We’ve all had that moment – we look in the fridge, and there sitting at the bottom of the vegetable crisper lies a rotted pepper, a wholly overripe avocado and some furry grapes. Into the trash it goes. It’s not a particularly proud moment – between the guilt of throwing away food that was once perfectly edible and the act of basically placing money right in the trash, it’s pretty awful.
And then there’s the larger picture: close to a third of food produced in the world goes into the garbage, totaling almost 1.3 billion tons. In the U.S. alone, we waste $689 billion worth of food every year. It’s both an individual problem and a global one – and when we talk about food tech and smart kitchen innovation, one would hope that somewhere in all of it will be some actual solutions to stop or at least significantly curb food waste.
Enter the EatBy smartphone app. At first glance, it seemed like just a fancy database of all the food you had in your house and required manual input which seemed tedious. And when it first launched a few years ago, that’s pretty much all there was. Users complained about the clunkiness of the interface and lack of features. But a recent update to both iOS and Android versions have some interesting additions that might make this app a useful tool in the fight against food waste.
The real utility of this app starts if you bring it to the grocery store. It lets you scan in items as you shop – and yes, that means it relies on a database that constantly needs updating. But through increased user inputs, it’s gotten better. You can also create grocery lists with the app which would be even more compelling if the app had an Amazon Echo skill for Alexa…which, it doesn’t. But if I scan as I go – or using my cell phone’s voice interface, telling it what I’m buying as I go, it will take that information and figure out when I need to use all of the items I’ve bought. And not only will EatBy remind me when things need to be used by, but with the recent update, it will also suggest recipes based on the ingredients I have in my fridge and based on what needs to be used first.
This feature alone is incredibly helpful because produce and meats go bad at different rates when left to sit at the same temperature, but who can keep track of that? Maybe the spaghetti squash and pork-based meat sauce should be cooked first before the chicken kebabs because the chicken will stay fresh longer and so will the peppers and onions. That type of data could help change the way consumers cook during the week and result in less sad, rotten food in the garbage before the next trip to the store.
EatBy used to be free and supported by advertising with an upgradable no-ads version, but it’s now only available as a paid app, for $2.99. But the future of food storage, usage and ultimately waste prevention doesn’t lie in a smartphone app, I’m afraid. The systems in which we purchase, store and cook our food have to fundamentally shift to give us a more holistic picture of what’s in our fridge and pantry and how to use them without requiring so much user input. But for folks who don’t want to wait for technology to enable a lazier, less proactive approach to food waste, the EatBy app offers a solution.