$165 billion worth of food is thrown away every year in the United States. This is ridiculous, especially considering how many people are food insecure (42 million Americans, in case you were wondering). On top of this, food waste is a large waste of resources. According to the NRDC, “Getting food to our tables eats up 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50% of U.S. land, and swallows 80% of freshwater consumed in the United States.” And 40% of that food is never eaten. 

Some food waste is inevitable, but this is simply too much to be excused. One thing that might be making you waste more food than necessary is mold. Mold is an inevitability when food is left uneaten for long periods of time. Not to worry! Some foods are still good to eat even if there's mold on them. 

Why Does Food Go Moldy?

Tiny mold spores can be found in the air around us. All these tiny spores need to grow is water, food, and a suitable temperature. Mold grows best in cool, damp places, but can also grow in warmer temperatures. When these spores land on food, they take root and create more spores. It continues to spread and feed off the food and grow into the mold we commonly see on foods like fruits and bread. 

However, just because you see mold doesn't mean it needs to go to waste. Sometimes it's okay for you to be eating moldy food. Here are some foods you may have been unknowingly throwing away, even though you didn't have to. 

Moldy Foods That Are Safe to Eat

1. Hard Cheeses - You can cut off 1 inch around the mold. Be careful not to touch the mold with your knife to avoid contamination.

2. Firm vegetables (like carrots or cabbage) are not easily penetrated by mold. Simply cut off 1 inch around the mold, again avoiding touching the mold. 

3. Hard salami and dry-cured country hams. According to the USDA, you can just scrub the mold off the surface and use it. 

So what's not safe to eat? Basically anything soft enough for the mold to penetrate deep into it. Some common examples are moldy fruits, bread, and soft cheeses.

Tips for Storing Food

While eating moldy food might be okay on some occasions, it is best to avoid mold entirely by following these tips:

1. One cool trick for cheese is to wrap it in a paper towel that has been sprinkled with vinegar and wrapped lightly in plastic wrap. This should help your cheese stay mold free for a little bit longer. 

2. Keep your kitchen well ventilated. This can help reduce humidity, decreasing your risk of mold growing. 

3. Keep your food in airtight, sealed containers. 

4. If you plan on storing something for longer, you could use vacuum sealed bags to store them in the freezer.

There's so much waste produced in the United States alone. It is important that we each do our part to reduce it. As inevitable as mold is, that doesn't mean you need to throw it all away.