The Real Cost of Food Waste

September 4, 2021 / Comments Off on The Real Cost of Food Waste


WHOOPS! Did you leave almost half your groceries in the parking lot?

Imagine this: you go to the grocery store and buy five bags of groceries. On your way out, you drop two bags on the ground … and keep walking. That’s what Americans essentially do every day–waste up to 40% of the food they buy. At the same time, one in seven Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.

Facts about Food Waste
There are significant consequences to that waste, both financially and environmentally. According to the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), the average American family spends approximately $2,220 per year on food that is never eaten.  According to the UN, if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest global greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the U.S. Reducing food waste is one of the top three ways to reverse climate change.

Though critically important, composting these materials to keep them out of the landfill isn’t enough of a solution to food waste. The food itself is only the tip of the iceberg of what actually gets wasted.The embodied energy, water, and other resources used to grow that food and get it from the farm to the consumer have significant environmental impacts. Composting should be the last resort after preventing the food waste in the first place.

Take a Bite out of Food Waste

Most food waste in the U.S. is generated in the home or by restaurants. That means making changes in our personal lives can make a significant difference. Here’s what each of us can do:


  • Avoid buying too much.
  • Plan out meals for the week, make a list and stick to it.
  • At the Farmers’ Market, ask for “seconds.” This less-than-perfect produce is often sold at a discount.
  • Buy local, in-season produce to reduce the amount of food lost to long-distance travel conditions.

Storing and Cooking

  • Track and manage the food in your home with the No Waste app, which helps you organize food by expiration dates, see your food inventory and track your food waste.
  • Make an “Eat Me First” bin or use a dry erase board to note what needs to be eaten soon.
  • Think twice about throwing food away. “Best before” dates can be misleading — if produce still appears fresh and usable, it is usually fine to eat it.
  • Store food correctly. Always transfer leftovers from open cans into a suitable container; do not store it in the can. Store cooked foods on shelves above raw foods.
  • Use clear containers to store leftovers and/or label and date the contents.
  • Plan to have a leftovers night each week.
  • Almost any food can be frozen. Make your freezer into a warrior against food waste.

Dining Out

  • Don’t let food go to waste when you are out-and-about and can’t finish your dinner. Bring your own to-go container for leftovers.


  • Too many zucchini? Share the bounty from your garden with neighbors, friends, coworkers or a food bank.

Get involved

  • Denver Food Rescue picks up soon-to-expire produce from grocery stores and delivers it to food pantries and day shelters.
  • We Don’t Waste ( rescues food from donor partners and has a team of volunteers saving leftover food from Denver Broncos games.