I just finished reading ‘Waste’ by Tristram Stuart, and let me tell you it really opened my eyes. It really reinforces what a fear based society we have become; unfortunately we have become afraid of the wrong things.

Instead of fearing that we are taking more than our share, destroying the environment with over production, becoming unhealthy in our gluttony we fear that we will appear poor if our cupboards look bare, that guests will think us cheap if we do not offer too much food during a dinner party, or – gasp – that a customer may have to wait 5 minutes to receive a fresh, made to order item.

In Europe and North America alone we waste up to 50% of all food produced. Between the farmers who are not allowed to sell the produce they have grown because government regulations state that all carrots in a bunch must be the same length and straight to supermarkets that not only throw out food before it’s best before date, but actually take means to destroy it so that no one will go looking for a meal in their dumpsters, the amount of food wasted could feed the 100 million hungry people of the world six to seven times over.

A large part of the problem is cultural. In many Asian cultures to think of wasting food is a sin. In India they hand feed their small children to teach them that food is valuable and that smearing it all over yourself, the table and floor is wasteful and not done.

In Europe and North America food has become so cheaply produced that supermarkets spend less money purchasing and throwing out food versus losing a sale. In some cases the ratio is almost 2:1, meaning that for every sale they lose because an item is unavailable, they could have purchased that item to restock their shelves 2 times. Thus the fear of losing a sale is a big contributor to the waste of these supermarkets.

There is also the fear of illness. So afraid of being sued over some kind of food poisoning manufacturers place best before dates with very large grace periods to take into account the improper storage of that food by consumers. If you properly store your items they will last well beyond that date – but still stores toss them when the label says it is time.

But really the question is – why then just throw it away? If technically the item is still good why isn’t it being donated to shelters and other charities for use in the immediate future? The answer is greed. Supermarkets feel that if they give the food to the hungry, then they are losing potential customers.

I’ll stop my mini-rant here… though there is really so much more to this disgusting tale, and give you a little help in fighting your own personal battle against waste.

In addition to ensuring that you don’t make or buy more food than you can use, ensuring you eat leftovers or use them in your next meal or freezing what you cannot use right away there is this great new site called Still Tasty. It lets you see the real length of time that you can keep an item to ensure it is still safe to eat. http://stilltasty.com/

So stop wasting money by stop wasting food. As you change your buying habits to reflect purchasing only those items you need as you need them it will affect the world food market thus helping to eliminate waste.

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