Don’t Waste That Food!

A report in CivilEats shares that there are some psychological barriers to reducing food waste. The report raises the issue that many of our own instincts — and our unconscious choices — often get in the way of reducing food waste, and that recognizing these innate behaviors — they call them psychological barriers to reducing food waste — is a crucial step in moving toward a genuinely waste-free kitchen. 

The very first stumbling block, they say, is accepting that everyone is part of the problem. Most people tend to underestimate their own role in creating food waste — and overestimate their efforts to reduce it. In a survey last year, researchers found that 73 percent of people believe that they waste less food than the average American.   

It also turns out that when it comes to food, and particularly when we’re at the grocery store, we tend to delude ourselves a bit. In background research conducted by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Ad Council for the Save the Food campaign, researchers observed that people don’t like to have an empty refrigerator — or an empty shopping cart at the grocery store. 

JoAnne Berkenkamp, senior advocate with NRDC, notes that more than half of grocery store purchases are impulse buys. People also want to have options, rather than be committed to particular meals, so they’ll buy more than they need. 

Diversification bias, where people like the idea of diversity in food, but don’t necessarily practice it, is a subset of a larger tendency by people to be what NRDC calls “aspirational shoppers.” This looks different for different people, depending on their personal aspirations, but, in general, people seem to have high aspirations when they’re in the grocery store, and yet struggle to follow through on those aspiration when they get home.  

That means buying more kale or lettuce than they’ll actually eat.  

The NRDC research also found that people tend to be very cost-conscious when they’re shopping, but don’t think about the value of what they’re throwing away when they clean out the fridge. 

The average family spends an average of $1,500 on wasted food every year.

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