(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Taking inventory of your refrigerator and buying only what you need at the grocery store can help cut down the amount of food your family throws away, but when there are leftovers, experts say many Americans are too quick to throw good food in the trash. A new national survey by the American Dairy Association Mideast finds that 94 percent of Americans say they throw away food at home. In fact, the average person throws away 250 pounds of food each year.
“Meal planning can go a long way in reducing food waste, but sometimes, leftovers are inevitable. Unfortunately, too much of that extra food is being thrown in the trash,” said Karen Bakies, RDN, LD, FAND, a dietitian with the American Dairy Association Mideast. “However, a few simple changes can help your family waste less and reduce the strain on the environment and your wallet.”
— Organize Your Fridge – Rotate older food to the front so it’s not forgotten. Where you store certain foods can also affect how long it stays fresh. Cheese and yogurt should be tightly sealed on the top shelf, and while your refrigerator door seems to be made to hold your gallon of milk, it will last longer on the bottom shelf where it will stay cold.
— Get Creative – Find new ways to turn extra ingredients into new family favorites. Produce past its prime? It could still be used in soups and stir fry. And leftover whipping cream is great folded into scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes.
— Move Perishables to the Freezer – If you can’t use it right away, freeze it. This goes for prepared leftovers as well as items like milk and cheese. You can also portion out tablespoons of herbs or sauces in ice cube trays and pop one out to use in any recipe when you need it.
While it can be difficult to remember where and how to store every food, the USDA’s FoodKeeper app can help. It offers tips on how to store and cook more than 400 foods and can even send alerts when food in your refrigerator is nearing the end of its recommended storage.