Recent studies have shown that the average American throws out about a quarter of their purchased food and beverages. The majority is eventually tossed because it has “gone bad” or the person fears it might have. To help reduce waste and save money in the process, here are some handy tips.
The first rule of shopping for perishable items is to buy only what you need for the week ahead. If possible, plan out your meals for the week prior to shopping and make a list to take with you to the store.
The second rule is to buy the freshest food possible, such as visiting the farmers market just as it opens. The fresher the food and the less it has traveled, the longer the remaining lifespan.
Meats, Dairy and Leftovers
Meats, dairy and leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen right away. In the refrigerator, leftovers can last two to three days and in the freezer they can last one to two months.
Fresh eggs in their shell generally last for three to five weeks in the refrigerator. For how long various meats and other items will last in the refrigerator and freezer, follow the charts provided on FoodSafety.gov. For dairy products, follow the expiration dates provided on the packages.
Many fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated. Others should ripen on the counter, then be moved to the refrigerator. While certain fruits and vegetables are best never refrigerated. To keep this straight, consult this handy guide from More Matters and the University of California, Davis.
To avoid wasting fruits and vegetables and enjoy them at their peak, follow these tips:
- Wait to wash fruits or vegetables until you’re ready to eat them.
- Keep fruits and vegetables whole (with stems, when applicable) to help them stay fresh longer during storage.
- For refrigerated fruits and vegetables, use the crisper drawers – fruit in one, veggies in the other.
- Never store fruits and vegetables in sealed bags. Instead, use perforated baggies. You can either purchase baggies specifically designed for fruits and vegetables or make your own by creating many small holes in a regular storage baggie.
- For items not refrigerated or ripening on the countertop, make sure they’re out of the direct sunlight.
- Eat the items with the shortest shelf life first; for example, berries tend to have a shorter shelf life than apples or oranges.
Virtually everything lasts longer in the freezer, so if you won’t be eating something before it passes its peak, freeze it. Freezing items in serving-sized sealed baggies makes it handy to grab, cook or defrost, and enjoy them.
When you find yourself with more fresh produce than you can consume, consider turning it into something else such as soups, smoothies, pies, compotes, or other recipes.
One final thing to remember is that the dates listed on packaged foods are not the same. Some are expiration dates, while others say “sell by” or “best if” dates. Consult “Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter?” from WebMD.com to learn more.
With a little planning – and proper storage – you can cut your food waste, save money and enjoy better tasting food year-round.