When I found out that America wastes 40% of its food, I was shocked. This is a country where nearly 50 million people aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. Yet we throw away millions of tons of food every year. It just doesn’t make sense.
It’s not just good food getting thrown away that upsets me as a chef. It’s that everything that goes into producing that food—the land, the water, the climate pollution, the labor and the love it takes to get it to the plate—all of it also gets wasted. And it’s a lot: If food waste were a country, its carbon footprint would rank third, behind the U.S. and China.
While waste happens at every point in the food system, from farms to grocery stores and restaurants, it turns out that most food waste happens at home. The average family of four basically puts $120 a month—or $1,500 a year—straight into a landfill. While that may be surprising, I actually find it encouraging. Because it means that you and I and everyone else can take matters into our own hands and do something about this. Together, we can reduce food waste, save a little money, and help create a healthier, cleaner, more efficient, affordable food system for everyone.
Today, the Natural Resources Defense Council teamed up with the Ad Council to release a public service announcement and national campaign to help more American families do just that.
The “Save the Food” ad campaign includes a national TV ad that follows the life of a lone strawberry from the farm to an unfortunate end inside a family’s trash can. It directs viewers to a website, SavetheFood.com, that is packed full of tips to help other families give more of their food a better fate—from tips for better storage, smarter shopping, meal planning and recipes. You can find more from them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
In honor of the Save the Food launch, I thought I’d share some tips everyone can use to enjoy food, waste less of it and keep money in their pockets:
1. Reducing food waste starts with planning. Most people head to the store and buy a bunch of food without knowing what they’re going to do with it. That’s the food that’s going to wilt in your fridge and end up in the garbage. But when you have a plan—like, tomorrow is taco night—then you shop with a purpose, and you’re more likely to use what you buy.
2. If you buy too much, don’t be afraid of the freezer. Milk, bread, leftover pasta sauce—it can all be frozen.
3. At my house, Friday is soup day, which is a great way to clear out the fridge. I use up all the vegetables left in my crisper and make sure nothing goes to waste.
4. Knowing how to reinvent leftovers is key to keeping good food out of the garbage. It’s fun to get creative with last night’s dinner. Can you work the leftover grains into a salad? Maybe put meat in a breakfast burrito?
5. Try to find a way to use every part of a vegetable. You can use carrot greens a little like parsley—chop them up and they add a nice vegetal note to a salad. Beet greens and stems are good to eat, too. This is how our grandparents cooked, using up everything. Food was valued, not something to be discarded lightly.
6. The scraps you don’t use can be separated out for composting. This way they can make healthier soil to grow more food instead of filling up landfills. Food waste is the single biggest source of waste in landfills, where it churns out methane, a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide. Would you believe that as a country we spend $1.5 billion just to dispose of the food we throw away?
Stopping food waste starts at home. We have a great opportunity to fix this problem. If we reduce food waste by 15%, we could save enough food to feed 25 million people. Visit Savethefood.com for more tips on how to reduce food waste. It’s a smart way to save money, protect the environment, and help make sure our food system can get fresh, healthy food to everyone.