For Earth Day, preventing food waste in the kitchen

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According to the USDA, Americans throw out between 30 and 40 percent of food products. A University of Minnesota Extension health and nutrition expert says meal planning can help keep the food in your fridge from going bad.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that we waste between 30 and 40 percent of food products – and 31 percent of that is edible, said Mary Schroeder, health and nutrition extension educator at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s actually food that we can eat that gets thrown away,” she said.

That waste contributes to climate-warming emissions. So for Earth Day, Schroeder joined All Things Considered to talk about how small steps we take as we’re shopping for groceries or preparing our meals can reduce food waste.

Schroeder suggested planning evening meals one to five days in advance, so that we’re less likely to buy too much, cook too much, or order takeout when we already have a fridge full of food. Weekly “leftover nights” can help families make sure they’re using up all the food they have, before it goes bad.

Vegetable peelings can be kept in the freezer and used to make stews, casseroles and broth. A whole chicken can provide dinner for days – first, chicken pieces with a side of potatoes, then chicken tacos with the extra meat scraped from the bones, then chicken soup with broth made from the bones and leftover vegetable peelings.

Schroeder said taking small steps like this to use up all the food we have can help to conserve the energy and water resources that go into food production, too.

To hear the full conversation, click play on the audio player above.

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