The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates about 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year in homes and away-from home eating places.
This is equal to 123 times the weight of the Empire State Building and costs consumers about $370 per person each year!
USDA has broken down how much food is wasted from each food grouping per person yearly:
• Grains: $22
• Fruits: $45
• Protein Foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts): $140
• Vegetables: $66
• Dairy: $60
• Added Fat and Sugar: $37
Most of us have some leftovers in our refrigerators. If you are throwing away a lot of food, there are some ideas to help you to use this food before it is 2 or 3 days old.
Meat, Vegetables, Pasta
Search your refrigerator for foods that can be combined into a soup. Add extra cooked pasta or rice at the end, so it heats through but doesn’t become mushy from overcooking. Keep some chicken stocked or canned, diced tomatoes on hand for a quick soup base.
Chop and combine those last pieces of fruit. Flavored or plain yogurt-or yogurt sweetened with a little honey and a splash of vanilla-make a tasty dressing. Other possible add-ins includes the remainder of that package of nuts and those final bits of dried fruit.
Use those odds and ends of harder cheeses by shredding them with a grater or in a food processor. Check your refrigerator for other ingredients to include, such as olives, pickles, pimientos, walnuts, red or green peppers, etc. Add low-fat mayonnaise to bind the ingredients and use as a sandwich spread.
A general guideline is to use eggs within 3-5 weeks after purchasing for them to be best quality. Gain extra storage time by boiling the eggs. Hard-cooked eggs will keep in their shell for 7 days in a clean covered container in the refrigerator. They make a quick high quality protein source for a meal such as in main dish salads and sandwiches.
Transform slightly dried-out bread into croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush top side of bread with olive oil. If desired, sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Cut into ½ to ¾ inch cubes, leaving the crusts on. Spread in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake on middle shelf of the oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. No need to turn croutons during baking.
Toss assorted bits and pieces of produce in the refrigerator into a salad. Add the last of that bag of soon-to-be limp lettuce; wedges cut from an almost overly ripe tomato and strips from that remaining half a pepper. Do something ‘grate’ and grate in some cabbage and carrots. While you are at it, add some grated cheese. Mix in some leftover chicken chunks or add a can of tuna and you’ll have a bountiful main dish salad!
With some planning and using leftovers, try to save the $370 per person each year being thrown away in trash cans!
Rita Hodges is the Ellis County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit Rita at the Extension Office located at 701 S. I-35 E, Waxahachie, TX 75165; phone at 972-825-5175; or email at email@example.com.