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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

Food waste is a real budget killer

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Get more consumer advice on ClarkHoward.com and The Clark Howard Show.

By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


I have a way to add more than $2,000 to your annual household income and there's no pay increase needed!

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports Americans now throw away 40% of their food each year, either at home or in a restaurant. That equates to $165 billion in wasted food each year.

The typical family of four ends up throwing out nearly $2,300 in food annually!

We're all guilty of this. I think about myself in my own life. I was going to serve my kids some milk from the fridge and it had that rank smell. So I poured out about 20% of the gallon. I did that just by rote.

Then I started thinking when I read about this NRDC study how many times things go out of date or spoil at my house. I ate a banana last night that was marginal. There was a peach that went unloved that I had to throw out. We do this all the time. All of us.

When you're talking about sit-down restaurants, the portions we have here in the United States are monstrous. I mean, one of our side dishes would feed a family in the rest of the world. We're just used to huge portions playing into our idea of the value proposition when we go out to eat.

That's why I've long recommended that you share an entrée when you're dining with someone. It's usually easily large enough for two or maybe even three people. By doing this you can have less food, reduce your calories and trim your bill -- though a plate charge will apply at many restaurants.

Meanwhile, websites like SuperCook.com and MyFridgeFood.com can help you cook a meal out of just what you have on hand. Just visit these sites, enter what it's in your fridge, and you'll get a meal plan. There's also an iPhone app called What's in My Fridge that does the same thing for you.

So you can take these tools and save that food. Use it and serve a meal. We're talking about thousands of dollars a year that stays in your pocket!

Finally, Consumer Reports has a handy food expiration guide that can help you decipher those 'use by,' 'sell by,' and 'best before' labels on food.

For further reading:

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