Study Shows Ways to Reduce Wasted Food in the Home

Food wasted means money wasted, which can be an expensive problem, especially in homes with financial constraints. A new study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and the Getulio Vargas Foundation, shows that the top causes of food waste in such homes include buying too much, preparing in abundance, unwillingness to consume leftovers, caring for pets, and improper food storage.

"Fortunately most of the factors that lead to food waste can be easily remedied by simple changes in food buying, preparing, and storing," says Gustavo Porpino, PhD candidate at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a visiting scholar at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, and the study's lead author.

For the study, in-home interviews were conducted with the mothers of 14 lower-middle class families from two suburbs of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to collect information about each family's shopping, cooking, and disposal practices. Each family also was observed and photographed preparing, eating, and disposing food.

Based on interviews and in-home observations, Porpino and coauthors Juracy Gomes Parente, of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, and Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab, determined that the practice that resulted in the most food waste was simply buying too much food, followed by preparing food in abundance. Leaving foods on dishes after meals or not saving leftovers, and decaying of prepared foods after long or inappropriate storage also were significant factors that resulted in disposal of foods. Furthermore, the researchers found that strategies that are intended to save money, such as buying in bulk and shopping monthly rather than more frequently, and cooking from scratch, actually contributed to the generation of food waste and ultimately didn't result in savings.

"Teaching home cooks efficient meal and shopping planning strategies and proper food storage techniques can have a significant impact on both reducing food waste and saving money," Porpino says.

— Source: Cornell University