You're Throwing Away $2,275 Every Year on This

Americans throw away 50 percent more food than our grandparents did.

By Emily Main


• Accept that the "Use By" date is totally arbitrary. Though "use by," "sell by," and "best by" dates show up on everything from bread to bacon, they don't mean anything, and, except the dates on infant formula, they aren't regulated by the federal government. Though there aren't comparable figures for the U.S., a study from the UK found that roughly 20 percent of food was wasted because of confusion over these meaningless labels. So don't toss food simply because it's passed some arbitrary date on a label; after the UK study came out, the government there stepped in and banned certain ones. Use your nose and your eyes. If it still smells or looks fresh after the use-by date, don't toss it.

• Organize your fridge. Make sure everything in your fridge is visible so nothing gets shoved in the back and forgotten. Develop a weekly habit of going through the fridge and moving any about-to-go-bad produce, dairy, and meats to the front. Then eat up your leftovers. Put out a buffet of what's in the fridge for a fast, easy family dinner.

• Utilize your freezer. Fresh produce is great, but you can also opt for bagged frozen vegetables and fruits if your produce tends to spoil before you get to use it all. And freeze any fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs you have that are about to go stale. Even milk and cheese can be frozen before they go rancid. Fruits can usually be frozen whole, while vegetables need to be blanched (placed in boiling water for 5 minutes, then plunged into cold water immediately afterwards) before freezing.

• Cook smarter, and eat on smaller plates. The size of the average American dinner plate has increased 36 percent between 1960 and 2007, and that leads people to load up on food they can't finish. You can either switch to eating dinner off salad plates or just be smarter about your portion sizes. And if you do wind up cooking too much, eat your dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.

• When you must, compost. Sending scraps, leftovers, and perfectly good food to the landfill is more than just painful to your wallet. Food waste makes up 25 percent, by weight, of all garbage that gets sent to landfills. There, it decomposes and creates methane, a greenhouse gas that's 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Find a corner of your yard and start a compost heap, where unused food and scraps can decompose without producing methane, which is produced only in the oxygen-deprived conditions of a landfill.