Would you like an extra hundred dollars each month?

Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food they buy. For the average family of four, that’s throwing away $1,500 a year.

Food shopping

According to Joanne Berkenkamp of the Natural Resources Defense Council, you can reduce food waste and save a lot of money simply by planning meals and shopping smarter.

BERKENKAMP: “Consumers are the largest source of waste that there is, and that’s why it’s particularly important that we really step up to the plate and figure out how to waste less food at home.”

She says there are several important things families can do to reduce waste. The first is just becoming aware of the food you throw away.

Joan Berkenkamp
Joan Berkenkamp

Then plan your meals and buy only what you need. Once home, store your food properly. Keep the refrigerator at the right temperature, and put the most perishable items in the back where they’ll stay colder. Use the crisper drawers, and freeze any food that’s getting close to its expiration date.

She also says the “best by” date often refers to quality rather than safety, so many foods are still good to eat – just not at peak flavor – after that date.

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By preventing food waste and keeping food out of landfills where it would otherwise emit climate-warming methane, you can save money and the earth.

Reporting credit: Pam Memmott/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Shopper photo: Copyright protected.

The Series:
Pt 1: Food waste is a global problem (May 30, 2016)
Pt 2: Educating restaurants on how to reduce food waste (May 31, 2016)
Pt 3: Food wasted because it’s not perfect (June 1, 2016)
Pt 4: Rescuing leftover food (June 2, 2016)
Pt 5: What you can do to reduce wasted food (June 3, 2016)

More Resources
Natural Resources Defense Council: Food
NRDC’s Joanne Berkenkamp
Waste-free Kitchen Handbook

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Jan O'Brien

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...