As millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table every day, vast amounts of food are thrown out on a daily basis. In fact, it’s estimated that 30-40% of our entire food supply gets wasted.
While perfectly good food gets thrown out during every step of the supply chain — from farms and manufacturing facilities to retail stores and restaurants — the largest portion of food waste in America happens at the consumer level. Sadly, it’s estimated that U.S. households waste 76 billion pounds of food per year.
While it can be discouraging to look at the sheer volume of food waste that occurs, it’s empowering to know that each of us can make a difference with the amount of food that goes to waste within our own homes. If we all make small adjustments to our food buying, storing and consumption habits, it could collectively make a huge impact. With that being said, let’s explore some easy ways to help keep your food fresher for longer.
1. Make sure to promptly refrigerate food items that require a cold temperature.
One simple way to keep food fresher is to ensure that you refrigerate items that need to be kept cold as soon as possible. When food is stored at a proper temperature, it slows the growth of bacteria — helping to keep your food fresher for longer and reducing the risk of food poisoning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends putting meat, seafood, eggs, milk, produce, and other perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of purchase, or within one hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees.
2. Avoid washing your produce before storing it.
Nearly half of all produce in America gets wasted. One simple way you can increase the time your fruits and veggies stay fresh is to wait to wash your produce until you’re ready to eat it, as too much moisture will spoil them faster.
3. Store meat, poultry, and fish in the coldest spot in your fridge.
Animal products, such as meat and fish, often spoil the fastest. In fact, it’s often recommended to only keep fresh fish for up to two days in the fridge before cooking it.
To help keep your meat products from spoiling before you get a chance to use them, keep these items toward the back of your fridge. It’s also a good idea to store these foods on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator to lower the risk of cross-contamination.
4. Avoid storing milk in the refrigerator door.
To prolong your milk’s shelf life, make sure to avoid keeping it in the refrigerator door where the temperature is warmest and tends to fluctuate the most. Instead, store milk in the back and bottom portions of your fridge, where temperatures are typically the coldest.
5. Reference food safety apps for quick advice.
There are several apps out there that offer food safety recommendations and tips on the best ways to store your food items. To get quick, trusted answers to your food safety questions, download the USDA FoodKeeper and Is My Food Safe? apps.
6. Inspect berries before storing them.
Prolong the freshness of your strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and any other berries you eat by inspecting them for any spoiled or crushed fruit before refrigerating. Then, store the fruit unwashed in containers or plastic bags, and wash gently right before eating.
7. Store potatoes in a cool, dry place away from light.
Have you ever bought a bag of potatoes only for them to start looking funky soon after? Chances are good that you’re keeping your potatoes in a high light area, which causes them to green faster. Prevent this by storing your spuds in a cool, dark place. When stored properly, potatoes should last four to six months.
8. Transfer winter squashes to a cool, dry place after “curing” them.
If you’ve had a spaghetti squash sitting on your kitchen counter for a few weeks, don’t be so quick to toss it! Many winter squashes actually store well after the curing phase — which means simply storing the squash at room temperature (around 70 degrees) for 10-20 days. After this period, move the squash to a cool, dry place, such as your basement or garage, for long-term storage. Many winter veggies will keep fresh for months like this.
Did you know that Americans throw out more than 1,250 calories a day per person? Check out more surprising food waste facts here.
One of the reasons that so much food gets wasted by consumers is confusion over date labeling. Learn more about why you should only use expiration dates as guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. If you’d like to check out additional tips on how to keep food fresher and to better understand what food label terminology really means, download our Food Dating Guide today.