Living in a nation of abundant food can create situations of waste adding up to $2200 per year for the average American family. According to a National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report, approximately two-thirds of Americans’ food waste occurs mainly because food isn’t used before it spoils. We overload our grocery shopping carts, use only portions for recipes, then don’t properly save the rest. The remaining one-third of food waste comes from cooking more than we need, then throwing food away as well as confusing “sell by” and “use by” dates and throwing food out.
A recent post on the Chase website listed 7 ways to reduce food waste and save money in the process.
If you don’t know what you’re cooking, how will you know what to buy? Save yourself money and extra trips to the grocery store by making a weekly meal plan to ensure you’re buying only what you’ll need and use.
Don’t forget leftovers; factor those in to make sure they don’t end up rotting in the back of your fridge. Take them to work for lunch, use them to make a different recipe, or freeze them for future meals.
- Freeze it
If you can’t eat food that will spoil soon, consider freezing it. Fruits and vegetables can be easily chopped and frozen.
Alon Popilskis, a business owner in Congers, New York, has some tips on what to do with frozen fruits or vegetables. “I use frozen fruits in smoothies, shakes or when making sorbet,” he says. “Frozen herbs in oil just get thrown right into the pan or pot for cooking. Frozen vegetables can also be used in smoothies or juices.”
Every day or two, check to see whether anything is starting to go bad or get overripe.
“Utilize one bin in your fridge for new produce, and in the other keep older produce that you know you need to be using up,” Henry suggests.
Keep track of the things that routinely end up going bad as you might be buying too much of them.
- Understand expiration and sell-by dates
Yogurt doesn’t immediately go bad at midnight on the date printed on the cover. Nor does bread go moldy on its “sell-by” date. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), companies use these dates to guess at the freshness of the food, and they are not related to safety.
Companies generally tend to be conservative in their estimates, and the USDA suggests you check the food to see if it looks or smells “off” or sour.
- Store food properly
Did you know that onions shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, or that tomatoes last longer and are less likely to be mealy if you leave them on the counter?
When storing produce in the fridge, consider Popilskis’ approach: He stores things that will wilt—like spinach or kale in a drawer with high humidity. “Things that rot quickly go into a drawer with low humidity settings,” he says.
- Use everything
Do you throw away beet greens? Don’t! You can add them to salads, soups, and veggie burgers. You can also use the stalks of kale in green smoothies or the bones from roasted chicken to make chicken stock.
“Broccoli stalks are great peeled and served right along with steamed broccoli florets,” Henry says. “I also like to blend or finely chop them into sauces to add extra nutrients and fiber.”
You might be tempted to give your family, friends, and guests big portions of food, but those generous servings will likely just end up in the trash. Allow people to serve themselves or give everyone smaller, more manageable portions.
By making these adjustments it’s estimated that Americans can reduce food waste by 15 percent, could help feed 25 million more Americans and prevent millions of tons of food from disposal in landfills.
Amanda Reaume is a Chase News contributor at Chase. Her writing has appeared in Time, Forbes, USA Today, and Fox Business. She is the author of a personal finance book for millennials, “Money Is Everything.” https://www.chase.com/news/122716-stop-food-waste