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Every American household throws away some food every week. This costs money and has negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, it makes sense for thrifty and environmentally conscious people to look for straightforward ways to reduce the amount of food they throw away. Minor changes in our buying habits and how we cook our food can make an enormous difference to our budgets and for the environment.

Simple Steps to Reducing Food Waste:

Food that’s grown, but never eaten, wastes the water and energy put into growing that food. If food waste could be cut in half, the amount of land the country uses for agriculture could be reduced. There is also at least one compelling environmental reason to minimize food waste. Every pound of food waste represents land, chemical fertilizer, and pesticide that was consumed to grow the food or the ingredients. Meat and dairy consume even more energy and water. Cutting food waste 20% to 30% nationwide would cut down on fertilizer use, pesticide use, and water use in agriculture.

Now that you know the scale of the problem, here are some ways to reduce your own household contribution, and save some money, offered by mashable.com:

Shop Smart -  Careful planning is important. Knowing in advance what kinds of foods and how much your household uses in a week, makes it easier to save money and avoid food waste. Buy in bulk wherever possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to spoil quickly, so buy what you know you can use in the next few days. Buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh. Buy some canned fruit.

Prepare Realistic Portions - Think about how much you and your family members usually eat at a sitting then prepare meals accordingly. Serving meals that are just big enough cuts down on the amount of food thrown out each day and reduces leftovers. Realistic servings lead to fewer leftovers. Plenty of rice and pasta ends up in the trash because people meant to make a couple of servings and got four or five. Hard-boil eggs just before they expire and they will be safe to eat for a week.  

Eat Those Leftovers - Some food waste happens when people cook too much and never get around to eating the leftovers. Sometimes we over-prepare and the leftovers go bad before anyone eats them. Keep leftover stew, pasta, and other dishes in the front of the refrigerator, where the containers are easy to see.

Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly - Spoiled fruits and vegetables probably make up a significant percentage of all food waste in the average home. Storing them properly will cut down on waste for no cost. Many fruits and vegetables that could be kept at room temperature go in the refrigerator, or the reverse. Bananas should not be stored in the refrigerator, for example. There is at least one online guide with general advice and specific tips for your favorites.

Avoid Clutter - Make sure everything in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry is easy to find by not packing in as many containers as possible. Anything with an expiration date can easily be forgotten until it is too old to eat. You can minimize the amount of food wasted in that way by not overstuffing the refrigerator and freezer.

Treat Expiration Dates as Guidelines - The sell by dates and use by dates on food generally tell you when the food is best. Quality may decline somewhat, but almost all foods are safe to eat a day or three after the expiration date. Dry cereal, oatmeal, and pasta may be good for a week or two. Treat the “best if used by” date as a quality guideline, not an “eat by” date. The “sell by” dates tell retailers when to rotate their stock, so they can also be treated as quality guidelines.

Keep Track of Food Waste - Financial gurus recommend that we track our spending for a few days, to better understand where our money goes, so we know where to cut back. Keeping a log of food that you throw out may help you see ways to cut back on your grocery bill.

Donate Food - Instead of throwing out that can of green beans or that box of whole wheat pasta, collect your non-perishable and unwanted foods. Get a few friends of neighbors to contribute. Then, take the bags of food over to the local food bank. Many communities have annual food drives. If you have canned and boxed food you’ve been planning to use, maybe, go ahead and donate it so it does not go to waste.

Take up Canning and Preserving - If you want a new hobby, canning or preserving your own fruits and vegetables can be a terrific way to save food over time, and save a little money. If you know how to preserve food and have the supplies at home, you can buy in bulk and preserve whatever you won’t be using right away. Canning and preserving aren’t that tough to learn.

Use Apps and Gadgets to Help - An app called AmpleHarvest helps gardeners find food pantries where they can donate their excess produce. Handpick helps you plan a meal based on ingredients you have on hand.  If you live in New York City, an app called PareUP helps you find places to buy unused food at a discount.

Plan to Use Perishable Goods Soon - If you do buy highly perishable items at the store, be sure to use them as soon as possible. Eat those strawberries, or make guacamole the next day. If you aren’t sure if you would even use those items right away, don’t buy them until later. The EPA also suggests that you cook with your perishable ingredients as soon as possible, and use as much as possible. Anything your family doesn’t eat at once can be frozen or refrigerated for later. This cuts down on a number of fruits, greens, and vegetables that end up in the trash.

Lastly, if you have a garden or would like to have one, start composting some of your food waste. You get free fertilizer from the compost, and your own garden products are less likely to end up in the trash. Growing fruits, vegetables, or herbs at home also cuts down on the environmental impacts of farming.

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