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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Do you know how often you actually waste food?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26798points) February 15th, 2010

Do you actually think about how much food you come in contact with that goes to waste? Here in the US food seems like more of a commodity of recreation, celebration etc than substance to keep the body alive. Even with 60% of Americans being over weight (Nightline and Time magazine) food is still being wasted. Have you ever gone to a party, pot luck, wake, wedding etc and there was food left over or certain dishes and there is always one that was hardly eaten because it wasn’t popular and it got tossed out because no one wanted it? Where as food here is seem as a dining experience other people around the world would see it as the means to keep their youngest child alive one more day, Do you think about the food around you that is wasted and if you have the opportunity to save it do you think to do it?

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49 Answers

TheJoker's avatar

We are indeed a throw-away society…. be it food, old electrical equipment, old clothes, or anything else we no longer want.

Sampson's avatar

I’ve never seen food thrown away at a pot luck like that… Just sayin’.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I end up with leftovers, mostly from cooking familiar recipes meant for several, but ending up with just me eating, due to schedules. I freeze portions, take food to friends, lunch at work for several. Food does get wasted. I’m working on cooking less, but that turns out to be more expensive.

thriftymaid's avatar

I waste very very little.

Cruiser's avatar

Waste not want not.

candide's avatar

I am keenly aware of it, every minute of every day.

knitfroggy's avatar

I am aware of it every time I clean out the refrigerator or scrape my son’s plate after a meal.

partyparty's avatar

If I have any leftover food I always freeze it for another day.

I am acutely aware I am lucky enough to have the resources and cash to feed us well.

eponymoushipster's avatar

Yes, i think it’s a fantastic idea that we ship all our food scraps off to another country. I mean, I’m sure they’ll accept with love and graciousness our semi-to-fully putrid leftovers.~

health and wellness laws be damned.

laureth's avatar

Yes, as the cook in my house, I feel regret and dismay when I realize something is past its expiry. I try to minimize it, but it still happens.

On the other hand, we do have a habit here of (1) freezing leftovers in single-serve containers, which we use as a source of lunches to take to work, and (2) compost.

partyparty's avatar

@laureth Oh yes, compost… I never thought of that… thanks

Bluefreedom's avatar

I actually do know – rarely. As a diabetic, I use careful portion control in how much I eat at meals so nothing really goes to waste. As far as eating out, my wife is really good at eating the leftovers that come home from restaurants.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t waste alot of food as I am a lousy cook and don’t want much of it around anyway ;)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes I’m perfectly aware and we don’t waste any food – if we have to throw something out, we put it into the compost bin. If we didn’t finish something at the restaurant, we take the leftovers home. If there was a lunch at work and a lot of food is left over to be thrown out, I take most of it home or to other people.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I hate to say it but I waste a lot of food. I live alone and unfortunately a certain amount of the food I buy has gone off before I have the chance to eat it. I also don’t have a very big appetite and end up throwing away food because I can’t bring myself to finish it. However, it’s not all bad, certain foods I can give to my dogs if I can’t finish it and so, technically, it’s not wasted but if it’s not suitable for the dogs then it often gets thrown in the bin. This is something I feel bad about.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’m aware. On my own I waste little since I know how much I can eat for eat meal and have no problem eating the same foods over an over again until they’re finished. As for eating out, that’s tricky since the portions are always HUGE, usually I can make each restaurant meal into two if I take the leftovers home.

When I’m with my partner though, we waste a lot. He doesn’t seem to like to eat leftovers, doesn’t eat on a regular schedule and is fussier about food than I am. For some reason I feel odd to suggest leftovers when at his place or to eat them myself in front of him.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I hate to say that we end up wasting more than I’d like. With just the two of us, we don’t eat as much as we used to with the girls here, of course. I sometimes forget that & I cook too much. Many things are hard to pare down portion wise.

I agree with @Leanne1986. Too much food gets thrown just because you can’t eat it all. Stores need to provide smaller loaves of bread, packages of buns, etc. for one or two people. I cook something, put it in the frig & think it’ll get eaten later. Some does, some doesn’t. Sunday nights are my time to clean the frig out. And it does make me ashamed at times, for the food I throw out. We take too much for granted in this country. There’s people all around the world that would give anything they had to have just what I throw out. It’s sinful.

As @Bluefreedom said about his wife, we LOVE to bring home leftovers from restaurants. They always get eaten here.

J0E's avatar

If I ever waste food it’s in the morning. I have a tendency to make a bowl of cereal, take one spoonful, then realize I don’t want it. But other than that I don’t think I waste food very much, I am good at saving stuff for later.

BoBo1946's avatar

Waste very little! My mother taught me as a child not to waste food! Mainly because we did not have much!

Seek's avatar

The only wasted food in my house is the food that’s eaten when people aren’t actually hungry.

sadly, that happens a lot around here. We love food, and are not very disciplined about our portion sizes.

ru2bz46's avatar

I tend to waste very little myself since I live alone. I don’t keep much food in the house; instead, I buy it fresh. I save my leftovers as well.

I also try not to put too much on my plate. It used to be that when I had food left on my plate or my spouse’s, I would just eat it, so it would not be thrown out. One day, I realized that throwing it out was actually better than eating it. My body didn’t need it, and by eating it, it was simply being disposed of AND adding unnecessary calories to my body. Though I was eating it, it was still wasted.

Shae's avatar

I work for a youth organization, that requires me to take kids to camp a few times a year. At our camp they kids are served family style at their tables. At the end of the meal all the food left on the table is separated from the paper trash. Before we leave the cafeteria the camp leader announces how many pounds of food was wasted at that meal. It gets the kids excited about trying not to waste. By the end of camp the amount of waste is very minimal. We encourage them to go home and talk to their families about food waste and how fun it can be to eliminate that waste.

Judi's avatar

I was raised in a “Clean your plate,” family. As food got easier, higher calories and portions got bigger, I still managed to clean my plate.
I lost a lot of weight and had to retrain myself that it’s alright not to eat everything that is put in front of me.
I am sorry people are starving in other countries and I think I do more than most to support charities to help them, but I have to look after my own health too. If that means that aunt Mable’s chocolate cake ends up in the dumpster, or half the food I ordered gets thrown out, so be it.

mzehnich's avatar

Far too often. I am trying to live a cleaner and more respectful lifestyle but it is almost second nature to not think about wasting food, and of course we are all programmed to think once foodstuff has been removed from its wrapper and put onto a plate it is automatically “dirty” and can’t be put back.

Frankly, I am amazed that countries with stable economies have even managed to make it this far with humanity leading such a wasteful lifestyle.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I am learning what I get tired of quickly (cabbage soup) so I just cook a little of it. I get a box of fruit and veggies from our local farmers market for $25 and it is a chore to eat it all between the two of us and sometimes things get thrown out. I am very aware of it and almost want to cry when I have to waste food. (I think it comes from growing up with grandparents who survived the depression era)

It actually kinda annoys me that most family functions and holidays revolve around food and what we’re gonna eat next. I think it would be helpful to plan more activites and walks after meals to put the focus elsewhere.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@ru2bz46: What you say about eating your SO’s leftovers, I used to put my un eaten food on my SO’s plates and feel better I wasn’t wasting but it wasn’t any good for them, you are so right about the food still being wasted. I’ve tried to stop that habit and it helps to be with someone who says “no, I’m not hungry anymore, wrap it up”.
the new bad habit is to give the leftover food on the plates to dogs which is bad for them. sigh.

susanc's avatar

Composting makes me feel like uneaten food makes new food when the compost goes
into the garden. But I’m kidding myself, because I mostly grow flowers.
Some of them can be used medicinally, but I guess I’m wasting food by not growing
more vegetables. I dunno. You need beauty to survive too, I think.

The dog gets all the meat trimmings, and I have seagulls for neighbors, so when I generate small bones that the dog shouldn’t eat, I throw them on the roof. Those birds can digest anything.

I think going out to eat is intrinsically, intentionally wasteful so I just enjoy it.

kevbo's avatar

I think it’s good practice to appreciate the food you have but have come to the conclusion that it is silly beyond a certain point to fret over “wasted” food (although I still do, since it’s a pretty well ingrained habit). Much of that change of thought is dependent upon putting “wasted” food in a different or broader context. For example:

“Clean plate” people who are overweight (myself included) waste food twice by a) eating calories they don’t need and b) having to expend extra energy to lose the weighty they’ve gained from the extra calories.

We grow more corn than we and all our feed animals can consume. We grow so much corn, that it’s cheaper in Mexico to buy U.S. corn than it is to buy Mexican corn.

The U.S. just recalled 4.9 million pounds of beef for E. coli contamination, which would not have happened if processing was less centralized. Repeat ad infinitum for all other manner of processed agricultural products (like the peanut recall in recent years).

I guess my point is that respect and appreciation for food are important, but it’s a bit naive to simply take on the liability of guilt over what is left over on your plate or in your fridge or at a pot luck. The table is much bigger than our immediate perceptions and is tilted so much that unless we broaden our view we are deceived into thinking of it individually as “our” waste. Food is overproduced for reasons of “national security.” The animals and plants that make our food are manipulated by food producers to maximize profits and not nutrition. Corporate interests under the guise of U.S. “aid” (and other interests and their correlated mechanisms) systematically subjugate third world nations through economics and sometimes through deliberate manipulation of the food supply (“If you control oil, you control nations. If you control food, you control people.”)

As far as I’ve discerned, the way out of the above dilemma is to eat local and from smaller producers.

Another response to this question is to marvel at our abundance. In the 50s and 60s we were dazzled by promises of the World of Tomorrow with all the convenience, luxury and leisure we could imagine. Well, don’t we (the western “we”) have that today with food? Calories are cheap and plentiful. We have way more than we possibly need and way more than we can possibly consume (although many of us do try our best). One might argue that’s another reason to prioritize higher quality in our food presuming we can afford it, but if we can’t at least “enough” calories are relatively easy to come by.

YARNLADY's avatar

I am a most frugal person, and I waste as little food as possible.

I once saw a group of welfare children who had been provided with a free trip to an amusement park, and each was given a bag of food for lunch. They stomped on the sandwiches and threw the fruit at each other and squirted the boxed juice on all the furniture. It was disgusting.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

If you want to see food waste, look here and here. Sure, individuals waste food, but corporations are the professionals when it comes to waste.

Judi's avatar

@Dan_DeColumna ; You’re the link master!

laureth's avatar

@kevbo – re “We grow more corn than we and all our feed animals can consume. We grow so much corn, that it’s cheaper in Mexico to buy U.S. corn than it is to buy Mexican corn.”

Actually, the U.S. government subsidizes the corn crop, which is why it’s cheaper. Farmers can sell it at less than the cost of growing it (with the subsidy), which is why junk food is cheaper than real food, too.

ChaosCross's avatar

I waste perhaps over the course of a week a third of a plate of food.

How shameful of me.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Dan_DeColumna Yes, that is a YouTube video everyone should watch. It was really no stranger to me it reminds me about 7 years ago my mother before she passed knew this guy who was homeless. I asked him how he ate when there were no soup kitchens available and he said by dumpster diving. When he seen my reaction he explained how much food most of it good that business but mostly restaurants and fast food threw away at the end of the day. He had them all down on a schedule fairly much. He say he waits until they toss it in the dumpster and go get it right when it is still warm. He said sometimes he had to wait and a lot of the people knew he was coming around so they wrap it extra tight for him. When I asked why don’t they just hand it to him if they see him he told me it was illegal for them to give him food they could sell in the dining area and they were forbidden to give any food out of the back door, incredible.

I love lawyers if you are in a jamb you hope yours is the biggest prick of them all in the court room but I believe they are part of the problem, they and greedy people. I can see why some businesses would see it cheaper to just toss it out than give it to the hungry. All it takes is one person who was done a favor to get a tummy ache from the free food and try to hose the restaurant for big bucks.

But where businesses might be gun shy about saving food or getting it to those who may need or can use it, private citizens can take that half a platter of potato salad or those deviled eggs and wrap them up and take them home OR to another person they know who has less, if they were not too lazy to do so. One can’t same or play forward every scrap of food or every loaf of bread or try to send it over seas unrefrigerated only a banana drunk fool who fell from a tree on his primate-sized brain would think that but more can be done. If there was not so much food or it was not so easy to get maybe people will see it for what it really is, to keep the body running and you won’t have kids stomping free sandwiches and using juice boxes as squirt guns.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: I find enough free food to run my own soup kitchen. A large one.

kevbo's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central, I don’t know if it is common practice, but I worked as a line cook during the opening of the Rock Bottom restaurant in Seattle. The day or two before, we did a test run where the management would enter orders into the system to simulate a typical evening. Every dish we made went from the expediting station into the trash cans lined up on the other side. They told us in advance not to worry about it because the food was already expensed, but it was uncomfortable to participate in that, especially since I hadn’t experienced anything like that before or since.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@kevbo I don’t know if I could do that. Wow… That is sooo wrong.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@kevbo And to think they could have combined that exercise with a free food banquet for the hungry and did a good deed, not wasted food, and got some awesome press. A damn shame.

kevbo's avatar

Yeah, it’s a mystery to me. Even if they didn’t want those folks in the restaurant, maybe having the food packed into “to go” containers would have been better.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Dan_DeColumna very interesting video. So, large grocery stores just throw that stuff away. Some of those steaks were passed the due date and they just threw them away. That is unreal…those steaks could have been frozen and be just fine. The bread, pasta, etc..just sitting there for the taking. Well, learned something.

Thank you for the video! Good stuff..

MorenoMelissa1's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I have a habit of wasting food myself.

Coloma's avatar

Nothing much ever goes to waste in my space. lol

I live on 5 acres and have chickens and geese that gobble up lots of old veggies and such, along with stale breads, pastas, etc. Any old cheeses or meats go down the hill for the pleasure of local wildlife. Cat gets older milk, cottage cheese ( which the chickens love too ) and plain yogurts. Think my ‘system’ is pretty beneficial. haha

Coloma's avatar

Okay..I must confess, I just returned from 2 weeks in Taiwan and it is often an insult if you do not consume the entirety of your meal. One night I went across our alley to one of the local resteraunts that made the most killer egg fu young (sp?) for a pint of Taiwan beer. They served me a complementary plate of some sort of sea weed appetizer….it was really baaaad! I ate one bite and felt horribly guilty, but…oh well….finished my beer and left the sea weed wrap thingys moldering away on the table. hahaha

doctiresquire's avatar

every morning right after my coffee ..i waste my food…theres 2 kinds of people on earth…those who eat to live ..and those who live to eat…it comes from the earth returns to the earth…its not wasted…its recycled

doctiresquire's avatar

i guess if i was lazy ..and you worked growing and processing food ..i could lay a guilt trip on you if your cup over flows ..claiming your spilling that on the floor while i`m starving…you should give your extra food to me ..and if i say that to enough people..heck i would`nt have to do any thing but reap what you and everyone else sows…..what a scam for lazy people…ill help retarded ..crippled .. elderly…infants…those who can`t work…no problem…but i really don`t care for lazy ..laying around for 30 years ..claiming they have no food or housing ..they want it delivered and it better be fresh…sometimes people must migrate if theres no job where they are…what are they afraid of ..being poor where they go ..they`re poor where they are ..why not try empty stomach always motivates me to do something….i guess i`m not a begger

Seek's avatar


Grammar rocks!

thekoukoureport's avatar

I waste alot of food.
Sorry but true, I am the cook for my family and I cook at least 5–6 times a week. My kids have friends over from time to time who, lets say, don’t get the same nutritional value from their meals then mine. So I cook for everyone. At what cost? My dinners for 4–6 people cost on avg about $20.00. There are always leftovers because if you leave my table hungry it’s your fault. By the way my children and I are in very good shape, weight and size. I give credit to good food and an active lifestyle.

Kardamom's avatar

It’s funny that you mentioned the potluck thing because my family hosts a lot of potluck parties. To avoid wasting food, I’m always the one who starts cleaning up right after everyone has had a go at the food table. I bring tupperware and plastic bags and start putting everything in the fridge, so that the food can be safely consumed later. We like to eat, so most of the time people take “doggie bags” home with them.

Whenever I go to a restaurant, I keep a cooler and tupperware in my car. That way, if I have to go somewhere else after I’ve eaten and have leftovers, I can safely stow them in the cooler until I get home.

Occassionally I’ve gone out to eat (usually it was on a trip out of town) I ended up with leftovers and no cooler. In that instance, I will usually drive around until I find some poor soul that is standing on a street corner with a sign asking for food. Most of the time, they’re very appreciative. Especially in this economy, where people in our own country are starving.

When I go to a buffet, I try to take only a little bit of things first, eat them and then go back if I want more.

Another thing I like to do is buy a 10 lb. bag of potatoes at the 99 Cent Only Store (much better deal than $3.99 at Ralphs or Vons) but since I could never eat that many potatoes by the time they would go bad, I divide them up amongst co-workers and neighbors.

I may not be perfect, but I’m doing the best I can not to waste food.

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