Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Average American tosses $859 worth of food a year - How do you stack up?

According to the 2009 Department of Labor's consumer expenditures reports, the average American spends $6133 on food each year. And according to several reports, the average American wastes 14 percent of their food purchases.

Broken down, this means the average American is tossing $858.62 each year. That's $71.55 per month. If that same amount was invested at 6.5% from age 20 to 65, that's $230,000 being tossed in the trash.

We're hearing a lot these days about would-be retirees who simply don't have the assets needed to leave the work force. The almost quarter of a million dollars tossed as bad lettuce would come in handy to those and others stuggling with a job loss or temporary leave of employment to raise young children.

These numbers were startling to me as I think we are actually worse than the average American in tossing food that's gone bad. I would guess we easily toss 20 percent if not more.

So I challenged myself to track this for a week and actually see the numbers for myself. As you will see, the amount wasted clearly was substantial. These days I'm finding myself tossing a lot less and plan to start another week of "food tracking" this month.

Day 1, August 16.

Tossed: 1 small squash 50 cents, entire bag of cherries $5.00, container of strawberries $3.00, small squash .50, 1/2 tomato .25, 1/4 container of guac. .75. Total day one = $10.00 (What I clear after taxes, commute, babysitting costs, dry-cleaning, and associated work expenses for one hour).

Day 2, August 17

The only thing wasted thus far today was about 1/8th of a bagel with cream cheese, and that was partly to just be a bit healthier and eat less. The bagel with cream cheese is a bit over $2.00 so I will estimate that at .25 tossed. I could have just wrapped it to take home. The moment he saw me toss it, my five year old exclaimed, "Mom! I didn't know you were going to be so wasteful!".

Also, my "new awareness" forced me to cut up an almost overripe canteloupe and my two year old and I are eating that now for dinner.

Edited to add: Bedtime snack ended with 1/2 cup of leftover yogert that had to be tossed as my two year old poured his water in it for fun. This is organic yogert, about $4.00 for a the container that has four cups. So that is 50 cents more being tossed tonight.

Day 3, August 18

Some of this may be sinking in, only tossed some bread crusts today. Cost of one piece of whole wheat bread is about 20 cents, so we'll call this a nickle for the day and pats on the back all around.

Day 4, August 19

Unlike the re-using my trash challenge, which is driving me a bit batty, I'm thrilled with my newfound dedication to tossing no food. I "re-used" the crusts today and just slathered on peanut butter and the boys look at it like a whole new sandwich. And the tiny bit of French bread that was to be wasted is in a recycled bag in my car to bring to the fish pond we go to to feed the fish. Not bad!

Day 5, August 25

Nothing tossed today, but a bowl of bean casserole is looking a bit shady and we went out to dinner which will just add another day to its aging....but otherwise good!

Day 6, August 26

Bean casserole will be going into the compost (1.50?) (80 cents can of beans, salsa, some onion). Used up the last of a very sad onion with the last of the spinach for a spinach pasta which is sitting in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch. Pat on the back again Eileen - doing really well at this.

September now and time to see if my progress is holding steady. Good wishes. Eileen

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