We often hear the mind-boggling statistics of food waste in America and across the world, though many of us aren’t quite sure how to avoid adding to those growing numbers. And if you haven’t heard any lately, here is a recent figure to keep in mind: The average American wastes almost 400 pounds of food per year.

When you let untouched groceries and leftovers go bad, you waste more than just food; you waste the energy that went into producing it as well as the money you spent to purchase it. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the edibles in your house right now.

1. Stick to what you need.

Though most of us go grocery shopping with the intention of consuming all that we purchase, it’s easy to pick up extras of this or that in hopes of avoiding multiple trips to the store later in the week. Trying to be smart by thinking too far ahead often leads to overbuying. And when you have more than you need at home, a lot of what you buy will end up in your trash instead of in your stomach. Don’t get carried away with unexpected sales and spur of the moment buys by planning ahead the right way – making a list and buying it once.

2. Take a few extra steps.

When you finally get home from the store and start putting away the groceries, take a few extra steps to make your food last longer. Put paper towels down underneath your vegetables in the fridge to soak up moisture and prolong freshness. Keep your bananas bunched together to prevent them from rotting too quickly. Keep spices away from dark, humid places to help them keep their flavor. Remembering a few simple tricks like this will help your food last longer, which will help you waste less and save more.

3. Freeze it for a rainy day.

Freezing is my favorite way to save food. It’s so easy, and the result is lots of edible food stored and ready for your consumption. There’s no end to the amount of food you can freeze for later. Only need half an onion? Chop up the rest and throw it in the freezer. Only need a few slices of baked bread? Wrap up the rest and throw it in the freezer. Avoid hard and lumpy brown sugar by – you guessed it – throwing it in the freezer. Even eggs can be frozen. Just pour mixed egg yolks and whites together into ice cube trays and pop them out any time you need them.

4. Don’t be too quick to judge.

According to the USDA, use-by dates indicate the last day for best quality, not the last day for safe consumption. Fruits and vegetables with cosmetic blemishes aren’t necessarily ready for the trashcan. If your honey is crystallized, heat it up for 30 seconds in the microwave (honey is nonperishable). If you aren’t sure how fresh an egg is, place it in water to test its freshness (fresh if it sinks, no good if it floats). If you have day-old bread, make croutons and breadcrumbs out of it (add parmesan for parmesan bread crumbs). Just remember to think twice when cleaning out your fridge and pantry and use your best judgment before heading for the trash.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

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