Don’t Throw It Way, Part 2 – The Food Edition

Don’t Throw It Way, Part 2 – The Food Edition
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

It’s been over four years since I first wrote my column Don’t Throw It Away. After reading a recent study by Hloom about financial waste in America, I thought it was time to write an update. This time I want to focus on food waste. My husband and I usually eat out twice a week. Look around and you’ll see people leaving uneaten food on their plates. It especially  bothers me to see college students doing this – the teacher in me wants to take them aside and give them a finance lesson. Take that half-eaten chicken fried steak home and make a nice sandwich for lunch at work the next day – you’ll be the envy of the office.

It’s universal – Americans feel they waste the most amount of money eating out.

According to Hloom, both women and men, Baby Boomers to Gen Xers to Millennials, and all income classes felt this way. If you are going to spend your hard-earned money eating out, please take home the food you don’t eat. Think about how much you spent on the meal.

  • Let’s say you paid $15 for dinner and normally pay $7.50 for lunch out.
  • You eat leftovers for lunch once a week, saving that $7.50.
  • At the end of the year, that’s $390 you’ve saved on lunches out.
  • Or another way to look at it, by not taking your leftovers home, you had to pay an additional $390 a year for lunches.

Can you think of a better use for that $390? How about an additional car payment or a weekend getaway?

Many people are not willing to reduce the amount of uneaten or expired food they throw away at home.

According to Hloom, uneaten and expired food is the biggest financial waste category (32%) Americans are not willing to reduce. Women, Millenials, and those in the middle class admit to wasting the most money on thrown away food. On average, this amounted to $265 a year (I got a feeling the number is a lot higher).  Add this to the money wasted eating out, and you’re up to $655 wasted for the year!

  • At a minimum, keep a mental inventory of what food you have on had.
  • Before you start buying food that expires or goes bad quickly, plan your menu for the week. Why buy a bunch of broccoli or lunch meat if you don’t plan on using it that week?
  • Before you throw out the heels of the bread because no one will eat them, think about all the work that went into growing, harvesting, and milling the wheat into flour for the bread. Then someone had to bake the bread. Someone had to deliver it to the grocery store. Make some toast or home made bread crumbs while you ponder this.
  • Just because the expiration or “best by” date has passed doesn’t mean it’s not edible. Use some common sense folks.

Food waste pictureWhen I sit down with clients and create a budget for them, the biggest unknowns are how much money they spend on groceries and meals eaten out. By getting a handle on these expenses, you can really increase your monthly cash flow. That in turn makes for a much more stress-free life.

For more budgeting tips, visit my Basic Financial Management page.