- Get a food dehydrator. In addition to freezing and canning, try using an inexpensive (something that costs less than $100) food dehydrator to preserve food. By removing the water in foods, dehydrators preserve the nutrients and concentrate the flavors in a wide range of foods. The dried foods can last for months, and sometimes even years, in airtight containers. The food dehydrator works with most fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs, nuts, grains and even some dairy products.
- Know about food freshness and expiration labels. According to the USDA, "use-by" dates usually indicate "best quality" and are not safety dates. So, the site advises, "even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly and kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below." Go to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service website for more info about food storage and labeling.
- Follow the Layovers Pledge. At our house, we have "layovers," not "leftovers," because we've vowed to eat any remainders from each meal within 24 hours after the meal (unless we freeze the rest, of course). Dinner leftovers become lunch — or sometimes breakfast — the next day. We're fond of having "hors de-yester-jour" with a glass of wine in the evening as an enjoyable way of using up food that might otherwise go to waste.
- Be smart at restaurants. Last but not least, much of the food that gets thrown away in America is food left over from meals bought in restaurants. So keeping that in mind, try ordering smaller, less expensive appetizers instead of entrées, or split larger entrées. And remember, doggie bags are the new Gucci bags in this economy.
Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches. His Web site is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.