Let your dollar and your produce go further

As the outdoor temperatures finally begin to increase, so does the amount of fresh produce available in stores. With more affordable prices for in-season produce, it’s easy to stock up on large quantities without taking into consideration the rate fresh produce spoils.

It’s been estimated that the average family of four throws away $1,484 worth of food and beverages each year! The following are a few tips to help you save money, reduce waste, yet still enjoy the fresh taste of local produce.

Plan meals based on the foods you already have on hand.
Take a glance at your cupboards and refrigerator shelves to get a better idea of what is already on hand prior to going shopping. Buy only what can be eaten or frozen within a few days, especially when purchasing perishable items.

Wash and cut up fresh produce the same day it’s purchased.
It’s easy to forget about that container of strawberries in the bottom drawer, especially when you know you have to wash and cut it up prior to eating. Prevent waste by prepping your perishable produce the same day it goes into your refrigerator.

Master the shelf life of foods.
Many foods and drinks purchased include a date to be referenced for best quality, not to be confused with expiration.

‘Use by,’ ‘best by’ and ‘best before’ dates indicate when a product will be of best flavor and quality, and they help to regulate store inventory. These are NOT a purchase or safety date - except when used on infant formula. In many cases, these foods are safe to eat after the date, as long as they have been stored at the proper temperature and moisture level.

‘Sell by’ dates are displayed on perishable items such as meats and dairy products. These foods may be used a few days after the date, as long as there is no prominent odor, and they have been stored at a safe temperature.

Practice good food safety.
Eat leftovers within three to four days or freeze for up to three to four months. When in doubt, use the ‘Is my Food Safe’ or ‘FoodKeeper’ app. Store your products with the nearest ‘best by’ dates in front of cupboards. Place foods that could spoil quickly within sight, such as in the front of the refrigerator.

Learn what produce requires refrigeration and what can influence the ripening of others.
Fruits and vegetables that release ethylene gas will speed up the ripening of surrounding items.

Those include: apples, avocados, unripe bananas, peaches and tomatoes. Keep these separate from the following items that are impacted by the gas. Produce that is sensitive to ethylene gas: ripe bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce and leafy greens.

Don’t refrigerate: bananas, tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, avocado, potatoes, garlic, onions, or winter squash.

For more tips to make food last, visit www.eatright.org and search home food safety, or contact a Mile Bluff dietitian at 608-847-1293.