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A recent study has shown that more than 200 pounds of food per American is wasted every year in the U.S.  Stocking up on good buys at the supermarket and whole sale clubs can save you money, but not if the food goes bad before you use it and it is thrown away.   Whether it’s from the dairy, deli, bakery or meat and seafood departments, keeping food fresh not only saves you money, but it may also help prevent foodborne illness.

To help keep your food tasting  fresh and last longer, follow these tips:

Produce: 

  • Berries are often piled up in containers on top of each other causing some of the bottom containers to get crushed.  To check for condition of the berries, turn the container to see if the berries move freely.  If they don’t, they could be crushed together.  Also check berries for mold.  Store in refrigerator and wash only before using them.  Water can cause spoilage.
  • Melons including honeydew or cantaloupe should not have a stem; otherwise it will be underripe.  Ripe melons pull easily from the vine.  Sweet melons will smell fragrant and feel heavy for their size.   Ripe melons should be stored in the refrigerator and used within two weeks.  Cut melons should be stored in an airtight container and eaten within three to four days.
  • Onions and potatoes should not have sprouts which can cause spoilage.  They should be stored separately in a dark area away from heat and sunlight.  They should never be refrigerated.
  • Leafy greens should be purchased only when brightly colored and stored loosely in a plastic bag on a refrigerator shelf.  Avoid cramming them into produce drawers as this can cause bruising.
  • Tomatoes should be fragrant and feel heavy for their size.  Refrigeration changes the flavor; store them on the counter.

Deli Department:

  • Cheese should be cut when you’re ready to eat it.  Purchase cheese in blocks so it doesn’t dry out.  Rewrap cheese when you store it in the refrigerator to avoid picking up other flavors.
  • Deli meats are best purchased cut-to-order and should have a fresh bright color.  If purchasing packaged meat, watch for signs of spoilage such as sliminess.  Most deli meats should be eaten with three to four days.  Don’t leave any deli meat at room temperature longer than two hours; otherwise it should be thrown away.
  • Deli Salads should look fresh and not have a crust around the edge.  Ask the clerk if the salad was made fresh that day; if not, don’t purchase it.

Meat and Seafood:

  • Meat should not show signs of spoilage, such as an off odor or slimy appearance.  Always check the sell-by and use-by date, and avoid any meat with a package that leaks.  Store a cooler in your car during hot summer months to bring home perishables like meat and seafood.
  • Fish should be brightly colored and not have an off odor.  If using within a day, store in its wrapper in the refrigerator with a pan underneath to catch any drippings.

Dairy:

  • Milk or yogurt  should be checked for best-by dates; puchase those with later dates.  Never buy products with bulging packages, which may indicate signs of spoilage.  Most dairy foods will last at least a week after opening the container.  Vitamins can be destroyed by light and heat, so be sure to put the products back in the refrigerator as soon as possible. If yogurt isn’t used by the use by date, freeze it to use in smoothies or cooking.
  • Eggs should not be cracked when purchased.  USDA grades, such as AA, refer to best quality with high, round yolks.  Grade A eggs will have whites that are less firm than Grade AA eggs.  Keep eggs in their original container to avoid picking up odors on a low or middle shelf towards the back of the refrigerator.

Frozen Foods:

  • Frozen fruits or vegetables should not be in one large frozen chunk; they may not have been handled properly.  When shopping for frozen foods, store them in an insulated bag to maintin their temperature until you get them home to the freezer.
  • Ice cream should be selected from the back of the freezer.  Be sure to select a cold container!

Don’t throw out food that is past its prime, but still safe to eat.  That stale bread (without mold) will be great as french toast for tomorrow’s breakfast, and overripe bananas taste great in smoothies!  However, don’t overlook signs of spoilage including slimy meat or colorful spots on cottage cheese.  Remember nothing is worth you or your families health and well-being.  The best rule of eating well may be when in doubt, throw it out!

Submitted by:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County. 

Source:  ConsumerReports ShopSmart, September, 2011.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross & Vinton Counties.

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Did you know that the average American family throws away approximately $1600 worth of food each year?  If you’re like most people, you probably buy things you don’t need at the grocery store, or you may end up with leftovers that don’t appeal to family members.  However, just by following a few simple tips, your family can eat healthy AND save money at the same time!

  • Plan and buy only what you need:  Saving money begins at the supermarket.  Always plan and make a list before you go grocery shopping.  Be sure to check your foods on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Buy just what you need.
  • Stock up:  By having a well-stocked pantry, you can create delicious meals from foods that might otherwise go to waste.  Toss cooked vegetables with whole grain pasta and salad dressing for a refreshing meal on a hot day.  Mix canned beans with rice, toss with a salad, or mash and spread on a tortilla for a tasty burrito.
  • Buy fresh produce every week:  Fresh fruits and vegetables are great any time of day, including snacks.  Don’t purchase produce in bulk, however, if it will go bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Before you toss bruised or discolored fruit, cut off the bad spots and cook it in cobblers, pies, muffins, pancakes or breads.
  • Add vegetables to soups or stews, or casseroles.  You’ll add nutrients, color and texture to your meal while stretching your food dollar!
  • Freeze foods, such as bread or baked goods if you won’t use them right away.  Use it later in casseroles or for breading on poultry or fish.  Leftover vegetables can be added to stir fries, sauces, pasta or omelettes.
  • Cook with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables:  Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a healthy alternative to fresh since they’re flash frozen when harvested.  They are often more affordable and may be more nutritious, depending on several factors.
  • Adjust your recipes to meet your family needs.  Make changes according to your preferences and what foods you have on hand.  Mix it up with different meats, vegetables or beans, seasonings or spices.  Add nuts,  rice or a whole-grain to stretch your food dollar.  Substitute low-fat cheese in place of regular full-fat cheese.

Source:  Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, Top 10 Tips to Waste Less Food.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Hamilton County

 

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