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Take a closer look in the fridge; wasted food costs consumers money

By Dave Edmark
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts:

  • Households can save dollars by eating the food they buy
  • Stick to shopping lists
  • Watch for expiration dates on foods 

(466 words)

LITTLE ROCK – Food waste not only adds up in the landfills – it’s the single largest component that ends up there – but it also is costing the average family of four $1,480 a year. Individual households contribute to the 90 billion pounds of edible food that go out with the trash annually. 

“Arkansas consumers can save money on their grocery bill by eating the food they buy,” said Laura Hendrix, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. She has several tips that can add up to savings in dollars and more efficient use of food in the home. 

  • Plan menus and shopping lists – Weekly menus should be developed for meals and snacks so shopping lists can be based on the quantities needed. Hendrix advises consumers to check the refrigerator and pantry before going to the store to avoid buying more than is needed.
  • Obey food safety rules – When organizing the food in the kitchen, Hendrix recommends observing recommended storage techniques for different types of food and heeding expiration dates and “best if used by” dates on the labels. While shopping in the store, she noted it’s best to pick up the refrigerated and frozen items last to limit their time at room temperature in the grocery cart and the car, and then get them into the refrigerator or freezer within two hours. “If you have a long drive home, use thermal bags or ice chests to transport temperature-sensitive foods,” she says.
  • Set storage reminders – Foods such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy products have limited storage times and fruits and vegetables lose nutrients and quality over time. And everyone has seen stale bread with mold. Hendrix says consumers can avoid problems by reminding themselves to use up their food on time. “You can keep a list in your kitchen or use the FoodKeeper app from USDA,” she says. “The FoodKeeper app has storage recommendations, cooking tips and a calendar that lets you set up notifications for when the foods you purchased are near the end of their storage date.”
  • Organize the refrigerator and pantry – “It’s disappointing and costly when items go to waste because they were hidden in a forgotten corner of the refrigerator,” Hendrix says, adding that fruits and vegetables last longer when stored properly and that protein and dairy foods can spoil quickly. “A clean, organized pantry lets you see what you have on hand and use foods while they are at their best quality.”
  • Repurpose foods for later use – It’s best to cook only what will be consumed but it’s also a good idea to plan ahead for leftovers that can be frozen or used in another dish. “Over-ripe fruit is good for baking  -- think banana muffins -- or for use in smoothies,” Hendrix says.

For more information, visit or contact your county extension office. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.



Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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