!). Get to go boxes from restaurant meals, etc.

But there is always some waste - 1/4 of the gallon of milk seems to always go bad before getting drank. Some bread and rice. Probably 95% of the stuff we buy from the grocery store gets eaten by somebody, and half of the waste gets eaten by the cats outside or the geese. Efficient use of food shows in our monthly grocery bill.
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:10 PM   #3
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Not in our house! It is very rare that we throw food out. "Waste Not" was my grandmother's motto and it stuck with me.

My favorite charity to give money to is the local food bank because they collect food that would otherwise end up in the bin and redistribute it instead to people who actually need it.
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:22 PM   #4
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Not in our house ! My SO is a human garbage disposal . He eats all the leftovers .
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:27 PM   #5
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I'm not too surprised. Food is cheap. People are busy and don't have/take the time to make use of what they have or to take stock of what they have before buying more. And the pricing of food plays a role: When 1/2 gallon of milk costs just 10 cents more than a quart, I'll buy the 1/2 gallon even though I'll probably not use it all.

Question: If I throw away a half-used jar of Cheez-Whiz, have I really thrown out any food? I think this needs to be part of the thrown-away food calculation--I'l bet a ot of what they counted as discarded food was really hydrogenplastic-1-emulsificatedoleoesters.

George Carlin on leftovers (paraphrasing):
Leftovers make you feel good twice. When you put them in the refrigerator you say "Man, I'm doing a good thing. I'm saving money and I'm not wasting the earth's resources". Then, two weeks later when the thing is all green and fuzzy you see it again and throw it away. You feel good again! "Man, I'm saving my life!"
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:49 PM   #6
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And the pricing of food plays a role: When 1/2 gallon of milk costs just 10 cents more than a quart, I'll buy the 1/2 gallon even though I'll probably not use it all.
That's what we do too. 1/2 gal is $2, and 1 gal is $2.50. So I pay the extra $0.50 and if I use up just a little more than 0.625 gal, I'm coming out ahead. We rarely drink a whole gallon of milk before it goes bad, but we frequently consume more than 1/2 gal. Strange economies by the retailer, but I'll play the game.

Same with apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, etc that are often just as cheap or just slightly more for 5-10 pounds vs. 3 pounds. Sometimes the larger size is actually cheaper than the smaller size (in absolute terms, not per unit)! Maybe we use it all, maybe we give some away, maybe we throw some out. We seem to get random veggies or other food items from family who have done something similar or bought stuff they don't like, so it works out well usually. Having 30-40 or so family members in town probably helps.

What I find strange are the people that never eat left overs, never take food home from a restaurant, and don't really care if they throw away half of what they buy just because they changed their mind about what they wanted to eat on that particular night. And I'm not referring to people who are clearly very wealthy. Then they wonder how they spend $600 a month on groceries when they hardly eat at home! But hey it is their money.
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Old 12-16-2009, 03:11 PM   #7
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A while back Oprah did a show on wasteful families. I can't remember the details but IIRC, this family of 4 or 5 let a cameraman follow them around for a week or so. The mother went grocery shopping and before she left she went through her cupboards and the fridge to see what they needed. In the process, she threw out a ton of stuff. One of her kids would open a box of snack crackers, eat a few, put them back in the cupboard. Two days later, the mother would look at the still nearly full box - and toss it. She threw out big bottles of soda that was still 3/4 full and not flat. The waste was incredible. I'm guilty of throwing out food but I never imagined that people were as wasteful as these folks.

The other thing I remember was that the father was always turning down the heat - the daughter would crank it up to 82 (literally!) instead of putting on a sweater.

At the end, when the family saw the video of themselves and their wasteful ways they were "shocked" and vowed they'd do better. But I'll bet the Mom is still throwing out nearly full snack boxes.
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Old 12-16-2009, 03:16 PM   #8
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Must be time to buy one of those Foodsaver thingys or those green colored bags you see on the informercials while channel flippin'. Spend $1 for a plastic bag to store $0.10 worth of celery. Hah!

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Old 12-16-2009, 03:55 PM   #9
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Must be time to buy one of those Foodsaver thingys or those green colored bags you see on the informercials while channel flippin'. Spend $1 for a plastic bag to store $0.10 worth of celery. Hah!
I'd rather buy the ziplock storage bags from walmart for $0.02 to $0.05 a bag like we do now. And a hundred clothespins for $3 or so. That should go a long ways in helping to keep food fresh and store food properly. The cost can be recouped on the first couple of items that are saved instead of thrown out.

This is a pet peeve of mine in regards to my in-laws. Sam's club sized bags of chips, cookies, cereal, snacks, etc. Never closed. 2 days later, the food is stale and ruined. Then the 3/4 full bag lingers on the counter for a couple days more with no one eating any more of the item, then it gently meanders to the trash can eventually. How can you convince someone that they could probably save many hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars per year with proper use of some ziplock bags and a few clothespins/chip clips? Next to the $500 electricity bill in their 1200 sf house, it really bugs me. They get by paycheck to paycheck and it is a shame that waste occurs so readily. But they grew up literally starving (not Great Depression American style "starving" - I mean literally starving in a war torn 3rd world country and bouncing around refugee camps). As a result, I think their attitude toward food is simply - we have the money and food is cheap, there is no need to conserve, who cares if we waste some as long as everyone has instant access to food all the time.

/rant off
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Old 12-16-2009, 04:56 PM   #10
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How can you convince someone that they could probably save many hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars per year with proper use of some ziplock bags and a few clothespins/chip clips?
It seems many/most Americans cut their expenses when the opportunity is explicit and served up on a plate with a flashing neon sign. The glossy SALE PAPERS that come in the Sunday newspaper get a lot of takers. But the use of a fifty cent chip clip, a light switch, or spending an hour to change their MFs to a low ER fund and save thousands per year--these opportunities go largely unexploited. Compact florescent lights should have been a no-brainer once the kinks were worked out, but look how long it has taken for them to attain any significant market share.
Maybe Vanguard should advertise more heavily and only allow transfers for one month per year. Generate some excitement/motivation to act now. "Quick! Take advantage of the investment sidewalk sale! One month only! Time is running out! This sale on low cost mutual funds positively must end July 31st!"
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Old 12-16-2009, 04:57 PM   #11
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It's a shame really that we waste food. I used to end up throwing away a lot of stuff, but I am getting better at it.

A lot of people at work bring in left over birthday cake, cookies that are good but they don't like or they have in excess, excess fruit from their fruit trees, etc... I bought 2 cheese balls (2 for 1 so I had to!) and assortments of crackers for the thanksgiving weekend but I still have 1 cheese ball and crackers left, so I think I will bring them into work this week.. At least that way, I don't feel like I am wasting the food (otherwise, the cheese will just sit there in a fridge for months at this point since I am not expecting any big gathering for a while.)
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Old 12-16-2009, 05:18 PM   #12
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when i go to costco. if i get something that is big bag of stuff that needs to be kept
sealed, i will transfer it into separate smaller ziploc bags right away
if some of it can be frozen i'll put some of the bags in the freezer.
i find i don't waste much at all this way.
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Old 12-16-2009, 05:42 PM   #13
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I would be interested in seeing the science behind this article. As previously stated, they may be talking largely about restaurant food waste. I just don't see 40% in the home, even with the stale chips and cheese whiz mentioned above. How do they define food? Am I throwing out 2 lbs of food if I toss the turkey carcass instead of using it to make stock? Throwing away the bacon fat instead of using it to fry my own pork rinds? Composting the tough ends of the asparagus instead of choking it down? As was discussed in another thread, there are a lot of things some cultures consider food that I don't. Just show me the facts, ma'am.

Edit: Just reread it to make sure I didn't miss any attribution. I guess I'm just not convinced by "a new study". Not even "a new study by the University of Starving Indian Kids" or anything.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:02 PM   #14
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How do they define food? Am I throwing out 2 lbs of food if I toss the turkey carcass instead of using it to make stock? Throwing away the bacon fat instead of using it to fry my own pork rinds? Composting the tough ends of the asparagus instead of choking it down?
That pretty much covers all the food waste in my house, except for fat cut off of steaks or an occasional spoiled banana or bad apple. On the other hand, often at restaurants I might not eat all of the gargantuan portion served, and might not be able to take it home in a "to go" box depending on our plans for the rest of the evening.

I really wish that most restaurants would offer a half-sized portions to anyone, at a correspondingly lesser price.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:09 PM   #15
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I don't know how things are now, but when I was in college (sometime in the last millenium) I worked at a KFC. We tried not to, but sometimes we'd have food left over when closing time came. I asked the boss if I could take it home to my house full of broke, stoned, starving, hippie housemates. But he said no. There was some tax issue, I guess claiming a certain amount of waste.

As with anything, there were ways around this. A clean trash bag just before dumping the food, and my car parked directly beside the dumpster took care of the issue. Besides being a starving stoned hippy, I was appalled by the waste even back then. Of course, waking up the next afternoon and finding pyramids of chicken bones on the coffee table wasn't too cool, but at least we weren't adding to the 40%.

And before anybody asks, no, I never cooked extra to take home. If it was there, fine, but I only stole from the garbage, not the store.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:12 PM   #16
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I frequently order an appetizer and something else, like a dessert or side salad instead of an entree at restaurants. I shop 2 or 3 times a week just picking up enough for a couple of days. But this is easy for me to do as I live near my office and I get out of work early by most people's reckoning. I hate to have to pitch food. I do sometimes freeze leftovers then end up pitching them in a year when they become frost-bitten mystery parcels...yeah, I'm terrible about labeling stuff.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:13 PM   #17
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I would be interested in seeing the science behind this article. As previously stated, they may be talking largely about restaurant food waste. I just don't see 40% in the home, even with the stale chips and cheese whiz mentioned above. How do they define food? Am I throwing out 2 lbs of food if I toss the turkey carcass instead of using it to make stock? Throwing away the bacon fat instead of using it to fry my own pork rinds? Composting the tough ends of the asparagus instead of choking it down? As was discussed in another thread, there are a lot of things some cultures consider food that I don't. Just show me the facts, ma'am.

Edit: Just reread it to make sure I didn't miss any attribution. I guess I'm just not convinced by "a new study". Not even "a new study by the University of Starving Indian Kids" or anything.
On the same website there's a similar article here.

In the United States, as much as 30 percent of food, worth about $48.3 billion, is tossed out each year, according to the report by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Not sure about the science, but there's a source or two. Note difference in amount of food wasted between the two articles. Still, I have seen similar figures stated elsewhere WRT overflowing landfills.
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Old 12-16-2009, 07:25 PM   #18
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Some folks have touched on the restaurants and their issues but grocery stores & deli's face equal issues with date expirations. It's not uncommon for a store to fill grocery carts and dumpsters behind their stores. My local fav puts carts full out daily and leave them in store carts till after dark daily. There are a couple of homeless who seem to be shopping there fairly often that I have seen. Shhhhhhhh don't let the corporate office find out!
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Old 12-16-2009, 10:00 PM   #19
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I was taught early on to finish the meal on your plate. Also, I do eat leftovers, and use one of those Foodsaver machines to keep fresh and not waste food. Yet, I'm not surprised of the statistic from the article of the original poster that we waste about 40% of all food. I seen people who refuse to eat leftovers, and those who routinely overshop for groceries only let let food spoil then ever couple of weeks toss out several pounds of spoiled vegetables, and hardly used loaves of bread.
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Old 12-17-2009, 06:29 AM   #20
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I probably end up not using 40% of the garden produce because I can't keep up with it. But it goes back into feeding the soil. If I have something in the fridge that I don't like, I use the time honored method of keeping it until it grows some secondary stuff, then it gets composted.

I have been known to take a potato peeler to the tough ends of my asparagus fresh out of the garden. The inside of the stalk is tender and good if you take off the tough skin.

I expect to do better after I retire. I won't have the excuse of running out of time to deal with it.
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