Food waste and food consumption in the United States

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much food I consume (and waste). I'm not happy with how I shop and eat, and it's not just because I'm fat right now. I don't like what I'm eating and I don't like how much food I'm throwing out.

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States. Most studies find that Americans waste about one-third of all food that enters the supply chain. This is insane. And when you consider that food spending is the third-largest component of the average American budget, this is a great place for most folks to boost their budget.

According to the 2017 Consumer Expenditure Report, the average household spends $7,729 per year ($644.08 per month) on food. If, as the USDA reports, 31% of the average family's food goes to waste, that's the equivalent of burning $2395.99 per year ($199.67 per month).

For most families, $200 per month is a big deal. That can be the difference between deficit spending and earning a “profit”. That $200 per month could be enough to purchase a new car or to afford better health insurance.

Today, I want to think out loud about food consumption and food waste in my own life.

Our actual fridge at this very moment

This article is unusual in that I'm not going to try to offer any solutions. Instead, I'm simply going to share some observations, and I'm going to divide these observations into bite-sized chunks.

If you have solutions to food waste, however, I'd love to hear them.

Fun with Friends

Kim and I spent this past weekend in central Oregon with some of my best friends from high school. Every year, this group of twelve rents a big house for three or four nights so that we can sit around, reminisce, and enjoy a few days without kids.

As is typical with gatherings like this, each couple is in charge of one meal. For instance, Kim and I were responsible for Saturday morning's breakfast.

As is also typical for gatherings like this, there's always a ton of food left over. It's tough to estimate how much a group is going to eat. So, even though we did our best to not have leftovers, there were plenty of eggs and ham and biscuits remaining after Kim and I cooked our meal. Every other couple struggled with the same thing. We always do.

Yesterday as we were packing to come home, our group marveled at how much food was still in the fridge. Honestly, we could have hosted another long weekend for twelve without having to buy groceries. (Okay, we needed more coffee. We ran out of coffee yesterday morning. Mennonites drink a lot of coffee.)

I was pleased to see that our group made a deliberate effort to not waste any of our leftovers. Kristin sent Kim home with the leftover rhubarb sauce. (Kim loves rhubarb!) We sent Kristin home with the leftover ham and the hambone. Kara grabbed the unopened beer. And so on. I've spent time with some groups that would have simply thrown this food out. We didn't do that.

Food Storage in the Motorhome

During our fifteen months exploring the U.S. by RV, Kim and I had limited space for food storage. We had one (very) small refrigerator and one (very) small set of cabinets for dry goods. We learned quickly that we had to be intentional about the food we bought to keep on hand.

The fridge always contained milk and beer, plus whatever meat and salad fixings we needed for the next few days. The cupboard contained rice, pasta, and a few pre-packaged meals.

We learned to keep a mental (and written) inventory of what “stock” items were depleted. If I ate a can of bean with bacon soup, I knew I had to replace it. When we got down to two days worth of rice, we made a point to buy more.

At first, this limited storage space was frustrating. It didn't take long, however, to learn that rather than being a problem, this limited storage was freeing. We had less food to worry about. We had fewer choices to make. We always knew what food we had on hand and when we intended to use it.

When we returned home to Portland, the fridge in the condo seemed ginormous. Who needed that much cold storage? Not us!

For a few weeks, we did a terrific job of maintaining the habits we'd learned on the road. Each afternoon, I'd walk to the store to buy whatever we needed for that evening's meal. We didn't stock up on staples. We simply bought what we needed for the immediate future.

Slowly, though, we reverted to our old habits. The fridge became filled with meat and greens and leftovers. After our first trip to Costco — no need to ever go to Costco when you're on the road in an RV — our cupboards were stocked with beans and rice and cereal and coffee and pre-packaged meals.

Two years ago, we moved from that condo (a place with ample storage space) to this much-smaller country cottage. Here, our kitchen storage is limited. In fact, it's so limited that we couldn't store all of the food we had at the condo. We had to give some away — and put the rest in the trash.

Now, we walk a fine line. We try not to have a lot of “staples” on hand, but at the same time we like to save money by buying our favorite items in bulk. Most days, I eat a can of Nalley's chili for lunch, for instance. At Safeway, this typically goes for $2.39 per can. If I buy a case of twelve at Costco, I can get it for less than $1.00 per can. (Don't quote me on that price. My memory may be off. It's low, though.)

Our pantry shelf with lots of chili

All the same, we waste too much food. Every week, we find something that's gone bad. Maybe it's a package of salami that got buried under something else. Maybe it's some vegetables that never got used for their intended recipe. Maybe it's a jar of salsa that's managed to mold.

Kim and I hate wasting food. Yet we do it. And it's largely because we have too much on hand at any given time. We forget what we have. Or we have so much that we can't possibly eat it all. It's a problem. But I know it's not a problem that's unique to us.

A Tiny Fridge

Twenty years ago, I knew a young couple that lived in an apartment with a small dorm-sized refrigerator. I thought it was funny at the time. “You don't have space to store anything!” I said when I first saw it.

“We like it,” the told me. “It forces us to make decisions about what we're going to buy. We can't just stock up on everything. We have to be deliberate.”

I didn't get it.

Similarly, my friend Sparky never kept much food on hand. I thought it was weird. When I'd visit him, his fridge would contain maybe a carton of eggs, a head of lettuce, and a carton of milk. His cupboards would be bare except for a loaf of bread and a box of cereal.

“Where's your food?” I asked him once. Sparky shrugged.

“I only buy what I need,” he said. “I hate that I have to buy a dozen eggs. I'd rather buy only two. I wish I could buy just two slices of bread at a time. I don't want a fully-stocked pantry. For one, it feels oppressive. It's too much Stuff. Plus, I think it leads to food waste.”

A Colossal Waste

Eight years ago, my mother's mental health problems reached a crisis point. She was in a state of constant disorientation and confusion. (Actually, she's still in this state.) After she drove her car through the back of her garage, my brothers and I moved her into an assisted-living facility.

As we cleaned her house during the next few weeks, we were shocked by how much food she had. This single 63-year-old woman had enough on hand to feed a family of five for weeks. Or months. But the sad part was that so much of the food was expired or spoiled. The biggest surprise was a collection of spices from the 1970s.

She had eight-year-old mayonnaise in the fridge. She had multiple opened jars of salsa. The pantry — which my grandfather had built to store my grandmother's copious canning — was stocked with cans and cans of Costco tuna fish.

We salvaged as much of the food as we could, taking it home for ourselves. Most of it had to be thrown out.

Eating Like Europeans

This Saturday, I'm flying to Europe to travel again with my cousin Duane. Thankfully, he's still with us — and he's feeling healthy enough to explore France for a couple of weeks.

Duane and I both love how Europeans buy food. (Or, how we believe they buy food. Our perception may not match reality, and we know that.)

There are supermarkets in Europe, but they're not the megastores we see here in the U.S. And when people shop, they don't buy for weeks at a time. They buy for days at a time. Or one day. They buy what they need for the immediate future. Here in the U.S., we tend to have personal larders designed to satisfy any possible want at any possible moment.

Plus, Europe has many more small, single-purpose shops. Duane and I had a ton of fun in December talking with this gal in Strasbourg who ran a cheese shop. She loved cheese, and she loved sharing it with us:

Strasbourg cheese market

Want some meat? Stop by the butcher to pick some up. Want a few tomatoes? Stop by the produce stand. Need bread? Head across the street to the bakery. And so on. Stores like this do exist in many parts of the U.S., but they're almost always gourmet specialty shops targeting a high-end clientele. Plus, they're few and far between. You have to drive from the butcher to the bakery to the produce stand.

From what I've seen of Europe, you can find these shops almost anywhere — big cities and small. And they're meant for everyone, not just the wealthy.

Again, my perception might be tainted. I might be viewing things through rose-tinted tourist glasses. But I'm willing to wager that European food waste is much less than that of the United States.

Too Much Dessert

“Crap,” Kim said as she rushed out the door this morning. It's her first day back to work after five weeks off for knee surgery. “We still have those beignets. They're going to go to waste.”

Last Saturday night, our group of friends went out to eat at a fancy restaurant. Kim and I ordered beignets for dessert. We thought that for $8, we'd get a modest-sized portion that she and I could split. Instead, we got five large pastries. We couldn't finish them. We took them back to the rental house with the intention of eating them later. But we haven't eaten them. And now, as Kim said, they're probably going to end up in the trash.

Looking Forward

What does all of this mean for me? If I think I buy and waste too much food, how can I change? Is there a way I can change my food consumption to improve both my waistline and my wallet?

Relating these anecdotes has helped me to understand that yes, I can (and should) change how I'm buying and storing food. Doing so would help me eat better. Plus, it'd help us feel less cramped in our kitchen.

Last autumn, I wrote about re-writing my financial blueprint so that I'm buying things based on actual needs rather than potential wants. At the time, I was thinking about books and garden tools. But the same principle applies to food.

The fundamental problem in our lives is that we buy food based on potential wants. not immediate needs. We might want to have pasta next week, so we buy noodles and tomato sauce and meat. We might want to have a big salad this weekend, so we stock up on vegetables and greens. We often prep a charcuterie board for dinner — we did so last night! — so we try to keep a variety of cheese and salami on hand. But what happens when we go weeks without doing this? Well, the meat and cheese goes to waste.

Lack of waste was one of the huge advantages to my recent HelloFresh experiment. When you open a recipe bag, you know you're going to get only what you need to make this meal — and no more. You won't end up with a bag of carrots that turns rubbery because they got buried in the produce crisper. They give you the one carrot you need to make your salad.

Vienna vegetable market

I'm not ready to go back to HelloFresh, but I think there are other changes I can make to improve my consumption and waste habits.

I'd be well-served by returning to how I was prepping meals after we returned from our RV trip. Instead of keeping a ton of stuff on hand, I ought to be making daily decisions about what to eat. Except for my canned chili — which I probably eat three to five times per week — I shouldn't be stocking up on anything at Costco.

This change won't be as easy here in the Stafford hills as it would be in urban Portland. At the condo, I could walk to buy groceries. It was quick. It was simple. Here, the nearest stores is more than a mile away. And we live in a very hilly area. It takes 20+ miles to walk there.

Still, even this is an opportunity.

I'm fat right now. If I were to walk to Safeway at three every afternoon, I could be home by four with whatever groceries I needed for dinner. I'd burn about 250 calories in the process and I'd get time to decompress. Now that the sunny weather is here (and will remain until October), I don't really have any excuse.

Maybe I can't live in my idealized European fashion, but I could certainly try to integrate some aspects of that lifestyle into my own. All it'd take is a little bit of willpower.

More about...Food

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Mary
Mary
1 year ago

Really careful meal planning helps too–I’ve always been a meal planner, but recently started using a system that integrates EVERYTHING–a planning calendar, aggregates recipes and creates a shopping list. I’ve always done each of those things separately and have been really surprised by how drastic the change has been. I can set my grocery list for however long I want and it gives me only the things I need to buy for that range of dates (whether its 2 days or 2 weeks) and remembers which of my stores I like to buy things from (I have a family, so… Read more »

Other SG
Other SG
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary

Mary, it sounds like you’re using software, not something manual. Would you be willing to share the name? Thanks!

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary

I don’t remember seeing a “which item from which store” aspect, but otherwise it sounds exactly like Plan to Eat, a web-based platform that also has an app. We’ve been subscribers for about two years, and while we still have some periods where we don’t plan properly, it HAS helped us try new recipes and increase the amount we make at home.

Amanda
Amanda
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary

This would be great. I’ve been meal planning since Jan. Sometimes I miss an item and don’t add it to the list. Then the rest of the meal goes bad before I have time to get back to the store. And walking in the store again is. A big trap for overspending. Something we’ve started recently is order pickup at Kroger. It costs $5 but I think it’s saving us more impulse purchases than this. Another tip…sometimes I want to cook a certain meal. But then don’t have the time to energy. Plan realistic meals for what you’ve got going… Read more »

rh
rh
1 year ago

I think meal planning is a key. We try to plan for 6 days worth of meals. We pretty much eat the same breakfast (oatmeal with fixings), lunch (modemade soup or salad), and then dinner is the variety item. Why not shop for 7 days worth of meals? Well we like one day a week (or 3 meals) for happy hour, meeting up with friends for a meal, coffee and a pastry on the waterfront, etc.. Can you bike to your nearby grocery store versus walking? That would save time and make it no big deal if you just need… Read more »

Foodie in Boston
Foodie in Boston
1 year ago

I am a huge proponent of avoiding food waste. We embrace leftovers as a way to avoid cooking. Try designating one night a week to eat leftovers (especially if you are already tired or getting home late and it could easily become an “eat out” scenario.) If you are really sick of eating something – put it in the freezer. Our Costco purchases are always shelf stable. We buy mostly frozen vegetables and microwave them at dinnertime. We keep our bread in the refrigerator. I’ve also seen people do a “pantry challenge” where they try to eat down their pantry… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

But keeping bread in the refrigerator dries it out faster. Is it a race between desiccation and mold?

Adam
Adam
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

We freeze it, if we have more than we need. We almost always eat sliced bread toasted; it somehow takes just as long to toast whether it’s frozen or room temperature, and I defy anybody to pick toasted frozen bread out from toasted room-temperature bread. I’ll buy a pack of English muffins, slice them, put ’em all in the freezer, and toast as needed for breakfast. Same with homemade rolls and pita. It’s great always having decent bread just a couple minutes from hot and tasty!

VinTek
VinTek
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam

Freezing bread is best for long term storage. For the short term, leaving it on the counter is better. One does not refrigerate bread if they want to prolong shelf life.

https://www.stilltasty.com/questions/index/18

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yup. I read an article once breaking down they physics of the temperature and air flow. Interesting to geeks like me, but I dont remember it beyond the fact that I read it, lol.

Laura
Laura
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Heh. During the summer, it goes in the refrigerator otherwise it goes moldy in 2 days (esp. seed&nut ones). If we cranked up the AC, would probably be fine. The rest of the year – counter.

T'Pol
T'Pol
1 year ago

I try to plan my meals and now that I am on a diet, I am better at it. I hate food waste so here is what I do: I have staples in my pantry but not many things. Some of the basics I know, I will consume like couscous, chick peas, navy beans, rice, bulgur wheat, green and red lentils (I always buy 1 kg. of each of these so, I always consume them before they expire) tomato sauce (I buy a dozen at a time), 10 or so basic spices. I have soy sauce, hot sauce, mustard, eggs… Read more »

Frogdancer Jones
Frogdancer Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  T'Pol

Love this comment. I have 2 large freezers – a necessity when you’re feeding 4 boys. I have only 2 of them still living with me, but men in their twenties eat a HUGE amount of food.
I buy staples in bulk. I store meat and bread in the freezer in portion sizes. If I grow too much of a particular veggie, if it can be frozen, into the freezer it goes!

HJ
HJ
1 year ago

I’m from The Netherlands and I think you’re spot on. And it depends on persons, but in general you’re right. But even here is the discussion about how we waste too much food.
Personally I have a basic stock dry/canned foods and I go once a week for the fresh stuff. From a list that I make. When I pick the last item from my stock, I write it down.
And I try to stick to my budget of €85,- (on average a week – family of 5, which is low but doable)

Shaun
Shaun
1 year ago

I echo what the others have already said – meal planning is key. And not only do I plan meals for each week, I also plan a day or two of having leftovers. That forces us to use any extras. You can take it a step further by making your own vegetable stock. If you have veggies that are about to go bad, throw them in the freezer in a bag. Also throw in any odd scraps you don’t use, such as carrot peels, onion tops or bottoms, etc. When the bag is full, empty it into a quart or… Read more »

Anna
Anna
1 year ago

I tried meal planning and it just does not work for me. What does work however are two key things: 1. learn how to cook from scratch and creatively 2. have a freezer for leftovers I got a few go to dishes where items that are about to go bad soon can go in. Dishes like a casserole or stews. Cooking from scratch and creatively where you use up what you have on hand or where you can substitute one item for another depending what you have helps a lot. A good freezer inventory helps too. Frozen veggies last longer… Read more »

Susan
Susan
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I don’t think you’ll know until you try. As with most things: can’t hurt, might help.

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

This is what I do. I take a small piece of paper on Sunday mornings. On one side I write 5 things I will cook that week. Sometimes this includes using something out of the freezer that I’ve already cooked previously and had leftovers. It’ll be something like “steak tips + potatoes”, “chicken quesadillas”, etc. Just 5 things (Sunday – Thurs). Then I confirm what I need for those 5 dinners and if I have those items or need to buy. As I do that, I flip the paper over and write down what I need for those meals (we… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

This is how I plan. Lists of meals rather than specific days.

JoDi
JoDi
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Meal planning is definitely a good way to reduce waste, but you don’t have to be rigid about it. When you ordered from HelloFresh, you chose 3 meals, but you could cook them on whatever day of the week you wanted. You can do the same with meal planning if you decide on the meals to make but are flexible about which day you’ll make them. I usually make a plan for dinner with a specific dinner on each day but often switch things up if my schedule changes. The main thing about the plan is knowing what you’re making… Read more »

Susan
Susan
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I have a general pattern or cycle which is similar to Jodi and Eileen’s suggestions, but with a slight tweak – we’ve been trying to eat more healthily, so I arrange for two meat-based meals, two fish-based meals, and two vegetarian-type meals per week with one wild card in there depending on circumstances. We might have leftovers, eat out, or have random things in the fridge that need to be used up. Flexible, but with structure and variety.

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Hi Susan — that’s something I’ve considered in order to move our eating habits in the direction I’d like. I know someone else who “plans” more like: 1 night of mexican, 1 night of meat+potatoes, 1 night of Italian, etc. It’s interesting because my decision isn’t really about what I “feel like eating”, it’s just whether or not I feel like cooking. I am not a picky eater, and maybe that’s part of the ease of meal “planning” for me. Oh – a few years ago, I made a list of everything I knew how to cook and a few… Read more »

CE
CE
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I’ve greatly reduced our food waste by planning 3-4 evening meals per week, even though I have a meal every evening. The other lunches/evening meals are composed of what I have available. Thus all gets used up.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

We have a similar issue to your vacation when we go on girl scout trips. Plus we aren’t sure exactly how many people will show up and we have no refrigeration, just ice chests. We tend to plan for the last day to be a leftover day and have some level of preserved food on hand in case we need it. For example the last day might be chicken salad sandwiches, but the canned chicken, bottle of mayo, and loaves of bread will just go home with people if it’s not needed, or we can use as much as we… Read more »

Dave @ Accidental FIRE
Dave @ Accidental FIRE
1 year ago

I eat tons of vegetables but rely mostly on frozen ones. Studies show they’re better for you anyway since most are frozen right after being picked and lock-in the nutrients which tend to start degrading in non frozen vegetables when they are in transit and in the store.

We could easily solve world hunger if we just could get the food that people carelessly toss out to the starving people in the world, but that’s a logistical task that cannot be solved.

Enjoy France, I’m jealous!

Mike in NH
Mike in NH
1 year ago

I think on a personal/household level it is a logistical task that cannot currently be solved. From a business perspective, it irritates me to no end that many groceries stores would rather throw away their food than give it to shelters and food banks while hiding behind BS legal concerns about people getting sick. No logistical problems there, just greed.

ikomrad
ikomrad
1 year ago

I’ve lived in Italy and the US, so I’ve seen both sides. I’ll really didn’t see a difference in food waster between the 2. Both throw things out, I remember cleaning out my Italian relative cupboard and it was quite a bit of spoiled food.

in the US, what works for me is weekly grocery trips to get mostly perishable, batch cooking with unfreezing only what got need, and not buying foods that you won’t eat.

I don’t throw anything away, and if I don’t finish a meal it goes into a food container in the fridge to finish later.

Erin
Erin
1 year ago

When we do our big multi day get togethers (at a rented house where you can’t leave stuff in the fridge) we always leave the last day (or day and a half) unplanned for food. It’s specifically for eating up all the leftovers. Alternatively, don’t plan lunches and eat up leftovers for lunch.

Leslie
Leslie
1 year ago
Reply to  Erin

I was going to recommend the same thing. Last meal on vacation is “clean out the fridge”. Doesn’t matter if you eat spaghetti for breakfast. So much less food waste and not nearly as much stuff to carry home.

Frogdancer Jones
Frogdancer Jones
1 year ago

I commented further up about how I use the freezer. We also have a food chain going that uses up food really efficiently. First in the chain is the humans. We take leftovers for lunches when we can – I’m the one who does this most days – and we do things like have home-made pizza dough in the freezer. If we have food that needs using up, practically ANYTHING can go on top of a pizza! (And it’s a cheap as chips meal, too!) Then we have the dogs. They’re omnivores, so they can eat practically anything we don’t… Read more »

Hannah S.
Hannah S.
1 year ago

We recently started inventory tracking. My partner sent me a link to Grocy and I looked into it. For the fun of it, I entered all of the food we had in the freezer, categorized it, and added correct expiration dates. It’s hard to see what’s in the freezer, and I hate discovering that something is over date and having to toss it. And then we did the fridge. The cabinets. My stash of coffee that should be used in order as it’s freshly roasted. Three months later, much to my surprise, we’re still using it. I plan our meals… Read more »

liz
liz
1 year ago

Maybe you could try intermittent fasting daily. Eat 90% healthy whole foods and limit calories from added sugars to 175 calories per day. All of the white foods like sugar, flour, rice, pasta, and potatoes etc. generally cause weight gain in most people. Fruit juices are nothing but pure sugar also and should be avoided. Wish you the best in your weight loss and food cost cutting endeavors!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
1 year ago

1) The way I read the USDA link is that 31% watse was from consumer AND retail. I think plenty is lost at both points, but the point being that just consumers aren’t wasting 31% at the endpoint. Of course, the average doesn’t mean much to an individual household — your own household’s rate matters the most to you! 2) We strive for zero food-waste. It’s a popular concept in minimalism, debt-free, and green communities. The best way we’ve found for this is meal planning. We plan out our dinners weekly (leftovers are lunches, plus we buy cereal or whatnot… Read more »

Toote
Toote
1 year ago

One of the ways I found that really helped with avoiding expiration of food in the pantry that no one else mentioned is for it to have really shallow shelves (less than a foot deep). That way you can see everything you have almost immediately and you don’t have that much storage space to buy too much stuff (or when you do have a lot of something it really shows). Other than that, I must add one more wagon to the meal planning train. We started doing it when we wanted to lose weight and our nutritionists severely limited our… Read more »

Caroline
Caroline
1 year ago

My in-laws are French and my father-in-law goes shopping every morning for the meals of the day. 😉

I go to the bakery, the butcher shop and directly to the farm for some cheeses and yogurt. I think that buying locally from small producers reduces waste because there is less intermediary and these producers pay more attention to waste.

Tricia
Tricia
1 year ago

I think the real key–like anything in life–is deciding it is IMPORTANT to you. Really important. When it is, you will figure out what works for you.

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
1 year ago

Food waste in the EU isn’t much less than in the US. It a varies a lot with countries, though. The Netherlands waste the most, Germany and France lie in the middle, with France being a little better. Yet German culture differs far more from French than from our cousins, the Dutch. Most of the waste happens outside the home, I think, stores throwing stuff away, for example. But that’s driven by the customer, too, who expect full racks of perfect food, even perishable stuff. Staples shouldn’t have an impact. We have a full pantry of those, for weeks of… Read more »

VinTek
VinTek
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Brülls

In the US, eggs that aren’t refrigerated could cause salmonella poisoning—meanwhile, Europe considers it a health risk if eggs are refrigerated.

This cultural difference stems from the way eggs are processed before they reach stores.

American farms wash eggs to strip the cuticle, or outer protective layer, which prevents contamination outside the shell.

Without the cuticle, eggs must be refrigerated to combat bacterial infection from inside.

In Europe, it’s illegal to wash eggs and instead, farms vaccinate chickens against salmonella. With the cuticle intact, refrigeration could cause mildew growth and contamination.

Bambam
Bambam
1 year ago

“Bite sized chunks” — ugh! Lol good one.

Bonnie
Bonnie
1 year ago

I’m trying to do the pantry/cupboard/freezer thing more (eating most or all of what’s there before buying more) and then supplementing with a few fresh items to save money. In the spring and summer, I don’t want soups and the like as much, but I had a can of soup JD-style the other Saturday for lunch, and it was good and didn’t kill me. 🙂 I definitely second the person who said to reuse meats in other meals throughout the week. For instance, we usually have tacos one night and then, without fail, I will make pasta the next night… Read more »

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

We used to have a small fridge and it worked okay. We like a normal size fridge better.
Luckily, we still live in an urban area with several grocery stores close by. I walked to Trader Joe’s yesterday to get ham and it only took 15 minutes roundtrip. That’s one advantage of living in the city. We don’t waste much food.

Anne
Anne
1 year ago

I really do get the charm of buying cheese, meat, baked goods, etc. in individual shops. Especially picturing those shops in old European cities. But I think that you forget you have extremely flexible work hours and no children to take care of. The thought of having to flit from store to store after ten hours away from home at a job, and then all the childcare that will still need to be done in the evening, honestly, it makes me want to shoot myself.

On top of that, I have never loved cooking.

But, to each, their own.

Carol
Carol
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne

Yes! I wish there was a like button!

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne

Well said. Though we’re empty nesters now, I suspect this is where my “only go to the store once a week and NEVER right after work” thoughts come from.

During the week, I’ve begun walking up to our nearest grocery store in the mornings to grab the few items I might have forgotten. But, I don’t have kids to get to school/daycare PLUS I work from home.

Max OOP
Max OOP
1 year ago

I recall reading a few years ago about someone who would actually weigh any food waste at the end of each week. Seems like a pretty good idea for holding yourself accountable. I never implemented it, but liked the idea. Have a good trip! I recall the single purpose shops you described on a trip I took to Edinburgh a few years back. Also, they charged for the plastic bags to hold my groceries which is a GREAT idea to reduce plastic waste!

Tricia
Tricia
1 year ago
Reply to  Max OOP

Along this line, I spent a month putting monetary value on all food I threw away. It was great for accountability. Those 2 apples? $1. Half the meal I brought home from the restaurant but didn’t eat? $10. Half cup of cooked rice? 20 cents. Pint of juice? $2. Etc. It really helped me to think about throwing that much cash in the trash at the end of the month. None of us would ever do that…but yet, we do!!

rh
rh
1 year ago

Good idea. Weight your leftovers and then give yourself a fine of $5 per pound. That money then has to be given to something your really dislike (maybe a political campaign contribution for the person you don’t want to get elected, etc..)

BJ McTavish
BJ McTavish
1 year ago

First, give up the beer. It’s mostly empty calories. Eggs keep for months in the fridge. My father-in-law was the general manager of NC Company in Nome, Alaska in the late 1950’s. Nome gets two barges a year of food supplies. People order a year’s worth of food. Same with the store. If you run out, you have to fly it in. Father-in-law was the first to fly in fresh produce for sale. It was my husband’s job, as a boy, to go into the cellar and turn the eggs, kind of like riddling wine, and pick the sprouts off… Read more »

Nina
Nina
1 year ago

I also hate to waste food. Not just because it’s money thrown out but also because of ecological reasons. Some things that have reduced food waste for us: – check what you have in your fridge/freezer/pantry before going shopping – have a (rough) meal plan (and plan it around things you already have) – make a shopping list and keep the “oh, I fancy that” impulse buys to a minimum – if in doubt, buy less rather than more. If you have some things in your freezer or pantry for meals you won’t starve if the fresh stuff runs out… Read more »

Mike in NH
Mike in NH
1 year ago

JD, we gotta talk about your lunch in a can my friend. I think it might be doing you a disservice in more ways than one here. I can’t site my source, but I recall either watching or reading a presentation by a nutritionist who was asked something along the lines of “what is one thing you would never eat” … the answer was soup in a can. The sodium can’t be doing you any favors in the weight department, not to mention all the other ish that goes into magically keeping meat and perishable ingredients ‘safe’ for a year… Read more »

Mike in NH
Mike in NH
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Haha, pretty sure you are asking the wrong question. Yes, you obviously know that you can, but the right question is do you really want to? We know how this plays out, if you want the result, you gotta put in the work. But saying you don’t want to be fat (your word choice, not mine, no shaming here) anymore and then making bad choices anyway always puts me in a bad self-loathing cycle. Feel bad, eat bad because it feels good…until it doesn’t…feel bad…repeat. Just remember, every time you eat that chili, you are making the decision to lessen… Read more »

Rebecca in MD
Rebecca in MD
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Make a crock pot full of chilli on the weekend and portion it out for the week for your lunches. Control of the quality of ingredients will be more healthful, and cooking from scratch will be cheaper than buying prepackaged junk.

Rebecca in MD
Rebecca in MD
1 year ago

Check your pantry and fridge daily and then creatively come up with a meal plan for that day that will use the oldest ingredients. Cook multiple meals on one day using the same ingredients and freeze the extra meals for the future when you are too tired to cook. Make last night’s leftovers today’s lunch.

Barbara
Barbara
1 year ago

On one hand, it’s dangerous thinking to not have an adequate store of food on the shelf. Natural disasters, acts of war, any number of things can disrupt the food supply chain and leave you sadly unprepared to withstand even short term disasters. On the other hand, it’s important to rotate the stock and plan to use what you have. I clean out my pantry twice a year. I garden and can, so my shelves and freezers are bulging by October, but dramatically thinned out by the following mid-summer. I always check dates on canned goods. If it looks as… Read more »

Meghan
Meghan
1 year ago

I am probably on the verge of being a food hoarder so this is something I’m working on. I am not quite as bad about the refrigerator but I have a pantry and freezers that could feed me and my toddler for months. This is a learned trait, starting with my great grandmother and grandmother. Going without during the depression and then rations during WW2 really messed them up. After that, the mentality seemed to be hoard because you never know when you won’t have food. My mom buys too much, and I now do the same. When I lived… Read more »

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