Preventing food waste

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Date

by Veronica Hunsucker

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At a time when frugal living is a priority, it is imperative that we refrain from being wasteful. The kitchen is a place where unnecessary waste frequently occurs. How often have you had to toss out food because it got pushed to the back of the refrigerator and spoiled, became stale due to improper package closure, or became too ripe before you knew it? You can prevent wasting food by following a few simple steps concerning storage and preservation.

If you have a kitchen pantry it is a good idea to set aside one day each month to take an inventory of the items you have stored there. Rotate the older items to the front when you bring groceries home. Organize the items in a manner that is convenient and logical for you. For example, store canned vegetables on one shelf, dry goods on a separate shelf, beverages on another shelf, and so on. Be sure to store items like sugar, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta and other dry ingredients in air-tight containers rather than leaving them in the bags or boxes they are packaged in. I find it is very helpful to keep a continuing list of needed items inside the pantry, possibly hanging on the inside of the door. This makes it easy to prepare your weekly or monthly shopping list. If you don't have a pantry, these same tips can be applied to items stored in cabinets.

Cookies, crackers, cereal, and snack foods have to be thrown out sometimes because they become stale. They become stale because once opened they are not properly resealed. It's possible to purchase glass or plastic storage containers with tight fitting lids very inexpensively. Storing items in these containers will keep them fresh. Pickles, mayonnaise, applesauce, and many other foods come in glass jars that you can wash and reuse as storage containers for small items like nuts, raisins, and granola mixes.

Sometimes items placed in the refrigerator get pushed to the back or covered up by other items and spoil before they are rediscovered. Once a week, you should take an inventory of the items in your refrigerator to be sure nothing gets lost in there. Also, keep the items with the earliest expiration date near the front so that you use them before it's too late. Store leftovers in clear containers so that you can easily see what's in there. Also, store foods appropriately according to their individual temperature needs. There's a reason that refrigerators have crisper sections, meat drawers, and various other specific sections.

It only makes sense to buy extra meat when on sale. When repackaging the meat to put it in the freezer, be sure to label and date the packages. You will want to rotate the items in your freezer, oldest to the front, just as you do the items in your pantry and refrigerator.

If you keep fruit in a bowl on your counter, watch it closely. Rather than just grab a piece of fruit off of the top, inspect each piece of fruit and select the ripest one to eat. If several pieces of fruit like apples or pears start to ripen faster than you can eat them, cook them. By cooking the fruit, you can enjoy it for a longer period of time and prevent wasting it.

Buying in bulk or taking advantage of grocery store sales and markdowns only saves you money if you use the items you buy before they spoil. Keeping an organized pantry and refrigerator is the key to knowing what you have and what you need. It also keeps you aware of what needs to be used or cooked first so that food is wasted.

Take the Next Step:

  • Always be aware of what needs to be used or cooked first to keep from wasting food.
  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to look for new ways to trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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