July 1, 2022 – As one of America's favorite holidays lurks around the corner, red, white, and blue won’t be the only consistent theme this year. In the U.S., the aftermath of celebratory gatherings is almost always the same: loads of leftover food that is mostly packed or thrown away.
“Americans waste a lot of food at every stage of food production and distribution. Almost 40% of all food in America is wasted each year,” says Allie Echeverria, a nutritionist at Eaton Broshar Nutrition in Atlanta. “That's 108 billion pounds of food, 130 billion meals, and more than $408 billion.”
With high inflation driving up prices, the act of buying and preparing food destined for the trash seems more wasteful than ever before.
With the U.S. inflation rate at 8% in May, Americans are estimated to spend about $6.9 billion on food for July Fourth. So how can Americans avoid overbuying and overpreparing this holiday season?
A New Innovation That Reduces Food Waste
Fighting food waste can be challenging, which is why Too Good To Go has designed an app to help restaurants and consumers combat food waste, especially during this festive season.
Gaeleen Quinn, head of impact at Too Good To Go, says “the app sells a mix of products, that would have been thrown away, for a third of the price.”
For example, if you order a salad from a restaurant near you via the app, you would pay much less than if you ordered it in the restaurant. But the major setback is you don’t get to choose what goes into that salad. There is also no delivery available.
But that lack of choice doesn’t affect the quality of food.
“You get a good amount of food for like 4 to 5 bucks,” says Elliot Gardner, who uses the app, “and this is helpful considering that you spend about $15 on a regular meal but only $5 with the app.”
Other Ways to Curb Overspending on Food This Season
Food waste isn’t just limited to restaurants and stores. We create tons of it at home, too. One way to help is to donate uncooked food to your local food bank.
“It’s really convenient for you to give away food you haven’t eaten,” says Gaeleen, “as it shows you’re supporting your community.”
You can also take steps to cut waste on the front end. Planning menus before you shop and buying only what you need will help control the amount you spend on food and how much goes to waste.
“Plan a menu for the holiday weekend before you go to the store,” Echeverria says, “and ask yourself how many people will be present plus the meals you will consume.”
She also suggests that you “choose ingredients and figure out how many servings you need to buy so everyone is well-fed without overbuying.”
For instance, if you’re grilling burgers, calculate how many pounds of meat, how many burger buns, and how many slices of cheese you need and stick to your list.
Don’t forget to check your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry before shopping because you may have some items already.
Wendy Bazilian, a doctor of public health and registered dietitian in California, says you should “grow some of your food yourself!”
Lettuce and herbs grow quickly. You can sprout new vegetables from some trimmings. “Herbs are pricey, but growing them is inexpensive, for example,” she says. “Plus there are all kinds of growing kits that can make it easy these days.”
Holidays are all about splurges, so it’s not news that people may tend to overspend during holidays.
“Perhaps while we’re all trying to adapt and manage the inflation and times we’re living in,” Bazilian says, “we can start to navigate the times we save or practice more moderate or frugal approaches to our food shopping and prep and when we don’t.”