On average, U.S. households toss $907 worth of food out each year, sometimes needlessly.
Conducted by Cherry Digital, a communications agency, the survey of 3,200 residents was designed to determine which states are the most wasteful, and which states were the least likely to toss food without cause.
Utah lags behind the national average — meaning it is among the least wasteful — dumping an average of $855 worth of food per year, or the equivalent of more than one-fifth (21%) of their food each month because it’s gone past its expiration date.
Broken down by state, the survey found that South Carolinians are the most wasteful. They get rid of $1,304.68 worth of food every year. The least wasteful state is West Virginia, whose residents only throw away $404.90 worth of their annual groceries.
The agency took its analysis a step further to determine what is causing the massive amount of food waste.
The group concluded in part a misunderstanding of food labeling might be a huge factor. The survey found that nearly half of respondents (48.9%) won’t eat food that’s marked as past its sell-by date. That is misinformation about what the sell date actually means.
It is the last date by which it must be sold in a store; however, after that, it’s still good to eat, even if it is beyond the sell-by date.
Additionally, the label “use-by date” causes confusion.
Only one-quarter of those surveyed knew that it signifies the last date for use of the product at its peak quality. Nearly a third (30.4%) believed that it was the last date the product was edible, almost a quarter (22%) thought it meant that it was the last date the food product could be displayed and sold in a store and, finally, 21% thought it meant the date that the product would be at its best flavor and quality, when in fact this is the “best buy date.”
The communications agency said while these guidelines are in place, there is no firm or fast rule on when the last date food can be eaten. Food purveyors leave that up to the consumer. While you can eat something beyond the guidelines, a good sniff test goes a long way to assess a product’s ability to still be consumed.
The group has these tidbits on how to waste less food:
- Freeze your food. You can actually freeze the food right up till the use-by date, and it will be good to eat months later. For example, you can freeze milk in an ice cube tray and use it for tea or other hot drinks. Not all foods can be frozen, so do some research
- Put your herbs into a glass of water to prevent them from wilting quickly and they will last much longer
- Turn stale bread or crusts into breadcrumbs by putting them in a food processor. They can be mixed with herbs or onions as a stuffing for chicken or to top baked fish
- When cooking with foods such as potatoes, broccoli, or carrots, use it all. You don’t need to remove the peel or cut the stems off, as they often have additional nutrients
- Donate the items you might be close to throwing out which aren’t yet out of date. There will be plenty of food kitchens nearby that would take what you have spare