If you’re like me, you were probably shocked by a recently released report that found that up to half of the world’s food goes to waste. With hundreds of millions of people going hungry every day, how is this possible?
In developing countries, much of the waste is attributable to inefficient harvesting methods or inadequate transportation and storage facilities. Here in the U.S., retailers and consumers are often to blame. Grocery stores throw out perfectly edible food that has reached its “sell-by” date (which is not the same as an “eat-by” date). Consumers let food go bad in the fridge—on average, we each waste 25 percent of the food that we bring into our homes—or leave half-eaten entrées behind at restaurants. Much of this wasted food ends up decaying in landfills, spewing out methane gas.
But no food-waste discussion is complete if we don’t also look at the waste inherent in meat production. Did you know that it takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of pork? That’s grain that could be fed directly to hungry people. The world’s cattle alone consume enough food to sustain nearly 9 billion people, which is what the world’s human population is projected to reach by 2050. Raising animals for food wastes other precious resources, too. It can take up to 50 times more water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than it does to produce the same amount of vegetables.
Every year, the commercial fishing industry dumps millions of tons of “bycatch,” or unwanted fish—most of them dead or dying—back into the oceans. In fish farming, fish must still be caught in the wild to feed farmed carnivorous species. It is estimated that it can take 3 pounds or more of wild ocean fish to produce a single pound of farmed salmon or sea bass.
If you’re ready to reduce your food waste (and save animals), one of the best things that you can do is go vegan. Fortunately, we’ve got vegan recipes galore. And the following are a few other easy food- and money-saving tips:
• Plan weekly menus around meals that share the same ingredients, and stick to your list when you go grocery shopping.
• Repurpose foods that are about to go bad. For example, old bananas can be used to make great banana bread, or you can freeze them for smoothies.
• Buy less. Since we toss about 25 percent of the food that we buy, try purchasing 25 percent less. Two-for-one sales and oversized packages aren’t bargains when you end up throwing out food that you can’t use up.
• Out of sight is out of mind, so keep your fridge and freezer cleaned out. That way, you’ll use what you already have and won’t buy duplicates.
• Package leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze them for those busy nights when you’re just too tired to cook.
When in doubt, remember Grandma’s old adage, “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without”!