Did you know that nearly one-third of all of the food in the U.S. ends up thrown away in the garbage?

Be food-wise to reduce food waste

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We are a disposable country! Did you know that nearly one-third of all of the food in the U.S. ends up thrown away in the garbage? Rather shocking, isn't it? There are many reasons that food is discarded and not eaten. For example, we have leftovers that are forgotten and get pushed to the back of the fridge, and by the time that we discover them, they have spoiled.

The primary reason for pitching food is that we do not understand the "Best By" and "Use By" dates on packages, and we unnecessarily throw out food. Food dates are not a requirement by the government. The food industry puts a date on products to suggest when to use it for the best quality of the product. The only food that has a federally required expiration date is infant formula.

Here at some tips for not wasting food and thus saving money on your food budget.

Understand the "Best By" and "Use By" labels. You can sell, purchase, donate and consume food that is past the Best By and Use By date on the package. Be sure it has been stored properly in a cool dry location. And check for any signs of spoilage like bulging lids or leaking before using or cooking with it.

Plan on how you will use perishables such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry.

Use them promptly after purchase and freeze what is not used so that the quality remains good.

Check out your pantry, freezer and the back of the fridge every single week before planning the weekly menus and grocery shopping. You can take stock of what you have and incorporate those foods into menus.

Incorporate leftovers into upcoming meals - planned-overs is what I call them. For example, serve a pork tenderloin tonight and then shredded pork BBQ from the leftovers at another meal. Don't pitch bruised or slightly soft produce; these slightly-less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables are good for smoothies, muffins and other quick breads, soups, stews, sauces and dressings. Also, keep the ends of produce that you are not using for your salad or recipes and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Once you have a full bag, use the peels, ends and cores of produce to make a nice homemade flavorful broth.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.