How Guilty Are You of Food Waste?

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure to see how we make money.

Food Waste

Food waste – not an exciting topic I know, but still it is a very important one that applies to many of us. The food waste statistics that this infographic points out, while not terribly surprising, were eye-opening on one level. I think part of that goes back to the infographic putting some quantifiable numbers to the issue of wasting food in our society. Here were some of the numbers that stood out to me the most:

  • 1.3 billion tons of edible food is lost each year
  • 254 pounds per person, per year are wasted
  • 24 million acres are deforested each year to grow food
  • 300 million barrels of oil are used to prepare food that is tossed each year

Those are some pretty crazy numbers aren’t they? I know it’s easy to think that when we toss those “bad” veggies or not eat our leftovers that it really does not amount to much. The truth is though when everyone is wasteful, the amount of food being thrown away adds up quickly.

What Can You do About Food Waste?

What I probably like most about this infographic is that it gives actionable tips that can be implemented right away as opposed to just bemoaning the issue. I could pat myself on the back because we follow a few of their tips. We’ve streamlined our purchases at the grocery store so we can not only minimize waste but also be frugal at the same time. We love to go shopping at Costco but we typically regulate ourselves so as to not buy crazy sizes that end up only being half eaten. I mean, do we really need that five gallon drum of pickles…I don’t think so! However, I know there are other ways we can improve our habits to mitigate the food waste we do have. We’ve allowed our busyness to take us away from our usual meal planning habits. Planning meals is not always the most fun, but I’ve found that when we get away from it we end up not eating as healthy, buying stuff we shouldn’t and wasting food altogether. I am also terribly picky about the fruit I eat. If a banana has the slightest mark on it then I immediately pass, when many times it’s just fine. Taken together those habits, when left unchecked, lead to food waste as well as wasting money as opposed to being wise with our grocery budget. I challenge you, my readers, to take a look at your shopping and eating habits to see where you might be guilty of food waste in your home. I would hazard a guess that those of us in the States and other industrialized areas of the world are more guilty of this than other areas of the world.

Food Waste

by kristinlindquist.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.




What stood out to you in this infographic? Are you guilty of food waste like I am and how can you improve on that?

The following two tabs change content below.

John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Mark Ross | Think Rich. Be Free. says:

    Wow! That’s a very informative and mind-blogging infographic. It’s really sad for me to read things like this one, knowing that many people are suffering from hunger each day, especially the ones in Africa and in Asia.

    I hope some organizations can do something about it and find a way to minimize the number of wasted food and help those people in poor countries get food. Though, I believe everyone of us must do something about it. I just wish many can read this one and share it to other people as well.

    • John says:

      As it was for me Mark. I don’t know that us making changes would perfectly correlate to more food for impoverished areas of the world, though it does give me pause to realize the waste we’re doing personally. Many would kill for what we’re wasting, not to mention the financial aspect of it.

  • Snarkfinance says:

    300 million barrels of oil? Wah? I guess my father had it right when he made us finish out food.

  • Matt Becker says:

    I think we’re probably a little better than average about not wasting food, but we’re far from perfect. We don’t compost, so there is certainly food that gets thrown away. We do eat our leftovers though and we don’t buy a lot that goes bad before we can eat it. I think this is similar to saving, in that wasting small amounts of food each day doesn’t seem like much, just as not saving money today doesn’t feel like much. But in both cases, those small daily habits can really add up.

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance says:

    I don’t waste a lot of food nor does my family. At least not when I am home. The rule of thumb at home is dont get what you are not going to eat. Too many people in the world starving to be throwing away food. We are pretty bad though with milk. I seem to waste more than I would like to in that neck of the woods. Didnt realize how much we waste food in total. We really need to fix that!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I definitely bring leftovers to lunch the next day, and sometimes even cook extra so that I will have enough for leftovers versus only a little bit that would get thrown out. Food waste is such an important issue to address, especially considering how many go hungry (and die) each and every day from lack of food.

    • John says:

      We often do the same thing as well DC, especially when we were in an office. It just makes too much sense to do that.

  • canadianbudgetbinder says:

    It’s not surprising with the high numbers but it’s just a realization that we take too much for granted when we have it. When it’s gone we miss what we had. When I did that welfare food challenge last year I used every scrap I could to make a healthy meal. It made me realize how important it is not to waste food and how creative I could be with what I had on hand.

    • John says:

      I could not agree more Mr. CBB. I do think a lot of it foes go back to that, as well as a lack of contentment. I was actually thinking of that challenge when I was writing this – I bet it was eye opening for you.

  • Alexa says:

    I am not too bad with food waste. I don’t usually buy that much food so we eat what we buy except for the occasional fruit or vegetable spoilage. I also bring my own lunch to work so that definitely helps. These are some shocking statistics.

    • John says:

      I think bringing lunch, especially leftovers, can be a great way to curb waste. I did that all the time when I was in the office.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    We’re probably better than most too, due to necessity, as far as wasting food, but it still makes me cringe to see food thrown away. I’m picky about those bananas too, and have learned to use the darker ones in smoothies or banana bread, same with other older fruit. And we’ve gotten better about using leftovers for lunches and dinners, although we could use improvement there too. Great post, John!

    • John says:

      We try and do a lot of that as well Laurie. Plus, it allows our kids to help Mom in the kitchen which is always fun for them.

  • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    My wife and I try not to waste food, but every once in a while we end up wasting a little. I guess because we don’t struggle to get food we don’t respect what it means not to waste it.

  • pauline says:

    We are pretty good with food waste, I hate throwing. So much I just bought a sauce I thought would be 1,000 island but that stuff is so disgusting it should go straight to the bin but it still breaks my heart to dispose of it. Still in the fridge so far haha.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I used to buy food in bulk and I ended up wasting some when I misjudged how much we could use. I no longer buy in bulk. Sure, I pay a little more for groceries now but at least I’m not throwing as much food away. I HATE throwing food away.

    • John says:

      We don’t buy a whole lot in bulk in regards to food either. We buy a lot of fruit and salad as we tend to go through that fairly quickly.

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    I don’t like that infographic because it saddens me. I am guilty of wasting food, thought we have come a long way on that front. We usually only prepare a two meals a week and eat the leftovers from it, but we still throw some food away. We have to get better at it as it is unnecessary.

    • John says:

      It did me at first, though I like the actionable steps they give. That said, that’s great you’ve come a long way on it.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I try really hard not to waste food, but I just had to throw out half a cucumber and some lettuce this weekend. It’s also hard not to waste some food when you have a kid. Sometimes they want this or that and just don’t eat it, and it’s too gross to save. The dog actually eats pretty good sometimes!

    The other thing that really breaks my heart is portion sizes in a restaurant being so huge. We can bring it home if we are in town, but when traveling, sometimes you have to let it go. I wish you could order halves of many things.

    • John says:

      I agree Kim, we see it a lot with our kids. They can be so picky at times that it seems like a losing battle half the time.

      Great point on the portion sizes! I TOTALLY forgot to mention that and could not agree more. I don’t remember it being that way when I was growing up and today most places give you enough food to feed a family.

  • Kasey @ Debt Perception says:

    Definitely guilty, but it’s something I’m trying to change. I buy fruits and veggies with the intent to eat healthy but I fail to meal plan before shopping and a lot ends up being tossed out. I hate it! Then when I do meal plan I end up making enough for my husband to eat but then he doesn’t eat it and I have leftovers for lunch and dinner for 3 days! It’s all about finding a balance. Still trying to figure out what works for me because I hate wasting food.

    • John says:

      I agree Kasey, so much of it does come down to finding that balance. One thing we do with the leftovers is freeze them so they’ll last longer. This also has the added benefit of not eating the same thing for an entire week, but spreading it out.

  • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies says:

    We’re getting better about not wasting food, but it’s still an area that we can improve on. Being over ambitious about how much produce we can eat before it goes bad is definitely my weakest area.

    • John says:

      We can be the same way Mrs. Pop. We see it with our garden somewhat and freeze as much as we can so it does not go to waste.

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    Great infographic. It’s so sad that we have an abundance of food yet so many people around the world are starving. And although I’m not a vegetarian, I do feel sad if an animal died to feed us, yet it somehow went to wasted in someone’s fridge. I used to be a lot worse about letting food go to waste but now I shop in smaller amounts and more frequently. It may not be the best on the budget since I don’t always hit sales, but I don’t waste as much either. There is always room for improvement though!

    • John says:

      I agree Tonya, it is sad to see. You might miss out on some sales, but if you’re able to cut out waste, then I would wager to guess that you’ve been able to balance quite a bit of that.

  • GamingYourFinances says:

    This is something I’m guilty of. My wife tries her best to keep the waste to a minimum but I still end buying a bit too much. The best thing I’ve found is to eat directly before grocery shopping. This leads to less impulse purchases.

    • John says:

      Eating beforehand is huge to curb buying more. We usually end up buying more when we go hungry which is bad all the way around.

  • MonicaOnMoney says:

    I’m really working on this right now. One idea: have a party and use the extras!

  • Financial Samurai says:

    I remember my mom scolding me for leaving some food on my plate when I was 10. She wouldn’t let me leave the table until I finished everything on the plate.

    As a result, I always finish everything or take food home and eat it later. Too many starving people to feel OK wasting food!

    • John says:

      Oh, I HATED that as a kid, but glad my parents made me do that.

      I agree Sam, there are far too many going without to just willingly throw food away.

  • kathryn says:

    I have mixed feeling on this subject. The fact some people are starving, is more of a red herring, when dicussing food waste. Whether we clean our plates or reduce our waste to zero, will not affect starving people.
    As a country (Canada, USA, Australia)we don’t have any problems feeding ourselves.Producers waste the most, because they fail to harvest a good portion of their crops. Many reasons for this. The size of the fruit/veggie may be too large or small,or misshapen, and the consumer won’t buy it.
    Too many fruits/veggie were grown, which lowers the value of the crop, and the labour cost outweighs harvesting it.This has been stated to be abouit 40% of all the food grown.
    The real purpose of cleaning your plates, and reducing waste only really affects your emotions and your wallet.

    • John says:

      Thanks for your input Kathryn. In regards to it being a red herring, I would agree only to the extent that us cleaning our plates does not have a direct impact on what can be provided to those who’re less fortunate. I think it can have an indirect impact by causing us to be more efficient in production, wiser with our consumption and looking for ways to help less developed countries.

      That said, I think it’s regardless of how the waste is occurring (either consumer or producer oriented) as both need to make changes. It does not surprise me that in more industrialized countries waste is much closer to 50/50 and shows, to a certain extent, our attitude. Which can be seen in things like portion sizes at restaurants and mindlessly leaving the leftovers to waste.

      Ultimately, this is a much bigger issue than a simple blog post, but waste is a huge issue that many of us can and should improve upon.

  • anna says:

    I love the infographic, especially the suggestions to avoid food waste! I think buying realistic amounts is a huge one, as people might get carried away with spending too much veggies and then wasting it. I’m pretty good with not wasting food, and get so dismayed when I leave restaurants and see some plates still half-filled and just left there. I don’t understand why they can’t bring their leftovers home? πŸ™

    • John says:

      I agree Anna, that’s exactly why I picked it out. I hate seeing that at restaurants as well. I always view it as that is my lunch (or next two depending on the size) for the next few days.

  • MMD says:

    I am so guilty of this. I used to over-eat pretty much all the time (before I really tried to watch my weight more) and I think that played into the psychology of how much food we needed in the house. Now we always end up making too much much food and it usually just gets thrown out when no one eats it all. That’s a big waste!

    • John says:

      That can be a waste and something we used to be guilty of as well. What helped me change was looking at the food as money I was throwing away. That pretty much changed it for us right away.

  • David says:

    I hate wasting food and it actually makes me upset when my girlfriend goes out to dinner with me and tries to throw out half her meal. I always tell her to think about all the starving kids in this world and the challenges they face. Great piece.

    • John says:

      I hate doing that as well David. Assuming we don’t finish our meal (which is usually the case due to the portion sizes) we bring it home for lunch later in the week. It saves on the waste and stretches your money as well.

  • No Waste says:

    I do no like waste.

    I was not allowed to leave an empty plate as a kid, and neither are my children.

    My Wife and I are keenly aware of how much good food goes to waste so we ALWAYS finish leftovers.

    Even if sometimes they may be a LITTLE past prime.

    • John says:

      We’ve become huge believers in leftovers the past few years. To throw it away is like throwing money down the drain.

  • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says:

    These statistics are alarming. I’m guility of wasting food- not at home, but when I go out to eat. I tend to over order and then not bring back the leftovers.

    • John says:

      That they are Connie. Those restaurant leftovers are one of the biggest parts of the problem, it can be really difficult to get around that. Thanks for stopping by Connie. πŸ™‚

  • Derek with says:

    The biggest thing that gets us is rotten bananas. My wife normally buys a bunch of ~12 at a time, and we will sometimes end up throwing away 3-4 of them. We need to try and get to only buy 6-8 at a time so that we save money and don’t waste food!

  • Michelle says:

    We have been kind of guilty of having food waste lately. We need to start doing better with this.

  • Shannon@TheHeavyPurse says:

    254 lbs of food waste per person – unbelievable! It’s certainly not a surprise that food waste is a major problem, but I would have never guessed how bad. Meal planning definitely helps me and not cooking more food than we will eat. We’re not big fans of leftovers so I try to cook only enough for the immediate meal. Yes, it means more work for me since I have to cook dinner every night. But I know we’ll eat it and reduce our food waste.

    • John says:

      I agree Shannon, that’s a crazy number. You have to go with what works for you and if it cuts down on waste then I say go for it! πŸ™‚

  • Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet says:

    We are definitely better at not wasting food than when we first got married. However, from time to time I do notice something in the fridge that goes bad. One of the things we can do to avoid this is buy only one of something if we are not sure that we can eat multiple. For instance, one package of blueberries instead of two. Although the sale can be tempting to get the second one, it is not worth wasting it in the end.

    • John says:

      We have the same science experiment issue from time to time, but generally do fine with it. It can be tempting to go for that sale, but if you throw half of it away, then it’s not worth it in the long run.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    Food waste is something I have become a little bit obsessive about… I HATE IT. Not only is it a waste of money, but also resources. I go out of my way to plan meal portion sizes and also ensure that I can freeze for future consumption where possible!

    • John says:

      I agree sir. It ‘s such a huge waste of resources and money! We freeze a lot as well and do it so we can just pull out enough for a meal.

  • Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    Lol- we LOVE those big jars of pickles from Costco! They keep well in the back of the fridge but do take up space that other folks might otherwise need. (we have a top freezer fridge so it’s less of a space problem)

    As a member of the clean plate club, I too am against waste and will eat most foods due to my guilt against waste (which is not always the best idea for my own waist!). Lately, most food waste that we produce is from our terrible fridge freezing the lettuce or the occasional 1/4 gallon of milk left in the container. I am bad about buying too much stuff on sale so I really need to work at pricing out per pound the best prices I can find on certain things so I’m not tempted to buy just because I see “sale” attached to the price.

    • John says:

      Ha ha, I totally just picked something that sounded crazy….probably because I am not a pickle fan. πŸ™‚

      That’s a great point about shopping for sales. We like to do that as well, but it does require balance. Saving that money at purchase is great, but if you throw it away then it’s money being lost.

  • C. the Romanian says:

    I absolutely hate it – we’ve been doing worse and worse in this matter and it’s something that we decided to take action against. I never had any idea that the global numbers are so scary, but I am glad that at least a bunch of people (for now) are taking action and doing their best to reduce food waste.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor says:

    Totally “guilty as charged.” Food waste is something we’re actively trying to address in my household. Not only is it a huge waste of food that other people could be eating (which I feel bad about) it’s also a huge waste of money and resources. I’m totally guilty of having food to eat in the fridge, but ordering out because I don’t “feel” like eating what I have, or I’m too lazy to cook it.

    • John says:

      I think a lot of us deal with that challenge KK. I know we do, thus why having and sticking to a meal plan is so important.

  • Liquid says:

    Hard to believe 1 out of 7 people are still malnourished in today’s world. We often don’t see the impact of wasting food because of where we live but this infographic really brings out the reality of people living in other parts of the world that are less fortunate. It’s a global responsibility so everyone should at least be aware of the problem and hopefully new breakthroughs in science can make crops and their distribution more effective without risking people’s health, although food engineering can be quite controversial. Over eating can be an intangible form of food waste too since our bodies will just store any excess energy as fat, lol.

    • John says:

      I agree, but it’s true – unfortunately. Yes, overeating is a form of food waste as well – something the infographic did not really touch on. πŸ™‚

  • John@MoneyPrinciple says:

    We always try not to throw food away but have been a bit remiss recently. A good kick up the a**** !

  • Nick @ says:

    I make it a point to eat everything I make, but I still probably BUY way more food than I need.

  • E.M. says:

    I am sadly guilty of food waste. I am like you, John, in that I can be super picky about things. If something doesn’t look or smell right I don’t want to eat it. I’ve been working at getting better at this as I realize it’s silly and causes me to fork more over to my boyfriend’s plate. Then he pokes fun at me. I stick with lists when I go to the grocery store and meal plan as much as possible, but I keep finding some things we don’t eat quickly enough. Produce is definitely one of the biggest culprits, as well as bread/rolls/baked goods.

    • John says:

      We run into the same issues with those items at the store E.M. It can be hard to balance getting enough without buying too much. Thankfully we tend to do fairly good with the fruit as the kids will always eat it. πŸ™‚

  • Debt and the Girl says:

    I feel really guilty about admitting that we do waste a lot of food. it seems like every week we are throwing out at least $10-15 worth of food because we forget its in there and then it goes bad. This is something I seriously need to curb as this is just draining our food budget

    • John says:

      It can drain a food budget. We were there about a year ago and hated throwing away so much each week. We changed our shopping habits, which has helped a lot.

  • Jules@Fat Guy,Skinny Wallet says:

    Wow! I just recently started spreading out my produce buys so they dont go bad. It has worked well!

    • John says:

      We try and do as much of that as possible Jules. We also get to rotate our garden veggies in there, which can make it a challenge at times.

  • Travis @DebtChronicles says:

    My family wastes very little food…I HATE throwing away food. I usually take leftovers to work to for lunch, and I’ve been known to eat mushy bananas or questionable vegetables just because I don’t want it to go to waste. I would NEVER think of just dropping money on the ground and letting it go… it just doesn’t make sense to make the most out of the food we buy!

    • John says:

      I agree Travis, we try and view it the same way. That’s why we made the changes we did last year. It was just making me so sick to throw money down the drain – literally.

  • Rita P @ Digital Spikes says:

    Definitely I do feel guilty on seeing those infographic. Most of the times, I plan my weekly meals and shop accordingly. I do check for safety dates while I am picking my groceries. We do use leftovers as next day lunch so that we do not waste food.

  • Tanya@EatLaughPUrr says:

    I used to be really bad about food waste. I bought things and forgot about them until they were spoiled or had freezer burn. These days I try very, very hard to have little to no food waste. I’m not perfect but I am so much better than I used to be. Meal planning has been incredibly helpful but I can only do it a week in advance. If I do it too far in advance then I no longer want to eat the things I’ve bought. and now I’m back to wasting food! I’m a food blogger so occasionally …. things fail. Sometimes I can salvage them and sometimes I can’t, unfortunately.

    • John says:

      It can be hard to have that balance Tanya. We’ve tried to meal plan for a month at a time and the wheels fall off that wagon each and every time. When we stick to a week or two, we have much more success.

  • Kostas says:

    I think that the most pressing problem is that there are simply no effective ways of transporting what is not getting used to areas where it could be more than welcome. Not even any ideas popping up as far as I know, or do you know any better?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *