March is National Nutrition Month, which this year is raising awareness of food waste with the theme “Go Further with Food.”
“Food waste for a family of four, the average is about $2,300 a year that’s wasted,” said Jason Nguyen, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with the Monongalia Health Department Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. “It’s estimated that over 30 percent of our food is actually thrown away.”
When a budget is tight, those are money and resources that a family can’t afford to lose.
As part of National Nutrition Month, the WIC Program has some simple tips families can use to reduce food waste.
The first is to make a list before you shop.
“Then when you actually get to the grocery store, sticking to the list and not buying extra things or those items that are there to grab your attention, but also increase your costs,” Nguyen said.
He also warns against buying in bulk, especially if it’s a fresh item that won’t keep long.
“It’s tempting to buy a bulk item or a bigger item that you are saving money if you’re using it all,” he explained. “But if you are not using it all and you’re throwing it away then it’s costing you in the long run.”
Something else that could save money is taking the extra time after shopping to organize your refrigerator.
For example, heat rises, so the coldest place in your fridge is the bottom, which often has drawers.
“One or two of the drawers are generally for fruits and vegetables, and then the other could be for items that are opened,” Nguyen said.
The humidity on those drawers can usually be controlled. Nguyen advises to put herbs and salad in a drawer set for higher humidity, while fruits can have a lower humidity.
So where is the warmest place in your fridge? The doors.
“You don’t want to put something like milk on the door or things that would spoil on the door,” Nguyen continued. “The door is generally best for your water or sauces or condiments.”
“Go Further With Food” is also educating people on the difference between a use-by date and a sell-by date.
A sell-by date is for grocery stories to know when to take a product off the shelves, but it is still good to eat for several days past the date.
However, items pas the use-by date should usually be thrown away, with the exception of some canned goods and other non-perishable items.
Other tips for eliminating food waste include getting creative with dinners and snacks, like using extra vegetables to make a soup or leftover fruit for smoothies.
National Nutrition Month also promotes healthy eating. Nguyen encourages families to set an example for their children to try new foods and eat together as often as possible.
He also said to remember the quickest meal options are not always the healthiest.
“It’s easy to go and get a fast food item or get something on the go,” he said. “I think it starts with preparation and planning to plan a healthy meal, a well balanced meal.”
While the WIC Program knows schedules are busy, families are still encouraged to keep in mind the “My Plate” method, meaning half of your plate is fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and protein with some form of dairy for a balanced and healthy meal.