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7 ELIMINATE FOOD SPOILAGE WASTE

This action focuses on saving energy through careful food purchase planning and preparing to avoid food spoilage and waste.

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why?

When food is wasted, the embedded energy is also wasted. About one-third of food produced is lost or wasted globally each year (Economic Research Service). This food loss in the US accounts for 2 percent of total annual energy consumption (Cueller and Weber, 2010 via FAO). While food losses occur at all stages of the supply chain, in high-GDP counties such as the United States, considerable amounts of food are wasted due to poor purchase planning, careless preparation, or leaving prepared food unconsumed. Food waste in European and North American counties is between 95-115 kg per capita per year (Gustavsson et al., 2011 via FAO), whereas in areas where food is relatively scarce such as sub-Saharan Africa, losses are between 6-11 kg per capita per year. Avoiding food losses and waste throughout the supply chain could reduce energy inputs into the food system and reduce GHG emissions, lessen the competitition for land and water, cut food costs and alleviate poverty and hunger (FAO).

how to do this action:

The primary cause of food waste in developed counties such as the United States is due to food spoilage after distribution (FAO). This can occur both before being purchased by consumers at grocery stores and restaurants as well as after purchase due to poor purchase planning on the consumers' part. This action focuses on what individual consumers can do to develop good purchase planning which reduces food wasted, energy used and money spent.

This action will vary based on what your typical food purchasing patterns are like. Some individuals may live in close enough proximity to a grocery store that they can shop every other day or even every day easily. Others may shop for groceries once a week or even once a month. Regardless of how often you shop, the goal should be to plan out what food should be purchased for which meals, having an intended purpose for each item you buy. The more often you purchase produce the easier it will be to buy only what you know you will use in the next day or week, making sure no food is wasted.

Below are some rules of thumb for proper purchase planning:

-Focus on eating the most perishable food near the beginning of the plan.
Organize your meals so that the ones requiring more fresh produce are eaten closest to when they were purchased. The more often you purchase produce the fresher the foods you eat will be as you will only have to purchase for a shorter length of time. Be realistic about how long fruits and items will last. Most items will last 3-4 days in good condition; some items can last up to a week. If you cannot shop more frequently, plan on using frozen or canned vegetables and fruits for the meals later in your plan instead of purchasing fresh produce for these meals in the chance that they will still be in good condition.

-Know your eating habits.
Be realistic about what you feel like eating day after day. If you plan on eating a sandwich everyday for a week to make full use of your food items but get sick of what you are eating after the second day, this food will be wasted. Make sure you are providing enough variety in your plan that you will have food to look forward to every day.

-Plan for food 'multitasking'.
For example, if you purchase bread by the loaf but know that you will only go through 2/3rds of that loaf in a week for other uses, find another way to use the bread before it expires such as for french toast, crostinis or for bread crumbs. Often times packaged foods can only be purchased in one quantity size. If this is the case, make sure you have a plan to use all of that item and not just a part of it. In a similar way, many food items can be used for similar meals with slight variations, making them feel like different meals entirely, though they use many of the same food items. For example, meltable cheese, avocado and mushrooms can make an excellent hot quesadilla as well as a cold sandwich with some deli meat added. Leftover vegetables used to make a salad for lunch, can become a stirfry over rice for dinner.

-Buy correct quantities.
Look for opportunities to buy only what you need of an item. Grocery stores and food co-ops which allow bulk buying offer a great opportunity to do this. Spices, flour, nuts, rice and grains can be purchased by any quantity needed to avoid waste. Eggs can also often be purchased individually at these types of stores. If you cannot purchase food in this way, plan your meals to use all of what is purchased.

-Make your food visible.
Find a way to organize your shelves so that food does not get lost and forgotten in cluttered shelves. Listing what ‘leftover’ food items you have from each week will also help you keep a visible tally on what food you have purchased and not used. Buying in bulk is also a good way to keep food quantities visible in glass jars instead of packaged cardboard boxes.

Food Organization

If choosing this action during the project, you will be listing all leftover or undesignated perishable items which you have at the beginning of each week and coming up with a plan to use them before they spoil. It could look something like this:

Purchase Planning

what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How many items of wasted food can be reduced by making it a goal to eliminate food spoilage waste?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of eliminating food spoilage waste affect happiness, convenience, health, and cost?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (F7_BASELINE) to track each item of food which is thrown away due to spoilage.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (F7_BASELINE) as it relates to how you currently used food:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (F7_QUANTITATIVE) to keep track of what food you have and how you will use it. At the beginning of each week, look through your fridge and pantry and list all leftovers/food items which will spoil if not used in the next week and list them and create a plan for using each item during this week’s meals.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, every IMPLEMENTATION day on the spreadsheet (F7_QUALITATIVE) your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. How did keeping track of leftover items change the way in which you cooked? Did you find this action difficult? Why or why not? Were there certain items that were easier or more difficult to find uses for? How did this change your shopping habits and quantities that you bought?


resources


ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

F7_Eliminate Food Spoilage Waste Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

F7_BASELINE
F7_QUANTITATIVE
F7_QUALITATIVE