American households throw out an average of $1,500 worth of food every year — about one-fifth of the average total grocery bill. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are some extremely easy ways to save money by shopping smart. The best part? Most of them take only a few minutes to do. Here are five ways to get back that $1,500.
Planning your meals
Meal planning is a simple way to make sure that every food item on your shopping list gets used because you’ve already thought about what you’ll cook with it. Ultimately, this will save you time and money, as having a list handy keeps you from aimlessly wandering between aisles and making spontaneous purchases. Think about how you’ll structure each week’s meal plan according to perishability — mushrooms, for example, perish quickly, so they should be cooked sooner than other ingredients.
Checking your inventory
One of the leading causes of food waste is poor planning by shoppers, who in numerous studies have been found to buy excess food when they already have the same items in their pantries. Apps like NoWaste that can help you track your food stocks and upcoming use-by dates.
Stretch your produce supplies
Social media is full of clever food storage ideas to better preserve food. This TikTok video, for example, shows how putting quick-to-wilt items, like celery or herbs, in a glass of water in the fridge keeps them fresh. Another Instagram user has a video explaining how to stagger the use of a bag of avocados by refrigerating some of them — which delays the ripening process — and ripening the rest in a warm laundry closet.
Use up your food scraps
Lots of perfectly edible food gets wasted because of confusion around use-by date labels. In fact, consumers typically reject 56.7% of food that is fine to eat. If your fresh produce is approaching its use-by date or starting to look on the uglier side, don’t just throw it in the trash. Vegetables can easily be swapped in and out of flexible recipes, like this vegetable scrap soup.
Freeze your extras
Food products that are packaged in bulk, like a bag of apples, are harder to use up than loose items, especially for smaller households. One study found that single- and double-person households waste an average of 2 pounds of food per week, compared to three- to eight-person households, which waste less than 1.5 pounds per person. Learning the best ways to freeze food can rectify this problem — for example, lemon juice can be frozen in an ice cube tray to use up lemons before they go bad.
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