food waste

How to Stretch Food Budget Dollars

NBCUniversal, Inc.

With grocery prices climbing, consumers are looking for ways to save money, including identifying and reducing food waste at home.

Read on for expert advice on ways to fight food waste in your kitchen.

“I DIDN’T THINK THEY WERE GOING TO KEEP GOING UP”

When we first met mom of three Teia Collier last May, she’d noticed grocery prices crept up during the pandemic.

“I didn't think they were going to keep going up,” Collier said.

“I actually thought that as soon as we started coming out of this three-year cycle we've been in, which shall not be named, that it would start going back down,” Collier continued. “What it's looking like, it's probably going to hang tight here for a while.”

Collier writes about budgeting on her blog DallasSingleMom.com.

In her own home, Collier said she’s stepped-up efforts to avoid wasting food - starting with Sunday night rotisserie chicken that eventually becomes bone broth.

“What do you do with that? You can make soup, you can make the base for enchiladas, you can make all the good stuff that you want to do next. That way, you make that one meal turn into two or three,” explained Collier.

She also repurposes small amounts of leftovers and creates “graze boards” for her family.

“There's fruit snacks and little cookies or pretzels and bread, a little dab of mustard, a little dab of barbecue sauce,” said Collier. “You've got half a link of sausage, you get it sliced up.”

“Take that extra five minutes to make it look pretty decorated on a plate. You feel like you had an experience. It makes it fun,” Collier added.

FOOD WASTE COSTS FAMILIES

The USDA estimates 30 to 40 % of the total U.S. food supply is wasted. According to USDA research, wasted food costs the average family of four $1,500 a year.

“The majority of municipal solid waste, what's in a landfill, the largest percentage is food,” said Dr. Jenna Anding, Professor and Extension Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Dr. Anding points to several factors – including confusion over “best by” or “sell by” dates on food labels.

“The only food that is required to have a date on it is infant formula. All the other dates are put there by the manufacturer and it's really to make sure that we consume that food at its peak quality,” explained Dr. Anding.

Free apps like the USDA’s food keeper can tell you how long certain foods last - provided you store food correctly.

Evaluate the food before eating to ensure it’s still safe to consume and hasn’t spoiled.

You can read more about dates on food products here.

FOOD STORAGE TO EXTEND FRESHNESS

Consumers can assess how they’re storing food. For example, some ripening fruit produces larger amounts of ethylene gas that can impact other foods.

Consumers can also consider their habits and how they’re planning meals. For example, how much food do you toss out because you planned to cook, but life got in the way?

“We forget that Susie's got soccer practice or Bobby has baseball practice,” said Dr. Anding. “Most of us eat out one or two meals a week. So, let's just cut to the chase and plan for it.”

You can start your own food waste diary by writing down the food you toss, the amount, why it was thrown out and the value of the food. Use that information to assess how much food your family actually wastes.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU SPENDING ON “EXTRA SHOP?"

Collier said she realized she spent more money when she shopped for groceries in person.

“I call it ‘extra shop’ because it's all the stuff that's not on my list, but that smells wonderful when I walk in,” said Collier.

Collier said ordering groceries online prevented her from spending money on food her family didn’t eat.

“It saves me hundreds of dollars a month, just me not setting foot [in the store] to go get tempted by stuff,” said Collier.

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