There has been a lot of focus on food waste of late, and with good reason. To cite the oft-cited statistic, some 40 percent of food in America goes uneaten – what an embarrassment of luxury we have.
1. Don’t shop hungry
This is a well-known dieting strategy, but applies to food waste and money-saving as well. Research finds that shopping when you’re hungry leads not only to the buying of higher-calorie items, but also to buying more of everything. And incidently, this applies to shopping for non-food items too. Being hungry just naturally boosts the desire to acquire things, whether they’re needed or not.
2. Don’t shop tired
A Swedish study found that sleep deprivation led to not only the purchase of higher calorie foods, but more food by weight as well. And although it was a small study, this writer’s real-life experience points in the same direction. Another problem with shopping when you’re tired is that you may be more tempted to purchase convenience foods and ready-made meals – these may not lead to more food waste, but they are more expensive and often come with excess packaging waste.
3. Bring your own storage containers
In her quest to live a zero waste life, TreeHugger writer Katherine shops with jars – she brings clean empty jars to the market for bulk items and foods from the deli, meat and seafood counters. Not only is this a wonderful way to avoid packaging, but it’s also a great way to maintain portion control as you can purchase custom amounts of an item.
4. Don’t buy big
Unless you know you will use all of the product, don’t fall for the “buy big and save” swindle for perishable food. The little bit of savings will mean nothing if you end up throwing the unused food out.
5. Don’t be seduced by sales
If something on your shopping list is on sale, no problem. But don’t be enticed to buy more than you need unless you are sure you will be able to use it. And especially don’t buy something that’s on sale just because it’s a good deal – impulse bargain shopping all too often ends up as wasteful shopping. If you want to take advantage of sales, use coupons or a circular and make sure to work the sale items into your shopping list at the menu planning stage. (If you have a menu planning stage.)
6. Shop frequently
While shopping every day or two may not work with the one-giant-shopping-trip-a-week-lifestyle model, it definitely has its benefits: You can be less glued to a meal plan; you can take advantage of what’s local and fresh daily; you can shop to suit what you’re in the mood for; food will sit in your refrigerator for shorter periods of time; you will need to store less food at home which is more energy-efficient, et cetera. When shopping more frequently, use just a hand-held basket rather than using a cart – a big cart does nothing but whisper secret siren songs enticing you to feed it.