Reduce Food Waste by Being a Friendly Shopper

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As a kid, I vividly remember my aunt making her way to our house in Chicago and spending the majority of her trip purging through our pantry and fridge, throwing away food that had most likely been sitting in there for ages. Why did so much of our food go to waste? Long story short, my mom was a horrible shopper, and she didn’t think about the amount of food that would be wasted at the end of the week or month. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “more than 30 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills each year.” Consumers are a significant cause of that food waste –– even more so than grocery stores themselves. As consumers, we play an important role in the food system and can be a part of the solution. Here are some tips that can help you be a more friendly shopper and prevent food waste. 

Take Inventory

Only buy what you need. Take stock of the food that is in your pantry and refrigerator before putting anything new on your grocery list. Pay attention to the food that is commonly leftover at the end of the week and leave it off the list for next time. This will help prevent you from overbuying products that you don’t need. This one is hard for me, but you really have to be honest with yourself – are you really going to eat three bags of spinach in one week? If not, stick to the amount that you know that you will go through!

Make a Shopping List

Lists are everything to me. If I walk into Trader Joe’s without a list, it is quite possible that I am walking out with more groceries than I need. So… make a list and base it on the meals that are being prepared that week. Whether you meal prep or not, try to have a rough estimate of what types of ingredients you may need for your meals that week. And if you realize midweek, that you purchased too much or won’t use all the food you bought, consider supporting a community fridge near you and help to keep it in stock. Here is a list of the community fridges around the greater DSM.

Shop as Local as You Can

When you shop locally, you’re making a personal investment in the community that you live in. And as Eat Greater Des Moines has said before, farmers’ markets are a great opportunity to support local businesses and farmers in your surrounding neighborhoods. Check out our updated 2021 season listing for farmers’ markets across Central Iowa! Shopping with seasons allows people to buy fresh, seasonal products that will store longer, and in turn, produce less waste. Picked at the peak of freshness,, local produce and foods taste 100x better than food from the grocery store.

Support Grocery Stores With Robust Food Rescue Initiatives

As a consumer, where you shop matters. Ask your favorite grocery store how they are participating in food recovery efforts. For a grocery store, the ideal is they are donating at least daily and across all departments (perishables, non-perishables, deli, dairy, meat department, and bakery). Grocery stores account for 13% of all food wasted in the U.S. with 76% coming from perishable items like produce, deli, and protein. Locally, 25%  of grocers and convenience stores are participating in food recovery. As a consumer, your voice is critical. Businesses know you have a choice on where you spend your dollars. What you support is what continues. If you have questions about your specific grocer, reach out. We are happy to share the results of our 2020 food rescue survey with location-specific results.

It is easy to make simple changes to your shopping and eating habits. Through Eat Greater Des Moines, you can become a more knowledgeable consumer and a voice for change in our community. Help us create a healthier food system that works for everyone.