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Tips to Stop Food Waste & Save Money
Stop wasting food and take control of your family’s food budget with these great tips.
According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council released in August 2012, 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten, amounting to $165 billion a year in waste. Food waste not only costs money, but also takes up space in landfills where it produces methane gas, contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming. This is why environmental advocates push food composting, which is both eco-friendly and makes for a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
But before food ever gets to the composting stage, how do we make our money go further while also wasting less food? Using your fridge-freezer wisely can help you take action to save food and save money. Take control of your food budget today with these top tips:
Store Food in the Right Place
Top Shelf: Keep prepared foods that need less cooling, such as sauces and cheeses, on the top shelf, which is the warmest part of the fridge. Putting foods that spoil easily— items such as milk or meats—on the top shelf of the fridge is a common mistake, as it will lead to quicker spoilage.
Door Racks: The door racks of your refrigerator are also warmer than other parts of the fridge, due to frequently being opened and closed and exposed to room temperature, so keep items that need less cooling here: eggs, salad dressings, jams, and other condiments are perfect for the door rack. If you have a lidded compartment for butter, put it inside, otherwise it could be heating up and cooling down throughout the day, leading to quicker spoilage and an odd consistency.
Bottom Shelf: The bottom shelf is the coldest, so keep raw meats and easily spoiled foods here. Also, on the odd chance that meat juice drips from the package, there will be less chance of contaminating the rest of the fridge.
Salad Crisper: This section does what it says on the tin, so keep vegetables and most fruit here. Most salad crispers even have humidity controls to help vegetables retain their moisture, which will help them last longer. However, certain fruits and vegetables spoil more quickly in the fridge so are best stored at room temperatures: tomatoes, avocados, melons, and stone fruit, such as peaches and plums are best stored at room temperature until fully ripe.
* Store milk in the main part of the fridge if there is room, rather than in the door rack given that it spoils so easily.
* Lettuce needs moisture to thrive, so if your pre-wrapped salad leaves do not have pre-formed holes in the packaging, punch some yourself. Also, once you see a decomposing leaf, remove it from the bag of lettuce/ rocket/ spinach, as the decomposing leaves will transfer bacteria to the fresh leaves; if this doesn't help, add a dry paper towel to absorb some of the moisture and prevent wilting.
* Wrap cucumbers in a tea towel, as they often get too cold in the fridge, though don't thrive in room temperature either.
Use Your Freezer to Store Bread, Leftovers and Meats
One of the easiest ways to preserve food is to put items—including leftovers and bread—in the freezer if it's clear you won't get to them before they expire. When freezing leftovers, label the container so that you have an idea as to when you first put it in there. Most foods can be defrosted and eaten as long as months' after freezing. There's nothing as satisfying as having a tasty meal in the freezer, or remembering that you have frozen chicken or bread there, when you're low on refrigerated supplies.
Foods that are perfect for freezing
* Prepared cookie dough can be rolled into a log, wrapped in foil and frozen. Then just slice as many cookies as you want to eat, and put the frozen rounds straight into the oven. This way you can just bake 3 or 4 cookies at a time and stop you from eating the whole batch. In some cases this even improves the taste and consistency!
* Leftover curries can also be frozen, if you can't eat the whole takeaway in one sitting. This is also a great option for young parents or the elderly (if they are adventurous eaters). Buy several takeaway curries, split them up into a storage container, and place them in the freezer for easy meals on the go.
* Cooked rice can even be frozen, although take care to only reheat it once. Store single servings of rice in sandwich bags so you can defrost as much as you need.
* Soups or sauces can be frozen in ice cube trays, then stored in a plastic bag—this also gives you control over how much to defrost at once.
Go through your fridge every few days for an evaluation, to consider if there are any foods you might not get to that week that would be better off frozen. This can save you time and money in the long run, and also make for a greener place by eliminating food waste.
Amandine Fontaine is a France-born, well-travelled and now full-time mom of two girls. Amandine loves to share her experiences of raising Aurore and Philip and sharing tips with other moms.
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