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Food Waste
How to Eat Healthier and Waste Less (Part 1 of 3)

Buy produce at the salad bar to save money.
Buy produce at the salad bar to save money.

One of the best things you can do for your health, is eat fresh food. Generally speaking, fresh fruits and vegetables are good for you. But highly processed and shelf-stable things like snack bars or packaged dinners, aren't so good.

The problem is, Americans throw out a lot of that fresh food. According to a 2012 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), "American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. In terms of total mass, fresh fruits and vegetables account for the largest losses..." The NRDC estimates that a family of four throws out between $1,365 and $2,275 in food annually. It's expensive, it's bad for the environment and all too often we just replace it with more food than we let go bad.

It's a lot easier for me to help someone get in shape, if they're eating healthy. That means, cooking and eating more fresh food that you've prepared, not grabbing things at a drive-thru. So I've put together a few suggestions on how to cut back the waste and save time. Food can be convenient, healthy AND long-lasting if you plan.

Shop the salad bar of the grocery store. You don't need to buy and prepare an entire container of lettuce, another of spinach, a bag of carrots and everything else needed for a salad. Just go to the salad bar and pick out the ingredients you'll need for the next two days. It's already chopped and ready for you, which saves time. Plus you're only buying what you'll actually eat within the next couple of days, which saves money.

When choosing vegetables, shop more in the frozen section. The nutritional value of frozen is nearly identical to fresh, and most of the time it's already prepared. Since you only take out and prepare what you're going to eat, there are no leftovers going bad in the refrigerator. Just be sure to avoid food that's drenched in oils, cheeses and salt.

In the checkout lane, take a quick look at everything in your cart. Think about what day in the near future you're going to eat each item. If something's in there you don't plan on eating soon, put it back.

Put healthy food front and center. Move fruits and vegetables out of the crisper to the top shelf of your refrigerator. Produce should be the first thing you see when you open the door, not shoved in a drawer that rarely gets opened. Fill those out of sight drawers with the junk food that's in your fridge.

Organize the remaining shelves of your refrigerator into sections like dairy and meat. Leave one area just for leftovers. Then invest in some clear containers to store leftover food in. In many refrigerators, food goes from the doggie bag to the back shelf. There it's quickly forgotten until you stumble upon it days later and toss it out.

With a special leftover section, and clear containers, you can quickly see food that needs to be eaten before it goes bad. Look through your leftover section first when you're planning your next meal.

Pick out a couple of recipes that you can cook in bulk and freeze. Get just enough ingredients for the recipes, then make eight to ten servings. Freeze them in individual serving containers so you can reheat only what you're going to eat. They're just as convenient as commercially prepared frozen meals, and they're often more filling, lower in sodium and lower in sugars. Plus they usually cost less. I've posted hundreds of recipes for healthier “freezer friendly” meals on my website at WeCookFit.com.

Conduct a “waste audit” of your food. For two weeks, write down all the food you throw out and why it's going in the trash. Did a change in plans cut your cooking time short? Did a sale tempt you to buy more than you need? At the end of the audit, write down the changes you need to make, so what you threw out won't happen again. To really make it sink in, keep a dollar total of all the food you throw away.

Click Here for Part 2 and learn how to make everything last longer. Storage tips, preparation shortcuts and how to figure out what's gone bad. Plus the difference between labels like BEST BY, SELL BY or USE BY.

Part 1 2 3

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