Have you ever noticed when it comes to the food supply in your home, it’s either feast or famine? Sometimes (especially after the holidays), you’ve got more goodies then you know what to do with. Other times, it can be hard to fit in that normal trip to the grocery store. So, you find yourself scouring the fridge, reaching for old yogurt containers and wondering… would it really be so bad to eat this? It might seem like a struggle to plan meals so that your fight food waste!

Whether at present you’re needing to de-clutter those refrigerator and pantry shelves, or you’re in a period of scarcity…today, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to teach you how to tell when it’s time to EAT IT or TOSS IT.

“…American households lose about $640 dollars per year on food waste.”

Fight Food Waste In 7 Easy Steps:

1. Find your motivation to fight food waste

Consider this: a kitchen full of clutter makes it hard to find what you need come meal time. A quick sweep-through of your shelves will make meal prep less hectic, and it can also help you save money. It has been estimated that American households lose about $640 dollars per year on food waste (gasp). Don’t let yourself be part of that statistic!

2. Know which expiration dates to pay attention to

There are three types of dates printed by the manufacturer on the product. The “Use-By” date is the date that you must consume the product by. So if there’s a “Use-By” date and your food is past it, TOSS IT. There are also “Sell-By” or “Best if Used By” dates. The “Sell-By” date is the date by which the grocery store must sell that specific product by. The “Best if Used By” date is the date that you are recommended to use that specific food product by. The main difference between the “Use-By” and “Sell-By” or “Best if Used By” is that  food is usually still safe for consumption after the “Sell-By” or “Best if Used By” date. Storage times vary from food to food.

Graphic by: Megan Solloway RD, LD, CPT

Graphic by: Megan Solloway RD, LD, CPT

3. Know when to fold on mold

We’ve all seen that moldy piece of cheese or bread and wondered…can I just cut that part off an eat around it? Sometimes you can, sometimes you definitely cannot.

EAT IT: Mold can’t penetrate deep into hard, low moisture foods like firm veggies (cabbage, bell peppers, celery), hard salami, dry-cured country hams, or hard cheeses (dry jack, aged cheddar, parmesan). So for these products, you can cut off that moldy portion, toss it, and enjoy eating the rest.

TOSS IT: Foods that are high in moisture can have threads of mold even below the surface that you can’t see. Bread and baked goods, soft cheeses, lunch meats, soft fruits and veggies, jams, jellies, nut butter, and even that jar of salsa you’re dying to polish off is beyond saving.

food waste

Smell can be a great way to tell if food is going bad, but it might not be the only way!

4. Be a meat and poultry pro in terms of food waste

Is meat that’s a little grey okay?

EAT IT: When it comes to meat and poultry, a change in color doesn’t necessarily mean your food is spoiled. If this is the only issue, it should be okay. Color changes can have to do with exposure to oxygen, and even the age, sex, diet, and exercise levels of the animal.

TOSS IT: If color change is accompanied by strange odor, stickiness, or slime, throw it out!

5. Get a grip on spoiled milk:

Should you milk it for all it’s worth?

TOSS IT: According to experts, baking with spoiled milk probably isn’t worth the risk. Most milk in the U.S. is pasteurized, but that doesn’t always eliminate all spoilage bacteria. As your carton of milk ages, the number of bacteria increase– and can lead to nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea if consumed. Baking does kill a lot of that bacteria, but that soured milk can also give your finished product an off-taste. Some tips to keep your milk fresh as long as possible include storing your milk inside the fridge (not on the door of the fridge). Also, remember to put the milk back inside after you add some to your cereal or your coffee! Don’t leave it out at room temperature.

Don’t risk it – toss your sour milk!

6. Don’t forget the spice rack

Funny story: we were inspired to write this post when Rebecca came across some bouillon cubes years past their expiration date. Over time, the quality of your spices will wane and flavor can be diminished. Take a little time to go through your spices, as this is something you seldom (if ever) do!
Looking for a rule of thumb for how long to keep spices?  Best to buy in the smallest quantity even if it is a bit cheaper, unless it is a spice that you use often.  If trying/buying or unearthing a rarely used spice in your pantry, challenge yourself to use the spice again to get the most bang for your buck. How about trying to use up your spices within 2 years. Spices that are over a year old tend to lose their potency, so if you are using a spice that has been in your kitchen for over a year, you may want to add more spice to the recipe.

food waste

Pay attention to your spices, and try to use within 2 years.

7. Find any items on the brink of going bad? Put them to good use.

Fight food waste by throwing a quick meal together with what you found! Stir-fry, pasta dishes, and soups are usually pretty easy to whip up with whatever you have laying around. If you need a little inspiration, be sure to check out some of our recipes!

Love what you’re learning? Your dietitian is full of useful tips and tricks that help make nutrition easy! Call 301-474-2499 or click here to schedule your next (or first!) appointment today.

Contributions to this blog by Adrienne Inger, RDN