Tasty Trash: The $55 Million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge

Tasty Trash: The $55 million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge is a series aimed at helping your family save up to $1,500 this year by reducing food waste. The environment may also thank us.

I’m challenging you to stop wasting food.

Go ahead and give me the stink-eye or tell me I’m full of bunk, ’cause you never, EVER waste food and toss it out as junk.

Right?

Wrong.

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food waste

According to a 2011 United Nations estimate, one third of the world’s food produced annually goes to waste. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food, people.

If you live in North America — a continent where food prices have risen 4.1% on a year-over-year basis (StatsCan) — chances are you regularly garbage your groceries.

A study by the University of Arizona in Tuscon shows that up to 50% of all food produced in the United States is wasted, while the Canadian Value Chain Management Centre says around 40% of all food is wasted, with over 50% of this waste happening in the home.

Given these recent numbers, we’re throwing away about 25% of our groceries each and every year. I Squawk you not.

Taste the price of waste

Wanna know how many dollars you’re dumping? Here’s the costly mathy math:

Canuck Bucks: Canadians spend an average of $7,262 per household on food each year (StatsCan). If 25% of all food is wasted at home, then every Canuck household could save around $1,800 a year by garbaging less grub.

U.S. Greenbacks: American households spend an average of $6,129 on food annually (BLS). Trashing 25% fewer meals brings home a savings of $1,532.25 each year.

Bottom Line: By refusing to refuse up to 25% of your grocery haul, North Americans could save up to $1,500 every dang year.

But it’s biodegradable

Chucking out that leftover chicken or tossing that wilted lettuce may not seem harmful, but it is if you’re the environment.

When food rots, it releases carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases which impact global climate change. According to this study: The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact, food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of our total freshwater consumption and around 300 million barrels of oil per year.

Your leftover lunch is not only filling up our landfills, but it’s likely increasing your total tax bill too. For example, in Toronto, taxpayers spend nearly $10 million a year to dispose of food waste that’s not composted.

More composting, less guilt?

Don’t congratulate yourself too loudly for scraping your dinner scraps into the compost bin. Turning your less-loved leftovers into soil may feel virtuous, but you really haven’t accomplished a thing.

Composting doesn’t prevent food waste. Sticking leftovers in a green bin not only fails to cut your grocery costs, but composted food still burns through the same oil and water resources before hitting your garden.

Yes, I love composting, but isn’t it better to prevent the waste in the first place?

The $55 Million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge

I’m challenging Squawkfox readers to stop wasting food. I’m calling this food waste series, Tasty Trash: The $55 Million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge.

I figure, based on our 37,000 regular readership, we could save a combined $55 million by cutting an average of $1,500 from each of our food waste totals.

Yes, you read that right. That’s FIFTY-FIVE MILLION dollars saved, by you guys, by not wasting food.

That’s some serious moolah for a frugal blog audience. It’s good for the environment too.

How are we going to do this?

Over the next few weeks I’ll share a few tools, methods, and ideas to help you save A LOT of money by not wasting food. This series will challenge you to peek in your pantry, flash open your fridge, and defrost your freezer. Are you making food storage mistakes? Perhaps you’re leaving perfectly good leftovers to languish? This will all be covered.

I’ll also share my food organization tools that have helped my family reduce waste. And food spoilage? That’s also a big waster, so we’ll tackle that topic too. I might even do an experiment, or two.

So stay tuned to the Tasty Trash Challenge, ’cause together we might just save $55 million, and that’s not a figure worth trashing.

Your Turn: So, are you joining in?

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Kathy April 18th, 2012

    Not much gets wasted in my house! I grew up with my father badgering me constantly about his growing up poor in the depression, and he taught me not to waste anything. Now we have chickens, so any overripe fruit, veggie peels, etc. go to them to be turned into yummy eggs (we also roast and crush their eggshells and feed those back to them). We also feed our dog table scraps and she’s super healthy. The rest goes in the compost. The rare time milk or cream goes sour it gets made into muffins.

  2. Sue April 18th, 2012

    I am so in!

  3. Kerry April 18th, 2012

    @Sue Awesome!

    @Kathy Maybe share this series with a family who could use some savings. ;)

  4. Sabrina April 18th, 2012

    I’m in! TEACH me how! I know we waste food, and it bothers me. Every time I walk by the compost bin I swear I see money in there…… I will let you in on a little secret I do have. If I am peeling vegetables for a meal, and am going to be making soup in the next couple of days, I just wash my veggies really well and then I use the peels, stems, other bits we don’t eat to make a wonderful soup stock. I use turnip peels, celery leaves, potato skins, cauliflower stems, etc. Toss in an onion and garlic and spices…..mmmmmmmm soup stock. But I don’t make soup every second day…..and I don’t make enough I could freeze the stock…….

  5. Pippa April 18th, 2012

    @Sabrina…Since I can’t compost where I live, I like your idea about using those vegetable peelings and scraps for stock. Perhaps they could be stored for stock making in the freezer. My dog always hovers at my feet while I’m preparing vegetables as she loves most raw vegetables and I often give her some of those eat…so that’s another way of not being wasteful and the vet agrees most of the scraps are good for her (no onions or garlic, however!).

    One of my waste-saving tips is to go grocery shopping with a list and on a full stomach as you are much less likely to buy more than you need.

  6. Jules April 18th, 2012

    Awesome idea.

    I know a lot of frugalists say to stay out of the supermarkets, but I actually find that buying small quantities of fresh produce means we eat it all before it goes south. The one thing I am guilty of is buying a container of something like creme fraiche for one pot of soup, so I do try to buy the smallest container I can, even if it is technically more expensive.

  7. Sandra April 18th, 2012

    I am very excited to read these ideas. I have recently moved from California (local farmers markets everywhere) to the UAE where everything is shipped from Australia or South Africa. As a result, food goes bad very quickly. At first this was highly frustrating to me, who likes to plan the whole week and buy groceries at once. However, I have learned to buy the fresh stuff on an as-needed basis, which means much less waste. Its a change in mindset and I also have to resist the urge to impulse buy as I am in the grocery store a lot more often now…

  8. Charlotte April 18th, 2012

    I know I waste more food than I am comfortable admitting. My main problem is lack of freezer space. We tend to cook in bulk and buy in bulk to save time and money, but our apartment freezer just can’t accomodate leftovers. I am wondering if an apartment-sized deep freezer would be worth-while.

  9. Debbie April 19th, 2012

    Love it! I’m in !

  10. Connie April 19th, 2012

    I am so in on this. I was feeling proud of myself for composting kitchen scrapes and you shot me down! I had thought myself good at not wasting food what with over stocked canned goods going to food bank, disregarding best by dates when they make no sense, and trying to keep fresh food fresh longer. I just ate a banana that was 4 months old but not over ripe and fine to eat. Kept it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, peel completely black, still good. Because I live alone now it has meant a big adjustment to cut down and not buy the larger, more economical sizes.
    Carry on, Kerry! You are the best.

  11. Louise April 19th, 2012

    I’m definately in for this challenge :)

    Any tips you can offer will be appreciated too…

  12. Wendi April 19th, 2012

    I’m in!

    We have 3 guinea pigs, 2 dogs and 1 cat. When we have vegetables scraps we feed them to the guinea pigs. Who in turn create their own waste. We take that and the straw for their bedding and toss it into the garden. It’s a great cold fertilizer for the garden. We also toss egg shells into the garden to keep away the slugs.

    The dogs get any scraps of chicken or steak we can’t use (within reason).

    I’m a couponer so I often have extra bread which we put into the freezer. If it goes stale (because somebody doesn’t like whole grains) it is refreshed in the oven or made into crutons.

    I also have a stockpile of food items that were bought super cheap by price matching and couponing (thank you MrsJanuary.com !) which we rely on.

    But I know there is more I could be doing and I like to see what everyone else has working for them.

  13. Marilyn Crisp April 19th, 2012

    I’m not sure how composting is still wasteful. We live in the country and keep 2 compost piles; the older one gets tilled into the garden before planting time every spring. We’d be tilling anyway, so where’s the extra cost?

    I do agree about wasting food, however. Last week we were struggling through baked beans with too much salt in them, so I found a recipe for baked beans soup, and some sauteed celery and onion, with a can of tomatoes, a pinch of cayenne and dry mustard and NO salt later, I pureed the hot soup and served it with homemade bread. It made a great meal.

  14. Sue April 19th, 2012

    Teach me how.
    Already baby steps are being taken to minimize waste but still have a lot to learn!!!

  15. Walnut April 19th, 2012

    I’m in. The Frugal Girl’s Food Waste Fridays have started me down the no-food-waste path, but it is hard and I need constant reinforcement of good habits.

  16. Skrpune April 19th, 2012

    Count me in, too! We’re getting better, but husband and I still do end up tossing out way too much food. We need to get better about creating meal plans, sticking to them, and keeping the kitchen in working/clean condition so we have fewer obstacles to sticking to those plans!!

  17. Leo April 19th, 2012

    One of the things I learned many years ago, was to have a mind shift in the way you eat. Chances are everything in the fridge/cupboard is something you like (or else you wouldn’t have bought it, right?). So instead of going to the fridge and asking yourself ‘what am I hungry for?’, open the door and ask yourself ‘What needs to be eaten?’. This way you’ll almost never throw things away.
    The other is to realize that the ‘best before’ date is not the ‘goes bad on’ date. If properly stored, many things are good long past the date. Use your senses and your common sence.

  18. Jill April 19th, 2012

    Something to note is the size of our fridges and how much perishable food can be stored in all those cubic feet.

    I just downsized mine (because it was not energy efficient and it kept me awake!)to a bar fridge which is a little bit too small and I am now saving for a sleek apartment sized LG fridge.

    Anyway it challenges me to shop every few days for fresh and wholesome food that will fit in a smaller space which in turn minimizes waste.

    Obviously this solution is not ideal for larger families.

  19. Sean April 20th, 2012

    Thankfully I don’t waste very much food. I only ever waste lettuce. So now I buy spinach as It seems to keep longer. As a family of 2, fresh food is a lot of effort to keep an eye on.

  20. Tara April 20th, 2012

    I’m in. As a new mom, i am trying to help save money and keep our expenses down while teaching my daughter about healthy home cooking. I have been reading your blog for sometime now and I have shared your idea from a while ago with my brother about saving veggie scraps in the freezer to make stock later. He thought that it was a great idea!

    I can’t wait to get more tips and ideas.

  21. Cathleen April 21st, 2012

    I’m totally in. Just this week I had 5 oranges that got hard in the bag. I decided to experiment by putting them in a bowl of water to see if they would soften enough to peel. After 3 days, I checked and indeed they were soft. I just used the last 2 today. I love saving $$$$!

  22. Suzanne April 21st, 2012

    I am in! I hate waste. I usually make a big dinner on Sundays so we can reheat the next day and the next. BUT, I don’t like eating leftovers. I don’t have time to cook or shop everyday. These tips are great and are giving me ideas on getting more and different uses out of what I have.

  23. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis April 21st, 2012

    I’m in. I don’t think we throw out a lot – but our compost is always full. Hmmmm……I’m willing to have my eyes opened wide.

  24. Kathleen April 21st, 2012

    A couple of years ago we moved to an acreage just outside of Calgary. I started a big vegetable garden and at the end of the summer was able to share my produce with my city friends who don’t have gardens. The thought that some of it might wind up in the garbage freaks me out. The time and energy that goes into growing vegetables is immense. When I lived in the city and bought groceries, even though I spent money on them, tossing them away was pretty common. Growing your own certainly teaches you to respect and value your labours. Nothing just gets thrown in the garbage anymore. I think that if people knew how much work it was, or had to grow their own vegetables, they would be instantly cured of this bad habit.

  25. Jo-Anne McGurk April 21st, 2012

    Looking forward to your tips.

    We are a family of three and one of my ways to cut down on wasting food is to meal plan. Some meals are fine as leftovers and we will take them for lunch the next day – some are not. The ones I know my family won’t eat the next day I make sure to make “just enough” for that meal.

  26. Dee April 21st, 2012

    I am a widow on a fixed income and have a 20yr grandson whom lives with me.He eats a lot.I hate wasting food.If I have 3 sweetpeas and some juice leftover from a meal it goes into a container in my freezer. I do this until the container is full of whatever meat or vegetables that are leftover. Then I make a big pot of soup. I have a container for chicken and 1 for beef. I buy chicken leg quarters in a 10# bag for $3.90, clean it up, cut it up and put it in bags that contain enough for 1 meal each. In the freezer they go. If I make a big pot of beans I add potatoes(or rice), tomatoes, onions, carrots and anything else I can think of to make a full meal out of it. Then freeze 1/2. I buy fresh vegetables, cut them up, put them in bags and you guessed it. In the freezer they go. I need to try your container gardening idea.We live in an apartment and it looks like a good solution for us.

  27. Liz April 21st, 2012

    Count me in

  28. Dianna April 21st, 2012

    I’m definitely in as well. I hate waste and eat lots of leftovers. However, I do know that things get buried in the back of the fridge and expire. I’m looking forward to reading your tips and tricks!!

  29. Kris P April 21st, 2012

    We are participating. I have been so disgusted on how much food my family wastes. Some of the ideas I have read already have been great. Look forward to reading the rest.

  30. Ingrid April 21st, 2012

    I’m in! I’m embarrassed by how much food we waste. I need to steward our resources better and I need your tips! Love the idea of looking in the frig for what NEEDS to be eaten. Looking forward to this challenge!

  31. Maricris @ SittingAround April 21st, 2012

    Count me in! Looking forward on how we’re going to this.

  32. Joanna April 21st, 2012

    I’m in. Our compost bin is always full, and I am shamed to say, but not only with peels and eggshells…..I seem to have trouble with planning meals and I have too much in the cupboards and the fridge, so sometimes things that I don’t even see I have, go bad.

  33. Jen April 21st, 2012

    Sounds great! I am very excited by this topic and am looking forward to some good reading ahead. Right now I am big on menu planing and freezing meals and bulk, so I have reduced our waste somewhat.

  34. Renee April 22nd, 2012

    I am in! I had an extended conversation with friends last week about this very issue! I joked with them that I would start recording our household wastage in an excel worksheet lol! I
    look forward to reading your tips! Thank You.

  35. Gina April 22nd, 2012

    Being a widow & living in a senior cotizens apartment building I try to share meals with other residents. The problem? I am from the South & now am in Ohio. A lot of the people don’t eat the same as we do down south so I freez a lot of leftovers. Some things you just calt cook a small amount of, like gumbo,

  36. Melinda April 22nd, 2012

    I’m in! I’ve already switched from shopping at the grocery store to the farmer’s market – in my mind that will reduce the amount of packaging that has to be thrown away. Still I hate the thought of not using all those fresh foods before they spoil. Teach me :)

  37. Alyssa April 22nd, 2012

    I’m in! My boyfriend and I hate wasting food, but we do it far too often. We’re trying to be more creative with our meals, but could definitely use some tips!

  38. Debbie Smit April 22nd, 2012

    Yes, I am in for sure!

  39. michelle gunn April 23rd, 2012

    I,m in. Looking forward to reaching this goal!

  40. Cyndi April 23rd, 2012

    I am so in. I already know that I throw out too much on a regualr basis.

  41. Sissy April 24th, 2012

    I am in too! Any advice that will help me save money will be great!

  42. LisaMary April 25th, 2012

    We are “hundred milers,” but I found myself super frustrated with my CSA. All it took was asking for a substitution for beets and collards with something else, et voila, they found a family who was less fond of carrots and turnips than we are to switch with.
    2 lessons learned:
    1) sometimes you have to be honest with yourself enough to know that you don’t always live up to the best of your intentions 2) it never hurts to ask
    I’m in, too! Every little bit helps

  43. Jen May 14th, 2012

    I just was sent a link to tips on making fresh fruit (strawberries, etc) last longer. Soak in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Kills mold spores, etc. Dry, and refrigerate. One more way to cut down on food waste!

    http://thefrugalgirls.com/2012/04/how-to-keep-strawberries-fresh.html

  44. Marge June 1st, 2012

    Absolutely!!!

  45. Kim M June 25th, 2012

    Sounds great….
    I just have a question.. is it just me, or does EVERYTHING have ridiculous expiry dates on the packages? When I was a kid, it didn’t seem to be like it is now.. Case and Point… Dried Bread Crackers have an expiry date? IT’S STALE BREAD!
    If you could think of doing an article telling people what reasonable expiry dates are on things, that could probably help a lot of people out..eg, does milk REALLY go bad the day after the best before date?

  46. Karen Cook July 8th, 2012

    I have a hard time with food waste because I’m only cooking for the two of us and it’s hard to figure out how to purchase only enough for the two of us for a week’s worth of meals and not go overboard or ‘forget’ something in the fridge.

    Count me in!

  47. Little Tex July 8th, 2012

    My strategy for reducing food waste is to have plenty of nonperishable staples like pasta, quinoa and rice on hand al the time but to buy only the smaller amounts of produce and dairy more frequently. If bread goes stale, it gets oven dried and chopped up into breadcrumbs. Great post!

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