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California households waste over $1,000 in food yearly


Startling statistics from Cherry Digital

Fall and winter tend to be very “foodie” periods with Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of the turkey excesses. Nationwide, families usually fill the freezer, stocked up the fridges, and get supplies for each food-focused gathering. But what happens to everything we buy? Are we as good as we could be about using everything up? Or are we guilty of food waste?

Cherry Digital, a communications agency, wanted to find out just how wasteful Americans are, and surveyed 3,200 people to find out how much we throw away this past year.

The first discovery was that California households waste $1,022 worth of food annually, or in other words, a quarter (25%) of their food each month – because it’s gone past its expiration date. The national average was $907, meaning Californians are among the most wasteful in the nation.

Broken down by state, the survey found that South Carolinians are the most wasteful, who get rid of $1,304.68 worth of food every year. The least-wasteful state is West Virginia, who’s residents only throw away $404.90 worth of their annual groceries. 

So why is there so much waste? Maybe shoppers aren’t reading the labels. The survey found that nearly half of respondents (48.9%) won’t eat food that’s marked as past its sell-by date. They could be misinformed about what the sell-by date actually means, which is the last date by which it must be sold in a store. Yet, the food is still good to consume (even if it’s past what’s marked as the use-by date).

That pesky “use-by-date” tends to cause confusion: Only one-quarter knew that it signifies the last date for use of the product at its peak quality. Nearly one-third (30.4%) believed that it was the last date the product was edible, almost a quarter (22%) thought it meant that it was the last date the food product could be displayed and sold in a store, and finally, 21% thought it meant the date that the product would be at its best flavor and quality  - when, in fact, this is the ‘best-by’ date (interestingly, while these guides are in place, they don’t actually say that this is the last date a product can be eaten by - that part is up to you, the consumer. You can eat something beyond the guidelines, but just give it a check over, or a ‘sniff test’ first before eating).

More than half (51.1%) of people believe that best before dates on fruits and vegetables should be scrapped altogether because they say it’s easy to tell if something has gone off just by touching it. The survey also found that the foods Americans would be most likely to throw away are dairy products (46.6%); followed by meat (22.3%); fish (19.2%); bread (5.1%) and vegetables (8.5%).

Here’s some advice on how consumers can be more resourceful with food, and hopefully will be able to throw less away in the future:

•  Freeze your food. You can actually freeze the food right up till the use-by date, and it will be good to eat months later. (Just double check what you can or can’t freeze - not everything can go in, like soft cheeses).

•  Freeze milk into an ice cube tray. As the survey revealed, most people will throw away dairy products first - well now they can use this handy tip instead of wasting it. Use the frozen milk cubes in coffee or tea.

•  Put your herbs into a glass of water to prevent them from wilting quickly, they will last much longer.

•  If yogurts are getting near their use-by date, you can mix them up with some over-ripe fruit for a smoothie or even freeze into ice-lollies.

•  Turn stale bread or crusts into breadcrumbs by putting them in a food processor. Fantastic when mixed with herbs or onions as a stuffing for chicken or to top baked fish.

•  When cooking with foods such as potatoes, broccoli, or carrots, use it all. You don’t need to remove the peel or cut the stems off, as they often have additional nutrients in. And if you don’t like the peel or stem, you can compost what you don’t use.

•  Donate the items you might be close to throwing out which aren’t yet out of date. There will be plenty of food kitchens nearby that would really appreciate anything you have which is going spare.