A new study out of Ohio State University found that people who eat at home wasted about three percent of their food, while people eating out waste a whopping 40 percent on average.
You know that cooking at home is better for your health, and now there’s another great reason to eat in: you waste far less food. The small study looked at the plate waste that 50 adults generated and found that they left far less food behind at home than when eating out or during two lab-simulated “dining out” meals.
There are a couple of things about this study that stand out: the reporting method and how much flexibility that method offered participants.
Instead of self-reporting, study participants used something called the Remote Food Photography Method®. They took phone photos of their plates before and after eating, and the researchers used those images to estimate how much food was going into the bin.
Most food waste studies tend to focus only on dine-out type meals, but the Remote Food Photography Method allowed researchers to follow participants as they ate unrestricted meals at home and restaurants of their choice. Study author Brian Roe said in a press release that this study, “is the first of its kind to follow adult eaters through their normal day-to-day eating patterns.”
Roe thinks that the freedom to choose exactly what they wanted to eat and how much is why participants wasted less food than in previous studies on food waste.
These results are yet another compelling reason to cook at home. Not only does home cooking give you more freedom of choice and portion control, but you can meal plan to reduce waste and save money. Roe also points out that if you’re cooking at home, it’s easier to reuse leftovers.
HOW TO COOK AT HOME MORE
If making your own meals isn’t part of your routine right now, it can feel a little bit daunting. Like any new skill, it just takes practice.
Start with simple meals, and branch out as you get more comfortable in the kitchen. One-pot meals are a good place to start, so you’re not left with a mountain of dishes after the cooking is done. If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget, these easy vegan meals that cost less than five dollars for two servings are your new friends.
The study authors mentioned meal planning as a great way to further reduce food waste, which makes sense. If you are shopping with meals in mind, you’re less likely to buy items that you’ll never cook. Try this vegan meal plan for busy people and check out these tips on how to plan your meals.
Of course, consumer action is only a small piece of the food waste puzzle. Some of the burden for reducing food waste needs to fall on food distributors and manufacturers. We need to look at food waste at every step, from farm to store shelf to table.