While inflation is beginning to ease a bit, Americans are still feeling the pinch of higher grocery prices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food prices rose 4.9 percent between July 2022 and July 2023, with groceries landing at 3.6 percent higher year-over-year. In the year prior, grocery prices were a whopping 7.4 percent higher year-over-year, with the sharpest increases in meat and seafood. Prices for kitchen staples like milk and eggs headed upward as well.
An NBC News analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showed that U.S. consumers are paying nearly 40% more for a basket of common grocery items — including eggs, chicken, milk and coffee — than they did the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, food inflation is still running hotter than the overall inflation rate. The BLS food index was up 5.7% in July 2023 from the same time last year — steeper than the national inflation rate of 3%.
These stunning statistics leave many people looking for ways to get the most out of every dollar they spend on food. We’re here to tell you that one of the best ways to save money on food is to reduce the amount of food that’s wasted.
The Low-down on Food Waste
The amount of food you waste might surprise you. A 2020 study by researchers at Penn State University (and published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics), estimated that the average American household wasted just over 30 percent of its food. That’s a lot of food being bought and not eaten. Food waste is also an environmental issue, as food waste sent to a landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas, as it breaks down. Food waste accounts for 24% of trash sent to landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Reducing food waste can be a challenge. Life happens. Leftovers get hidden behind something else in the refrigerator (effective refrigerator organization can take care of that), or you forget about fruit or vegetables in the crisper (out of sight, out of mind).
It’s time to put your appliances to work to help you cut food waste out of your life. Here are some options:
Blend the stems, ends, and stalks into a smoothie: The ends of carrots, celery and other vegetables that didn’t make it into the main dish can be used to add a little more nutrition to your next smoothie. Healthline recommends using parts of produce that aren’t traditionally consumed, like the tops of beets and carrots, and fruit and vegetable peels.
Make juice: A juicer makes it easy to make juice from fruits and vegetables that are about to go to waste. You can use your blender to make juice if you don’t have a juicer. Some blenders even have a “juice” setting. You may have to strain the mixture afterward if you want a thinner juice.
Cook up a pot of soup: You can make soup from any vegetable. Soup is an excellent way to use many leftover ingredients at once. And you can freeze leftover soup so it doesn’t go to waste.
Overnight oats: Get a jump on tomorrow’s breakfast. Any type of fruit can be used to make overnight oats in your refrigerator.
Potato peel chips: You thought those potato peels were destined for the trash or food waste disposer, but 20 minutes in the oven can turn them into a satisfying snack. Use a potato peeler instead of a knife so the peels aren’t too thick. This is a perfect way to get more out of what you have if you’ve recently made mashed potatoes or another recipe that didn’t use the peels.
Make bone broth: Use bones, skin and any leftover meat, fat, gristle or vegetable pieces to make a pot of bone broth. You’ll need your slow cooker or multi-cooker, and possibly your oven. Try this recipe from Old Time Farm. Bone broth is rich in nutrients and may have other health benefits.
- Store food in clear containers with labels showing the date it was put into the refrigerator or freezer.
- Put older foods and opened foods up front.
- Organize your refrigerator and make a meal plan before you shop.
- Create “zones” in your freezer for different types of foods.
- Freeze food in serving-sized portions.
- Keep what you will be eating next easily accessible.
A few scraps are unavoidable. Put them in the food waste disposer instead of the trash.
Even small steps to reduce food waste can really add up. Following are 5 tips from the Mayo Clinic Health System for ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen: