If you cook seven days a week or never cook at all, you know one thing: food prices are going up and the end is not in sight. It’s depressing to pay more for necessities, whether energy or food–and in the case of food it’s doubly irritating because, as anyone knows who visits a grocery store, the food manufacturers are now engaged in the absurd and dishonest practice of shrinking their packages while charging the same amount or more for the smaller portions. Try finding a “pound” of coffee now. You’ll find a 12-ounce can costing what the 16-ounce model used to cost.
But here’s some good news that will at first sound like very bad news: We waste an incredible amount of food each year. Google “Americans waste food” and you’ll find appalling estimates ranging from 12 percent to 27 percent to–brace yourself–half the annual harvest.
How could this possibly be good news?
Because if we’re wasting, say, 20 percent of what we buy, we don’t have to cut back on the amount of food we buy in order to save money. All we need to do is plan a bit better, buy food that we know we will cook, and cut way back on waste. If food costs have risen 10 percent, cutting waste by 10 percent will bring you out even.
And that’s just the financial argument for reducing waste. There’s also the moral point, especially as it relates to eating meat: If you buy meat products you don’t even eat, the animal’s pain and death served absolutely no purpose, not even the purpose of sustaining your body. And there’s also what I’d call the aesthetic argument: It’s just sloppy and ugly and childish to buy things you don’t use and just throw them “away.” I have never heard a valid argument for wasting food or anything else. (And “because I can” doesn’t qualify.)