(StatePoint) Nearly 50 percent of produce in the US is thrown away before it reaches your plate, according to USDA estimates. This waste not only affects the environment, it impacts shoppers’ wallets, as well. The average family of four discards $1,600 of food each year, according to a study published by the International Journal on Food System Dynamics.
How can you stop wasting and start saving? Follow these tips to ensure the produce you buy is used to its full potential.
Plan meals to create an ingredient shopping list comprised of everything you need for the week. Don’t stray at the store. Select items that can be used in multiple dishes. Be sure to also consider your dining out habits; if you typically grab a few meals away from home, consider picking up a mix of fresh and frozen items to leave some wiggle room in your seven-day plan.
When it comes to using fresh items, your policy should be first in, first out. Organize produce in the order you purchased it. Keep items that need to be consumed first within eyesight and put the freshest goods in the back, moving food forward as you go. This will help ensure items don’t get forgotten in the back.
Re-use and Re-purpose
Today’s tomato slices can be tomorrow’s tomato soup. Simply place leftover tomatoes and a few other ingredients into the container of a high-powered blender. For example, with a Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series blender, you can create soup without the stovetop using the Hot Soup program setting to blend and heat ingredients.
Or, if you have potato, carrot or zucchini skins available, store them in a freezer bag to easily make homemade vegetable broth later. Add the veggies to boiling water and let it simmer on the stove. Drain, season and incorporate the versatile broth into recipes like risotto, curry and vegetable soup.
Making guacamole or avocado toast? Leftover avocado browns quickly, so it’s good to have a plan for how to use it immediately. Why not whip up a creamy green smoothie bowl? Or, if you’re not hungry, make a natural facial mask to tighten pores and firm skin.
Use leftover chicken to add some protein to a salad or stir-fry, or finely chop and crisp leftover beef to give texture and extra flavor to pasta and soup.
Get Tech Support
The latest smart kitchen gadgets can help you limit waste. Ask Alexa what you can make with key ingredients, or try a tool like the Vitamix Perfect Blend Smart Scale & Interactive Recipe App, which allows users to input items on hand and find blended recipes utilizing those specific ingredients. It can even scale any recipe to the exact amount of the least ingredient available.
Come Full Circle
Even after taking steps to reduce food waste, you’ll still likely have a few items that need to be discarded. Create a compost pile where you can toss old food scraps to give them new life as fertilizer for your garden.