Groceries and wasted food: How much do we value food?
In my previous post, I was talking about the amount of food that we waste in our house. Every week, we spent about $350-400 if not more in food, representing approximately $20,000 per year. Of course, this doesn’t include money that we spent in restaurants or little food/coffee treats that we gave ourselves from time to time. In addition, our freezer is full of food that we “believe”, we will eat one day, or that we bought because it was on sale at the grocery store. The issues are that, (1) we don’t really eat $20,000 of food; and (2) most of the food that we have in the freezer will end in the garbage.
Although my family may be at one extreme of the spectrum (we are really bad in terms of wasting both food and money), I know that we are not the only ones who are wasting food (or money!). A recent (November 2012) article that appeared in the Canadian Grocer website (http://www.canadiangrocer.com/top-stories/what-a-waste-19736) indicated that the overall value of food in Canada that ends up in garbage cans or in compost bins is about $27 billion! This is enormous when we take into consideration that the population in Canada is only ~30 million people. Financially speaking, this means that each Canadian wastes about $900 in food per year. The David Suzuki Foundation website (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/help-end-food-waste/) provides other stats regarding food wasted that I am copying below (visit their website if you want to read more about it):
· Close to ½ of all food produced worldwide is wasted — discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
· As much as 30% of food, worth about $48 billion, is thrown away in the US each year. (The average household there throws out about 215 kg of food each year — around $600 worth)
· In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kg of food waste each year. That means one in four food purchases still ends up in the garbage. Toronto taxpayers spend nearly $10 million a year getting rid of food waste that's not composted.
· Over 30% of fruits and vegetables in North America don't even make it onto store shelves because they're not pretty enough for picky consumers.
Financially speaking, if each Canadian family wastes about $600 in food per year, my little family (formed by 4 people) would waste about $2400 per year. That's a lot of money! It’s clear that reducing waste food is important from the environmental point of view, but we have to admit that having an extra $2400 per year in our pockets for other things would not be a bad idea. The question, however, is why it's so difficult to reduce food waste when the environmental and financial reasons are so obvious. I am certain that there are many political, economical, cultural and emotional reasons why are we wasting so much food (we can explore this on other posts), but one point that attracted my attention is the solution(s). There are many suggestions that can be used to reduce food waste, especially when we think about families or individuals. The most common answer appears to be – MEALS PLANNING! All the books, articles and websites that discuss this issue clearly say that to reduce food waste, you need to plan your meals. Associated with this issue or solution is grocery list. So, the idea is that we should plan our meals and prepare a grocery list. My question is, is that simple? Really, when you work full-time and have to take your children to their various extra-curricular activities, can you really plan your weekly meals?