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How To Reduce Food Waste, Save Money and Help the Environment

buffet causes food waste

How to reduce food waste, save money and help the environment, by changing poor shopping habits and ending the confusion over sell-by and best-by dates.

Quick Facts About Food Waste:

  1. An estimated 89 billion pounds of food are wasted by consumers in one year.
  2. The average American family wastes 25% of the food and drinks they purchase.
  3. This results in an average of $1,365 to $2,375 wasted every year for a family of four.

Food Waste is Often Caused by Poor Shopping Habits.

food wasteWhile seemingly innocuous, research shows that unplanned shopping results in more food wasted. Shoppers that don’t take stock of their refrigerator and pantry contents before going to the store tend to over-buy. Similarly, the coupon craze in America also contributes to food waste.

Frequently advertisements of 10 for $10 or other deals encourage over-buying and impulse shopping. These deals may seem like a great option for thrifty shoppers, but food, especially produce, purchased without a plan is often wasted.

Confusion Over Sell-by and Best-by Dates Causes Food Waste

Consumers frequently report throwing away food past sell-by and best-by dates due to concerns over food safety. These dates give the impression that food is spoiled past these dates.

However, these expiration dates are merely information for stores about when to sell food so that there is still a shelf-life for consumers. Manufacturers use the dates to indicate peak freshness, but the dates have no bearing on food safety.

When food spoils it’s barely considered food any more, it’s just considered trash.

How Does Food End Up Spoiling?

At the consumer level, food spoils due to an inability to find food in the refrigerator, poor storage, and leftover ingredients.

It’s an ironic state for Americans to buy large refrigerators to hold more food, only for food to spoil since they can’t see what they have.

Knowledge of best practices for how to store food is lacking, causing food to spoil prematurely due to inadequate storage methods.

How to Reduce Food Waste

  1. Spend a little time meal planning, so you know what you want to make and how many meals you’re planning on cooking.
  2. Check your pantry, freezer and fridge before you go to the store so you don’t buy things you already have on hand.
  3. Make a list, so you know what you need and don’t get tempted by unplanned sales.
  4. Use your freezer so leftovers, bread, or meat doesn’t spoil before you have a chance to eat them.
  5. Don’t throw things away just based on the sell by or best by dates, these dates are guidelines for when a grocery store should sell a product so consumers will still have time to use it at home during peak freshness.
  6. Look for “ugly produce” for discounts and to save produce that’s perfectly delicious but doesn’t meet grocery store standards.
  7. Try composting to repurpose food scraps and provide nutrient rich mulch for your garden.

How Do You Reduce Food Waste in Your Household?

Let us know on the Sweet Life Wellness Facebook Page!

Please send us an email if you’d like a copy of my consumer guide on How to make Environmentally Friendly Food Choices at

Blog Author:Lauren Seat - Sweet Life Wellness Intern
Lauren Seat
Sweet Life Wellness Student Intern
Dietetics student at University of Maryland-College Park

  1. Buzby, Jean C. et al. “The Value of Retail- and Consumer-Level Fruit and Vegetable Losses in the United States.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 45.3 (2011): 492–515. Wiley Online Library. Web.
  2. Charles D (2012) Don’t Fear That Expired Food. In: Accessed 12 Apr 2017.
  3. Farr-Wharton, Geremy, Marcus Foth, and Jaz Hee-Jeong Choi. “Identifying Factors That Promote Consumer Behaviours Causing Expired Domestic Food Waste.” Journal of Consumer Behaviour 13.6 (2014): 393–402. Wiley Online Library. Web.
  4. Godoy, Maria. “Wal-Mart, America’s Largest Grocer, Is Now Selling Ugly Fruit And Vegetables.” N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
  5. Gunders D (2012) Wasted:  How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. In:  Accessed 12 Apr 2017.