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Why I Hate Wasting Food and How to Reduce Your Impact

I like to save money, believe in recycling, and saving all sorts of necessary and unnecessary items in case they’ll come in useful one day

Food waste is a major problems that we all need to get a handle on!

Food waste is a major problems that we all need to get a handle on!

I hate food waste! I can't help it, I think it must be just the way I was brought up. When I was a child in the 1940s, during and after the War, there were food shortages, and food was such a precious commodity that leaving anything on your plate was sacrilege. If my brother and I didn't eat every morsel we were given, my parents would say that little children in Turkey and Greece would love to have it, which would occasionally elicit the logical, but unacceptable reply, "Well, let them have it then!"

So, I was brought up to scrape my plate clean, and that is what I've done all my life. If any food was left over, it was put to good use for the next meal or to feed the cat or dog.

Would you eat this cheese? I would—I'd cut off all  the moldy bits and eat the rest.

Would you eat this cheese? I would—I'd cut off all the moldy bits and eat the rest.

How to Reduce Your Food Waste

  • Reuse carcasses to make soups, sauces, etc.
  • Combine your leftovers to make delicious and unique dishes.
  • Cut off all the moldy bits of a block of cheese and eat the rest.
  • Buy imperfect fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy things that are close to their sell by date and eat them quickly.
  • If you buy more canned food than you need, donate your extras.
  • Eat (certain) foods past their "used by" date.
  • Use food waste as compost or fertilizers.

Throw Away Culture Is a Major Problem

Would you use up chicken leftovers, or do you chuck them in the bin? People who are very poor can sometimes only survive by living off scraps that other people have thrown away. People in less fortunate countries are sometimes forced to scavenge from rubbish dumps. Still, they don't all die of food poisoning, even in those dire circumstances.

That said, it is not necessarily poverty that drives people to eat every scrap of their food. Take me for example—being old doesn't necessarily mean being poor—I don't waste food because us senior citizens are old school. We lived through the War and post-war food shortages, and we were brought up on the saying "waste not, want not." This has been helpful throughout our lives. Perhaps this is why older people seem to be far more resistant to wasting food and other commodities than younger people who were brought up in the modern throw-away materialistic era. They can't help it, poor darlings, but the under-sixties do seem to be unnecessarily frightened of their own shadows and horrible diseases, and perhaps, in our current recessionary times, they need to develop a more robust approach to the available commodities.

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How Much Food Is Wasted?

  • Each year 1.3 billion tons of food (about a third of all that is produced) is wasted.
  • 45% of all fruit and vegetables are wasted
  • 35% of fish and seafood are wasted
  • 30% of cereals are wasted
  • 20% of dairy products are wasted
  • 20% of meat is wasted

Supermarkets and Perishable Food

And in these days of recession, many people queue up to see what food is available at a reduced price at supermarkets because it has to be eaten that day. I know of pensioners who like to buy their food in the late afternoon, as this is the time when they can find the best bargains, when the food stores weed out all their perishable food before it has to be destroyed. Supermarkets get rid of much of their food. The food is still edible and not dangerous, but more uptight shoppers don't want to buy imperfect looking foods. This is a major problem.

Impacts of Food Waste

  • Food waste creates greenhouse gasses.
  • Food waste takes up too much space in landfills.
  • Food waste can hurt wildlife.

My Experience With Food Waste

Now that you know how much I hate wasting food, imagine my dismay to be with a partner who always leaves something on his plate. He is as compulsive as I am, but in the opposite direction. Where did he learn that? I don't know, but it must be learned behavior, just as mine is.

I've asked him why he does it, and he doesn't know. I suggested psychological reasons, that it might be because he came from a large family and subconsciously needed to grab the food on his plate because he was in competition, but he said it wasn't that. Then I suggested it might be poverty (a family of eight must have been hard to feed). He always puts more than he needs on his plate. Maybe, subconsciously, he needed to combine his leftovers to make sure he had enough, but he said it wasn't that either.

He's actually a very small eater, and not greedy, yet seems unable to assess how much he is likely to eat in one meal. This sometimes leads to arguments, as I can't bear to throw away his leavings, and we are left with little piles of uneaten food. It was these arguments that led me write this article. I hope it was informative and helpful.

So would you use food after the "use by" date?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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