by Mary Shepherd, HFHSC Family Coordinator

Many thrifty homeowners use money-saving strategies when buying groceries at the store. These “food smart” consumers can save even more after the groceries arrive home. The key is to use the purchased food efficiently to minimize waste.

Wasting less food actually begins before you go to the grocery store.  Check your pantry and fridge before you head to the store to make sure you’re buying what you really need and not more of what you already have. Always have a plan and a list before going grocery shopping, and stick to the list at the store.  This is to prevent impulse purchases or having to make another trip to the store before the next shopping day.  A trip to the store to pick up something you forgot usually means that you buy several items you do not need.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables if you will use them before they go bad.  If you shop weekly, buy only enough fresh produce to last that week. If you do end up with excess or overripe produce, do not despair!  Combine leftover fruits into a fruit salad, top cereal with sliced fruit, or cook extra berries, apples or pears into a tasty crisp or crumble dessert. Use overripe fruit in muffins or breads, and leftover vegetables in stews, casseroles, pastas or omelets. Using the same ingredient in more than one dish is a key to avoiding food waste.

Your freezer can be your friend if you have leftover food from a meal.  Freeze leftover vegetables for use in later soups or stir fries.  Chop and store fresh fruits in the freezer to use for fruit smoothies.  Using the freezer helps recycle food and cuts prep time!

An alternative to purchasing fresh produce is to buy canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.  Canned products can be stored for longer periods of time than fresh ingredients.  Canned produce was picked at its peak, so it’s full of great nutrients and is available for quick snacks and dishes.  Many times canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are less expensive than the fresh product. The key here is to buy products your family will eat and to use the products in family meals.

The Cooking Matters website —  reports that the average American family throws out $1600 worth of food a year.  That’s a lot of wasted food AND money!  Being food smart is the key to extending the use of foods, minimizing waste, and saving money to ensure your family’s well-being.