We’re Wasting More Than Half of the Food In Our Refrigerators, Says New Study

Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Coming home after a long weekend away to a rancid carton of milk or a moldy bunch of berries happens to the best of us. A new study hints at the reason so much of our food gets tossed.

In the study, published online in the journal Resources, Conservation, and Recycling, researchers from The Ohio State University and Louisiana State University analyzed data from 307 participants who took the State of the American Refrigerator survey. Ohio State News reports that they found a sizable disconnect between participants’ expectations of how much food they’d end up eating and how much they actually ate. Survey participants projected a finish rate of 97 percent for meat, 94 percent for vegetables, 84 percent for dairy, and 71 percent for fruit. A week later, they reported the honest outcome: People ate about half the meat, 44 percent of the vegetables, 42 percent of the dairy, and 40 percent of the fruit—they trashed everything else.

According to the survey, people often tossed food because of the dates on the labels, or because they thought it looked or smelled suspicious. But many Americans don’t understand what those ambiguous expiration dates mean in the first place, and therefore opt for a “better safe than sorry” plan of action when the food itself is probably still safe.

Those “expiration” disclaimers could improve soon, though. Congress is currently looking over a proposal to standardize the language so consumers can more clearly interpret it. If Congress passes the proposal, “Use by [date]” will be a nationwide mandate to throw out products after that date, while “Best if used by [date]” will signify that it’s safe to eat or drink as long as you think it seems OK.

Follow-up questions on the survey showed trends in other behaviors that contribute to the likelihood of food waste. People who cleaned out their refrigerators frequently and younger participants wasted food more often, while those who frequently check nutrition labels wasted less. Researchers suggested that people who check nutrition labels are more conscientious about what they buy and less likely to waste it with abandon. It’s possible that they’ve also better educated themselves on which foods are safe to eat after the sell-by dates.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted—that’s about 1.3 billion tons of food per year.

Feeling a little guilty about your own food waste? Here are eight easy ways to cut back.

[h/t Ohio State News]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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How Did Apple Pie Become an Iconic American Dessert?

Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Dilyara Garifullina via Unsplash

Many staples of American cuisine originated outside the United States. German immigrants brought over the modern hamburger, and Italians were the first to combine cheese with macaroni. Apple pie—a dish that commonly follows the words “American as”—has a reputation for being one of the rare dishes the country can fully claim. But as it turns out, the history of the iconic American dessert isn’t so simple.

The earliest known recipe for apple pie comes not from America, but from England. It dates from the late 1300s and lists multiple fruits as the ingredients, including figs, raisins, and pears, as well as apples. Unlike a modern pie, there was no added sugar, and it was baked in a “coffin” pastry crust meant to contain the filling rather than serve as an edible part of the dish. Though the first concoction resembling apple pie may have come from England, the recipe itself wasn’t wholly English. Its influences can be traced back to France, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire.

Apple trees had only been cultivated in Britain for several centuries by this point. An early ancestor of the fruit originally sprouted up in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan millions of years ago and was later cultivated in Central Asia before spreading across the globe. Before apple pie could take over America, someone first had to plant the right apple trees on the land. The only apples native to North America prior to British colonialism were crab apples. When colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in the 17th century, they brought with them the Old World seeds and cuttings they needed to make cider, creating new varieties of American apples.

U.S. residents enjoyed apple pie throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but it didn’t gain its all-American status right away. The dessert’s transition from British import to American classic may have started during the Civil War. In his book Apple Pie: An American Story, author John T. Edge describes Union and Confederate soldiers scavenging for apples and raiding the hearths and flour bins on farms to make pies. The memory of the sweet treat during a time of national turmoil may have “fixed the taste of apple pie on the palate of generations to come,” Edge writes.

The patriotic symbolism surrounding apple pie was fully established in the early 20th century. A 1902 New York Times article kicked off a new era for the dish, dubbing it “the American synonym for prosperity.” The Times may also be responsible for creating the myth that apple pie is an American invention. A 1926 headline from the paper read: “The Tourist Apple Pie Hunt Is Ended: American Army Abroad Has Failed Again to Find in Europe ‘the Kind They Make at Home.’”

The dish's patriotic popularity continued to rise. A 1928 New York Times article called First Lady Lou Henry Hoover's homemaking skills “as American as apple pie.” Several years later, fighting “for mom and apple pie” became a common slogan among World War II soldiers. During the Second World War, apple pie was linked to a certain image of domesticity and the perfect American housewife.

Apple pie may not be 100 percent American in origin, but very few foods are. Many of the most iconic American dishes include contributions from various cultures and parts of the world. Apple pie—with its Asian apples, Middle Eastern wheat, and European recipe—is no exception.