NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We’ve all been there: You buy a bunch of food at the start of the week, only to toss it all out over the weekend, because it went bad.
It’s estimated the average American family throws away $15,000 worth of food a year.
But as CBS2’s Mary Calvi reports, there are plenty of ways to cut that down.
Jessica Blasiak Wisner tells Calvi she feels bad about the food she throws away each week.
“I would say maybe a bag a week of produce, bread — those are our two most common things, or leftovers that were never eaten,” she says.
But now, she’s getting some help.
JoAnne Berkenkamp is with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit that started a campaign to cut food waste and protect the environment in the process. She says the first step to saving is planning ahead.
“Am I buying for five nights, or am I really buying for two or three nights?” she says you should ask yourself.
Then, write that plan down.
“That allows you to focus on the things that you really want to purchase and will use,” she says.
When going down the produce aisle, Berkenkamp says it’s best to think before grabbing, rather than what she calls aspiration shopping. She says it’s better to buy foods with multiple uses, like spinach, that you’re able to put in other meals like pasta.
“It will cook down very quickly in about two or three minutes, and it’s a way to use a great volume of salad greens really quickly,” she says.
When you get home, don’t just shove the food in the fridge.
Berkenkamp says you should get a refrigerator thermometer to check for a reading between 36 to 38 degrees.
“That’s what will keep your food lasting the longest,” she says.
She also suggests coming up with creative ways to use leftovers, like soups and crock-pot recipes.
Finally, don’t forget about the freezer.
“Most things can be frozen,” she says.
Milk, sour, cream, and most fruits and vegetables can all go in the freezer.
“Bread is also nice because it freezes well and it thaws quickly,” she adds.
You’ll not only save money, but also the environment. Experts say when food is disposed in a landfill, it rots and becomes a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.