If you compare a thousand households to mine, I would wager my wife and I don’t waste food at nearly the “average” rate. We are a one-percenter in that way.
My wife has a strategy that pays off in respect to food waste. We will/must literally consume all of our perishable food before she goes shopping.
Every last mandarin, every wrinkled potato, every apple hiding in the crisper door in the fridge — they all must be gone before she replenishes the food stocks. We very rarely throw anything out.
I don’t think most people approach food waste in the same stingy way.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture blog post, recently looked at the psychology of food waste. In that post, the USDA estimates that 31% of the available food supply is wasted in homes (21%) and in consumer-facing businesses (10%).
What’s more, a survey from 2015 by Ohio State University showed that 77% of people said they felt guilty about wasting food, but 51% also said it would be difficult to further reduce household food waste further.
I have another perspective on that. I don’t have any guilt about wasting food, and of course, I believe it would be extremely difficult to reduce food waste even further.
Nothing from nothing equals nothing, correct? But what about folks who do feel the guilt?
The blog post talks about the messages that highlight the cost of food waste as a motivator to reduce food waste.
As one of the experts quoted in the post said, though, the cost of food waste doesn’t “slap you in the face” like a $1,500 bill at the end of the year would. And sometimes consumers feel they are playing with house money.
From the blog post: “Sometimes people buy larger quantities of items due to sale or value,” said Laura Moreno, with the University of California. “Say someone bought a pack of three zucchini when they only needed one because it was the same price as one. They ended up discarding the other two but didn’t consider it a waste of money because they would have paid that much anyway.”
So perhaps retailers are causing some to struggle with food waste by offering killer deals on zucchini?
The post noted research from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ohio State University survey that showed 76% to 86% of people say they waste less food than the average American. Why do people think they waste less food than they do?
While everybody thinks they are performing “above average” when it comes to avoiding food waste (and every other positive attribute of humankind), I speak the truth. For all those researchers desperately looking for consumers with a true handle on preventing food waste, start with Mrs. Karst in Kansas City. There is none better.
Tom Karst is editor of The Packer. Email him at [email protected]