Add money to your wallet by fighting food waste

Studies show that the average family wastes $1,000 to $2,000 of their food budget each year. With a little thought and planning, you can take that money from the garbage can to your wallet.

How much food does your family waste? Studies show that the average family of four wastes $1,000-$2,000 of their food budget each year. With a little thought and planning you can take that money out of the garbage can and put it into your wallet! Here’s how:

Don’t let food spoil:

  • Buy only the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables your family can use before they go bad. Usually this is what you can eat within three to five days.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly, right after you eat. Divide a warm pan of soup or casserole into shallow containers no more than 2 inches high, and refrigerate.
  • Refrigerate wisely. Store fruits and vegetables in plastic bags that have a few holes poked in them. The plastic will keep in some moisture but the holes will let your produce breathe, so it stays fresh longer. The crisper drawer in your refrigerator is designed to hold produce at the right temperature and humidity so that it lasts longer. This is true for the meat drawer, as well. Whole onions and potatoes are best left out and not refrigerated
  • Wash fruits and vegetables veggies right before you use them; otherwise added moisture adds to spoilage.

Use what you have:

  • Plan meals around the foods you have in your house. Look at cookbooks or websites to get ideas.
  • Find uses for food that may spoil, or for less-than-perfect food. For example, if you have too much milk you can make pudding. If you have too many oranges, make orange “smiles” for a snack. Use bread that is a bit hard to make French toast. Using softer vegetables in a pot of soup or stir-fry may hit the spot and prevent waste.
  • Don’t let your food linger in plastic ‘caskets’. Make it a habit to scan your refrigerator daily and the freezer weekly to see what has to be used before it spoils or becomes too old for you to want to eat.
  • Freeze food you can’t use before it spoils. Just about anything can be frozen when properly wrapped. Store leftover vegetables in freezer bags and add more as they are available. You can use them for soup when you need them.

Plan your purchases:

  • Look at store sales and plan your meals around them. If chicken is on sale use it in several meals during the week. Pair it with other foods, like vegetables and grains, that are also on sale or that you already have.
  • Make a list. Every minute you are in a store costs you more money. Know what you will purchase when you get to the store. Allow yourself leeway if an unexpected sale comes up, but otherwise stick to your list.

For more information on food budgeting, food safety, and other issues of interest to Michigan families, contact a Michigan State University Extension educator in your area.

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