Three Reasons We Throw Away Food

purslane in bowl


Is there one thing that you always seem to throw away? For my mother, it was cooked rice. She liked to have it on hand, but every few months she found a forgotten jar.
I have gone through stages of throwing out different things. The short answer to, “Why do we throw out food?” is that the food is spoiled. But it didn’t start out that way. Everytime  we throw something away, it tells us something about our style of shopping, eating and cooking.

When there is an emergency or illness, food gets wasted despite our best efforts. But usually, we throw things out for one of three reasons: Denial, disorganization, and distaste.


We want to eat more fruits and vegetables (or we want our family to), but we haven’t figured out how to incorporate them into our menus. We virtuously buy them, but when it’s time to choose, the convenient cracker wins out over the unpeeled carrot.


This includes overestimating shopping and cooking quantities, losing track of  items in the refrigerator, putting new foods in front of older items, and not taking inventory when making a shopping list or menu.


In our affluent culture, we have grown to expect perfection. “Leftovers” have a bad name, and we don’t tolerate a touch of brown on our fruit. But fruit is juiciest and sweetest just at the point where it is starting to get brown spots, and cooked foods are often tastier the next day. People don’t have a problem cooking a day or two in advance, but once food has been served it somehow becomes less appetizing.

The next time you find yourself throwing out food, take a moment to think about why you bought or prepared it.

What do you throw out? What changes have you made to prevent wasting food? Please share in the comments.

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  1. we solved one of the problems (not on purpose). Friday lunch means emptying the fridge. Most leftovers get eaten that day. I still throw out food for the reasons you described, but less

  2. Denial is definitely our main reason, I totally overbuy on fruits and vegetables. I know I do it, too, and just can’t seem not to. I have a fabulous greengrocer and everything just looks so darn good! I’m already in there at least twice a week, it’s not like I couldn’t just get some today and some a few days later.

    • LOL, Robin, the produce does look good. My husband goes to the shuk and he pretty much sticks to the list. It is still a challenge sometimes. He bought a lot of beets Friday so I am going to prepare and post on borscht.

  3. We used to have a problem with cholent. Let’s face it: by Tuesday, who wants to even look at that meat stew that simmered all night Friday and half a day on Saturday? What can you do with chunks of meat and potatoes that have seen holier moments? We solved the problem by moving to Israel, which caused us to live on a hamburger-instead-of-brisket budget. I now make a hamburger cholent, with large chunks of potatoes and carrots. (We stopped using beans years ago for — uh — other reasons.) It doesn’t break my heart to toss out any uneaten potatoes and carrots — and there are not many. Then I make a spaghetti sauce from the leftover meat and onions. Virtually nothing is wasted; and a “new” dish is created from the leftovers.

    • Hi Ruti! Thanks for visiting and sharing how you solved this problem.
      Mimi, I am going through that myself a bit now. And I only make cholent when my son, who misses it the most, is home.
      Chaya, I wrote a draft of a post in a response. But first please tell me how you deal with this. Do you cook from scratch every night and throw out the leftovers?

  4. Denial was a big one for me when we moved away to a smaller family/social circle. I overbought and overcooked out of habit and maybe nostalgia too. Eventually I got it, though.

    The cholent question I resolved by choosing a smaller pot to cook it in. When you can’t fit that much into a pot, less or nothing gets wasted.

  5. I fall under the Distaste category — Leftovers never appeal!

  6. Our problem is having a small amount of food from a meat meal, and not really eating meat during the week. (It is never enough for a family of 5)

    • Yes, I often have this problem too. Sometimes I cut up the meat into small pieces and add beans to give it more protein. I also keep small amounts of cooked meat in the freezer to pull out when I need it.