According to research, 40 percent of the food produced in America is wasted.
That means each year, the average American household is throwing out about $1,400 of food.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is hoping to curb these numbers this March through National Nutrition Month’s theme: “Go further with food.”
The organization is stressing preparation and proper storage, and according to nutrition and health education specialist Sarah Wood, it’s easy to go overboard with how much food you’re bringing home.
“Often, I think that we go to the grocery store with the best of intentions,” she says. “But even sticking to your list, if you didn’t plan well, sometimes you can end up bringing more home than you really need.”
Even worse, if you don’t have your grocery list, that can lead to a lot of impulse buys, which rarely work out well. For those looking to eat healthier, going in with a plan is key, as produce is often more perishable and more likely to be thrown out.
“When you’re buying a lot of that at one time, it’s not uncommon for it to end up getting thrown out just because we don’t get around to it,” Wood says.
She recommends making lists to plan out meals and snacks for the week. It may take a few weeks to understand how much food is too much (or too little) when shopping at the grocery store, but having a plan is better than going in with no list at all.
“If we don’t really have a plan for, ‘OK, this is what I’m going to eat,’ or, ‘This is what I’m going to prepare for my family for meals and snacks every day,’ it can be really easy for us to overestimate the amount of food that we’ll need,” she says.
Wood says that foods like berries are more perishable than things like apples and oranges, so plan to eat them accordingly, and understand that some foods can be frozen and saved for later.
Proper storage is also important, as leftovers can be mixed and combined into different foods. Leftover chicken can be diced and added into tacos, for example. The problem? Sometimes those leftovers are easy to forget.
“Any time that we’re putting leftovers into the freezer or the refrigerator, there should always be a date on it as well as what it is,” Wood says. “All too often things will sit in the back of the refrigerator for quite a while, and before you know it, it’s a mystery as to what it was and you don’t want to even open that lid.”
She recommends utilizing sticky notes on the container or on the refrigerator so you don’t forget what you have. And if you have a family that doesn’t like leftovers, Wood suggests reducing the amount of food you’re preparing initially.
Avoiding fast food is also important, Wood says. It’s easy to stop at a restaurant on your way home and end up wasting the food that you’ve already bought for that week, she explains.
Have a food schedule, stick with it and make use of your leftovers to help you go further with food and reduce food waste altogether.