If you buy a chicken salad, or even just a cup of ice cream at a grocery store, it might be tempting to throw the bag in the bin.
But the best way to rid yourself of waste is to take stock and figure out how much you actually need, say researchers.
To do that, they used a computer model to show how much food you could safely eat for a year.
And the best part: The results were pretty good.
The researchers found that if you only eat what you need, your waste is reduced by about 50 per cent compared to a normal person.
What’s more, the average person wastes about 10 kilograms of food each year, which is equivalent to about 10,000 meals, or about three and a half months of food per person per year.
The research is published in the journal Food Waste Management.
A more efficient approach is to buy food that’s in short supply, like meat or vegetables.
But if you have a lot of spare food, you may need to spend a bit more to buy more food to meet your needs.
“Food waste is a big problem in a world where we’re constantly consuming more food than we’re using,” says professor Peter Clements, who led the study with his colleagues from the University of York.
“We’ve all seen people eating far more than they’re supposed to, so that’s a big reason why we have a food system that is so inefficient.”
They wanted to know how much waste could be reduced by buying what you really need rather than wasting what you could.
To make the calculations, they looked at the amount of food you needed to get by on a typical day.
This includes all the food that was available, and food that had been prepared but not eaten.
They used the data from a global food bank and a food bank in London, and compared it to food prices in different countries.
The results revealed that buying more food is an effective way to reduce waste.
“If you buy more, it’s a pretty efficient way of reducing waste,” Clements says.
“So buying more than you need and not buying what’s actually needed isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
It may also help to avoid overconsumption.
“You might buy food because it’s cheaper than you think it is, and you might end up wasting a lot,” he says.
Another strategy might be to try to limit the amount you eat.
“When we eat more than we need, we’re actually reducing the amount we eat, which means we’re increasing our consumption of other things,” Cules says.
But not all waste is bad.
“I think the biggest problem we have in our society is waste is often the result of people not thinking about the fact that they’re wasting food,” he adds.
“And we’ve got to change our culture, and to actually think about how to be healthier.”
The findings come from the UK’s food bank.