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Food for Thought - 7 Techniques to Generate Less Waste When Shopping

Many of us want to live more sustainably and are employing a number of strategies to do so... like reducing water and energy consumption in our home or starting to compost. And we’ve probably all heard about the three R’s - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The first R in this phrase may be the most important and where we can make a significant impact. In this article, we’ll focus on one of the biggest areas where we can reduce, food waste.

In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply which equals approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. Food is the largest single source of waste in the U.S. More food ends up in landfills than plastic or paper. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 20 percent of what goes into municipal landfills is food. 

 This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on society:

  • Food that could have helped feed people in need is sent to landfills.

  • Food waste that decomposes in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

  • Land, water, labor, energy, and other inputs are used and thus wasted in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food.

We think of food waste as something that happens at home. In reality, it starts with what we put in our grocery carts. With grocery stores designed to tempt us in every aisle, it’s easy to end up overbuying. Here are 7 tips to help you buy just what you need.

  1. Think about how many meals you’ll eat at home this week and how long before your next shopping trip. Before you leave for the market, shop your kitchen first and note items you already have so you don’t end up with duplicates.

  2. Make a list and stick to it. By shopping from a list you are much less likely to buy things you don’t need and won’t eat.

  3. Shop more frequently. Purchase only what you need for the next few meals. We are not very good at predicting what we will want to eat in the future, so we tend to overbuy and end up wasting food.

  4. Buy fresh items in smaller quantities. Choose loose fruits and vegetables rather than larger amounts that often come in packages, boxes or in plastic bags.

  5. Shop on a full stomach to help you reduce impulse buys.

  6. Don’t fall for marketing techniques to get you to spend more money, like buying in bulk or ‘2 for 1’ items, unless you are sure you will use all of it.

  7. Shop at farmer’s markets where you will usually find fresher food which will last longer and is grown locally (which also reduces the food’s carbon footprint).


And with the waste you do end up with, we hope you will compost it instead of sending this waste to the landfill. Spoiled and leftover food is perfect for composting often providing the "green" nutrients needed to form a balanced compost pile.

We hope that by following these tips you will find your home creating far less food waste. If you want to learn more, we will be hosting two free webinars this month called "Smart Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste." Register for the session on June 16th or June 20th to hold your spot. We hope to see you there! 

Article written by Solana Center Docent David.