Raise your hand if you have a problem with wasting food.
Don’t worry, you’re far from alone. And once upon a time I was right there with you. In this article, I confess all the things I did that led to food waste and how I changed.
Table of contents
The Prevalence of Food Waste
Remember I said you weren’t alone in wasting food. How about some statistics to back up that statement? In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.
That’s upwards of 1/3 of all the food in the U.S.
It shocked me that it was that high until I think of how unaware I was of the amount of food I was letting end up in the garbage.
How I Realized I Was A Food Waster
As a young wife and mother to a toddler, I worked hard to learn to be a good wife and mommy. Because I got to stay at home, I made meals three times a day for my family. However, even though I had a food budget I found myself calling my husband once or twice a week to pick up meals. And it wasn’t because I needed a larger budget for groceries.
Then, when I went to my Mommy & Baby group I found that several families with double the amount of kids had grocery bills less than mine! How could this be?
Frankly, I was confused. I didn’t know where I was going wrong. I was raised in a variety of settings due to my parent’s divorce and remarriages. In fact, we always seemed to be learning to live somewhere new. As a result, I was never taught how to actually run a home.
It took time to admit it to myself but I was a food waster. I realized that I was making critical mistakes with our food starting with:
- what to feed my family.
- what to buy at the grocery store.
- how to cook at home.
- and very importantly how to put away our food.
My 8 Food Wasting Mistakes
- Using expensive ingredients. I am a cookbook hound. I love looking at the yummy recipes in those glossy books and trying to recreate them, but I was wasting our food money in doing so. You see, most of those recipes called for ingredients that were WAY outside the budget of a college student’s family. Instead of using that money more wisely and stretching it over the full month I was buying high priced items that cut days off how far our food budget would go. A better strategy for is to find old cookbooks that use common, inexpensive, staple ingredients.
- Buying ONLY name brand items. This was a hang over from my upbringing when we could not afford name brand. Deep inside I saw being able to buy name brand as showing the world (or myself) that we had stepped up in the world. Again I was wasting our food money.
- Cooking low-quality food. I had these lovely highlights of dinners that were great. But in order to get those highlights I skimped in other areas. That meant that Monday through Thursday meals was just scrapped together or Hamburger Helper type meals. Even though I cooked from scratch, the food wasn’t healthy and yummy. Made it that much easier to call for take-out when faced with Day 2 of not so good food. There’s a reason they tell us to fill our plate with foods of all different colors.
- Cooking too much food for our size family. At the time I had no extra freezer and we really were two adults eating with a toddler just nibbling. I tended to cook for a much larger crowd. That meant we tended to overeat, which is not healthy. Also, there was a lot of food left over. That food would generally go into the fridge and a meal of leftovers might come from it. However in general, we shoved them to the back of the fridge and forgotten until it crawled out and pleaded to be put out of its misery. I needed to incorporate meal planning into my routine.
- Chaos is not a good form of organization. As you can tell from the food lost in the fridge my kitchen was in a state of chaos. There was no organization. I had no idea if cans were old or spices were out of date. You just pawed through the shelf in question until you found what you were looking for, or gave up and went out and bought it again. Yup, back to that wasting the food budget.
- Failing to use food to its greatest extent. I never thought to use the turkey bones and pieces leftover from Thanksgiving to make a nutritious bone broth. I didn’t use the ham bone to flavor a pot full of beans. When I finished the meal immediately in front of me I threw out the rest and cleaned up for the night.
- Storing food improperly. Temperatures vary inside your fridge. There are some foods that shouldn’t be kept in the door. Others do better when kept in the produce bin. Some fruits and vegetables emit gas that causes nearby produce to ripen faster. In your pantry, food storage last longer if you work to lessen the six enemies of food storage.
- The worst food wasting sin I committed was sheer laziness. There were times when I woke up the next morning and found that I had set last night’s leftovers aside but never put them away.
Other Ways You Can Reduce Food in Your Garbage
- Compost. Turn your food scraps into earth food for your garden or edible landscape.
- Food Preservation. Many foods can be dehydrated. That includes produce that’s starting to look a little sad and even leafy greens. They can be dried and powdered!
- Too Good To Waste Toolkit. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put together a kit to help households identify how food waste is happening and how to combat it.
- Understand Dates on Food. Many foods remain safe to eat beyond their expiration dates. These dates are often indicators of quality rather than safety.
Why Food Waste is Detrimental to Preppers
Why should food waste be a big deal to preppers? Cutting down on food waste is super important for preppers to make their preparedness efforts effective and sustainable.
First, we preppers often invest a considerable amount of time, effort, and financial resources into building a stockpile of food supplies to sustain ourselves during crises. However, when we waste food, we squander these valuable resources, leaving us and our loved ones vulnerable and our preparations compromised.
Second, food waste disrupts the delicate balance of inventory management. How many of us struggle to maintain an adequate rotation of our supplies. For many of us, it’s our Achilles heel. We meticulously plan (and attempt to rotate) our food supplies to ensure we have enough for the intended duration. When we needlessly waste food, it creates a gap in our preparedness plan, potentially leading to shortages or insufficient rations.
Finally, food waste undermines the principle of sustainability that many we strive for. When we waste food, we also squander valuable resources such as water, energy, and agricultural inputs, counteracting the self-sufficiency and resilience that we desire.
Those are three pretty big reasons to stop wasting food, don’t you think? It’s just super important if we want to maximize the effectiveness and sustainability of our prepping efforts.
Acknowledging that I had these blind spots was the first step in correcting them. There is no shame in not knowing how to cook, maintain a home, raise a family, or homestead. Many of us have holes in our skills base. Consider how to run your kitchen, food budget, and food storage as another skill to work on. Find a mentor. Search out a great blog or book. You can change from a food waster to a thrifty foodie mom!
What ways do you waste food and how could you change your food-wasting ways?
Guest post by Heather who blogs at Prudent Pantry. Updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.