By Sarah Skidmore, AP Food Industry Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Americans waste an estimated 14% to 40% of the food produced for their consumption. It happens in fields, in stores and in your kitchen. That's bad for the environment and it can be very bad for your wallet.
"Food waste is one of those things that hide in plain sight," says Jonathan Bloom, author of "American Wasteland," about food waste. "When it's really put in front of people, it does surprise them."
Farmers toss imperfect heads of lettuce, grocers chuck bruised tomatoes and, by best estimates, consumers waste about 25 percent of the food they buy — throwing out browned bananas, outdated cheese and unused leftovers.
This has all sorts of environmental, social and ethical ramifications. But if you look just at the financial impact on the consumer, that is the equivalent of a family of four tossing $1,500 to $4,000 in the garbage each year. That's a lot of dough.
Here are a few tips on how to make better use of your food — and money:
Plan ahead. If you buy just what you need, you'll find yourself wasting less right away.
Try planning out meals for a week at a time. Or shop for a few key meals at a time so you can fix them depending on your preference of the day. While it works for some people to buy everything in one big shopping trip, others find they waste less if they make smaller and more frequent trips.
No matter your approach, figure out what you toss most often and think about other options you have. Broccoli going bad in the fridge each week? Try frozen veggies. Need more than a can's worth, but less than a jar's worth of beans? Buy in bulk so you can use what you need each time and save the rest more easily.