It was covered in tiny brown spots, a little soft, fragrant, bordering on smelly, and the fruit flies were ready to fight me for it — my perfect bananas. The alternative to a banana snack was to chuck it in the compost pile. That, in my book of chintziness, would be wasteful.

As a dietitian, I often suggest we drop our membership to the Clean Your Plate Club. I remind folks it is ok to throw it out instead of eating more than you need or want. I also often recommend, “When in doubt, throw it out!” Good advice to avoid food borne illness.

On an individual level it all makes sense that we balance our food so we do not eat more than is healthy. In the U.S., this often takes the form of throwing food away. If you multiply the estimated one pound of food waste per person per day, we throw away or lose 150,000 tons every day. We discard or lose 31% of the food supply or about 133 billion pounds. This translates into $162 billion. No small potatoes.

To add insult to injury most of the wasted foods takes the form of the very foods we are trying to encourage Americans to eat more of — fruits and vegetables. Food waste goes deeper than nutrition or dollars, however. It affects the environment as well. Food waste misappropriates 21% to 33% of all agricultural water; between 18% to 28% of U.S. cropland (the landmass of New Mexico) grows food that ultimately goes uneaten uses up 19% to 27% of fertilizer, accounts for 2.6% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of total landfill methane emissions.

Households are responsible for 43% of food waste and loss. That means each individual can work to have a positive impact to reduce food waste at home. Here are some tips to consider:

n Pay attention to sell by, best by and use by dates to eat food before it goes bad

n Shop in your refrigerator, freezer and kitchen pantry first before buying more food. Use the food you already.

n Plan menus so perishable foods are used in a timely way.

n Eat leftovers or freeze food for future use.

n Use proper storage. It can have a huge impact on maintaining freshness longer.

n If your pets can eat it, feed them food scraps instead of throwing the food away.

n Compost food scraps to divert from landfills and create rich soils for gardens or houseplants.

n Keep breads in the fridge and wash berries only as you use them to prevent molding.

n Buy only what you will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you eat it all.

n If you have boxes of items in your cupboards that you will never use, donate them to a food pantry.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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