Thirty-one percent of the food produced each year in the United States goes uneaten, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That translates to $161.6 billion per year — or about $522 per person per year.
So to help you stop throwing away hundreds of dollars in uneaten food each year, we’ve rounded up the best tips for fighting food waste.
1. Check fridge and freezer temperatures periodically
Cold temperatures cannot destroy the microorganisms that cause food to spoil, but sufficiently cold temperatures can significantly slow them down.
Refrigerators should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Freezers should be kept at zero degrees.
Some experts and appliance manufacturers go colder, though.
The University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), for example, recommends that fridge temps be set between 34 and 40 degrees. Samsung says the ideal temperature for French-door fridges is 37 degrees.
The IANR recommends that freezers be set to zero degrees, noting that food deteriorates more quickly when stored at higher temperatures.
2. Reorganize the fridge, freezer or pantry
If you frequently forget about the items in the bottom of your fridge or the back of your pantry shelves, reorganize. Or, try an organizational aid like a lazy Susan.
For example, a reader noted the following in the blog The Kitchn:
I was always forgetting my perishables in the veg drawers, etc. So I put the stuff that needs to be cooked on the top shelf, and the jars, nuts, flours in the produce drawers. This helped a lot.
3. Make groceries last longer
Have you ever thought to keep onions in pantyhose? Or mushrooms in paper bags? Storing specific foods in certain ways can extend their life.
For more easy ways to prevent food from spoiling early, check out “21 Tricks to Make Groceries Last Longer.”
4. Find new uses for excess food
Leftover mashed potatoes can double as a ready-made base for potato pancakes, and extra grapes can be frozen and used later as creative ice cubes in mixed drinks, for example. Flat soda can help scrub blackened pots and pans.
For more fresh ideas, check out “12 Ways to Keep Good Food From Going Bad.”
5. Track your trash
At least periodically, keep a log of all food items your household throws away.
Doing so will make you more mindful of how much food you lose to the trash can. That knowledge might help you lose less.
You’ll also be able to spot any patterns in the types of foods you throw away. That way, you will know when to buy less of a certain food.
6. Plan meals
Take a little time once a week to plan out one week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, or whatever meals your household eats. Then, build a grocery list based on your meal plans.
There are apps that can help. One example is CookBrite, which keeps a running inventory of everything in your home and offers recipes based on what you have on hand.