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SPEAK OUT: Are You Eating Your Leftovers?

Americans toss out about 40 percent of food annually, according to a recent report.

Americans trash 40 percent—or $165 billion—of uneaten food each year, according to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

According to the report, providing food to families in the U.S. costs 10 percent of the country’s energy budget and uses 50 percent of the land and 80 percent of the fresh water, while an average family of four throws out around $2,275 annually in food. 

If the U.S. reduced food waste by 15 percent, it could feed more than 25 million Americans each year, according to the NRDC. 

“As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path—that’s money and precious resources down the drain,” Dana Gunders, NRDC project scientist with the food and agriculture program, said in a statement. “We can do better.”

The report analyzes various causes of these losses, including grocery stores and retail food sellers that typically lose about $15 billion annually in unsold fresh produce, as well as Americans' portion sizes, which are typically two to eight times more than the standard serving size, and uneaten leftovers.

Compared to other nations, the report says the average American wastes 10 times more food than a consumer in Southeast Asia—a 50 percent bump from Americans in the 1970s.

To help reduce waste, the NRDC suggests learning when food expires, purchasing fresh produce that may not look perfect but is completely edible, cooking smaller food portions and eating leftovers.

How much food do you waste? Tell us in the comments. 

Pachacutec August 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I'm always astounded at how many people say they don't eat leftovers; if I buy a chicken and have it for Sunday dinner, guaranteed by the end of the week, that chicken has been thoroughly "re-cycled!" (and yes, I alternate with other foods so I'm not eating chicken every day). Maybe it's because I came up in the 50's when such dishes were popular, maybe it's because my Mom raised 4 kids and had to stretch the food budget, but I'm very good at using leftovers for casseroles, soups, etc.
Laura L Thornton August 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I tend to buy frozen vegetables—they're fresh when they're frozen, and that way, I don't have to worry about them going bad in the refrigerator. Lettuce, though, is only good fresh, and sometimes I struggle to get through a head of lettuce before it goes bad, since I'm not a fan of salads (despite being a vegan), but I do like lettuce in sandwiches. I love sauerkraut, in part because it doesn't spoil. Sometimes I forget and buy the "wrong" brand of vegan cheese—a certain brand that is extremely bad-tasting and bad-textured. Then I have to throw that out because there's just nothing else I can do with it. I hate it when that happens.
Kathy Jentz August 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
If I can't eat everything by the time it goes bad, I at least try to compost it and that way it is "recycled" in my garden. PS I love leftovers - certain foods are much improved the second time around like chili.

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