Consumer Food Waste

In most wealthy nations, including the United States, consumers are the largest source of food waste. While it is true that organizations and governments can help by reshaping consumer environments – especially when it comes to inconsistent date labels and unrealistic portion sizes – it is also true that a lot of the food being thrown away in homes comes down to habits and behaviors.

The bad news is that this comes with major consequences, both for the environment and for our wallets. And wasting food while 10% of people in the U.S. are struggling with food insecurity is also an unfortunate reality. The good news? The "Food Waste Five" make it easy, economical, and yes – delicious – to save food in your home. Check them out below.


Consumer Food Waste By The Numbers

In 2022, the average American spent $759 on food that went uneaten. All together, consumer food waste accounts for more than 48% of surplus food in the U.S. at a cost of $252 billion. Plus, it has an annual greenhouse gas footprint of 248 million metric tons of CO2e (the same as driving more than 59 million passenger vehicles over the course of the year) and uses nearly 11 trillion gallons of water (the same as what could fill more than 16 million Olympic-sized swimming pools). It's also the equivalent of more than 71 billion meals that could have gone to people in need.

Learn more about the impact of food waste on consumers and other sectors of the food system with the ReFED Insights Engine.

insights engine

But even while we make changes to better manage the food we bring into our own homes, it’s important to note that businesses have a responsibility to support these efforts in a variety of ways. For example, when you’re eating at a restaurant, it can seem like you're getting a great value when big portions of food are brought to your table, but “plate waste” – all the food that you’re not able to eat, because there’s too much on the plate – is the biggest driver of food waste in restaurants. Or when you’re cooking a stew at home and need just a single rib of celery, but the grocery store requires you to purchase the whole stalk. You can probably think of lots of examples like this, where there’s an opportunity for a food business to help you to do the right thing when it comes to waste reduction.

"Food Waste Five"

So what can you do to reduce waste in your own kitchen? Start with these five easy-to-use strategies to get the most out of the food that you’re buying.

More Ways To Support Food Waste Reduction

As a consumer, you can use the power of your wallet to support businesses that are working to stop food waste. Here are some ways to do it:

Impact Resources

Featured Resource

Roadmap to 2030

Food waste is a systemwide problem, and solving it will require a systemwide response. Our Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50% looks at the entire food supply chain and identifies seven key action areas to help guide the food system’s efforts over the next ten years. In line with the "Target-Measure-Act" framework for food waste reduction that’s been adopted around the world, the Roadmap to 2030 is a critical blueprint to help the food system take action. View the entire report on this website or download our "at-a-glance" version with key highlights.

Download Roadmap At-A-Glance PDF

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