According to the World Resources Institute, the average U.S. household of four people throws out about $1,600 in rotten food every year. Wow. That makes my head spin! Even if that number is far less in your home, consider these simple ways all of us can stop throwing our food dollars into the garbage.
Fresh produce is not cheap, and it's getting more expensive every day — or so it seems. Now more than ever, it's important to bone up on how long your produce purchases are going to last so you make sure no fruits and vegetables end up in the garbage or compost.
You can count on these items to be generally fresh for:
ONE TO THREE DAYS
— Fresh leafy greens.
THREE TO SIX DAYS
— Green beans.
ONE WEEK OR LONGER
The way to do this is to have a good, realistic plan for the produce you bring into your house. Make certain you will consume it before it goes bad — regardless of the great sale price or how beautiful it looks in the store or farmer's market. Simply buying too much is the number one reason that household produce lands in the garbage.
DISINFECT THE FRIDGE
I plead guilty on this one. I just don't think about it if I can't see a mess. The truth is that anytime something spoils in the refrigerator, it leaves behind mold we can't see. As a result, this mold attacks the new, fresh stuff you put in there. Disinfecting the inside surfaces of your refrigerator on a regular schedule will make everything last a little longer and smell a lot better.
EXTEND BERRY LIFE
Soaking berries in a weak vinegar and water solution before you store them in the refrigerator will make them last for several days longer than simply putting them in the fridge. Add 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Swirl the berries around for just a few seconds. Rinse, and store. Strawberries can last up to two weeks longer using this method.
A Foodsaver vacuum-sealing machine is a great option for extending the useful life of produce. Food can be vacuum-sealed in bags or stored in specific Foodsaver canisters. However, my favorite method for storing everything from strawberries to tomatoes and everything between is in ordinary glass canning jars.
This requires a Jar Sealing Kit that attaches to the Foodsaver. Simply fill a glass canning jar (regular or wide-mouth) with unwashed produce like strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Set the lid on the jar, and apply the jar sealer. Start the machine and it removes all of the air from the jar and seals the jar tightly.
Stored in the refrigerator, the contents will remain fresh and beautiful for weeks.
There are now several companies, such as Imperfect Produce and Misfits Market, that offer a subscription delivery service for "ugly" food. They offer perfectly healthy and nutritious "ugly" produce for up to 50% less than retail store prices. Check this out if nutrition, not perfection, is your goal.
GROW YOUR OWN
Now more than ever, it's important that we think about growing our own food. There's nothing like a worldwide pandemic, long lines at food stores and fear of food shortages to wake us up to the idea of becoming more self-reliant. You don't need acreage to grow a garden. In fact, you don't even need a yard or plot of land (although that is surely a blessing if you do have that).
Start reading; start learning; start a garden!
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay