Fighting food costs: 13 ways to reduce food waste and better utilize the freezer

Wasted food is wasted money, and it's estimated that as much as 40 percent of the food that's produced in America gets thrown out. Here are 13 tips to help reduce the amount of food that goes into the landfill, including tips for using your freezer to reduce waste.

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Planning, planning, planning: The No. 1 way to reduce food waste is not to buy too much in the first place. That means having a weekly meal plan before you go to the grocery store, and sticking to your grocery list. Side benefits: Planning also saves time, cuts stress, and stretches your food budget.

Flip your fridge and freezer: Once a week, take everything out of your refrigerator and freezer and reshelf items, moving things that were in the back to the front. This will refamiliarize you with leftovers that need to be used up, and frozen items you may have forgotten about. Take this opportunity to wipe down shelves to keep your refrigerator neat and clean-smelling.

Keep track of what's in your refrigerator: Fruit and veggie bins can get unruly. Keep a dry-erase board on the front of your refrigerator listing their contents. Put a star next to items that need to get used up quickly.

Don't obsess over most expiration dates: Those "sell by" and "best by" labels on packaged foods are manufacturer's suggestions for when food will be at its peak, not an indicator of food safety. Many foods will still be good long after the expiration date on the package. Use good judgment with fresh food, though: That yogurt you found in the back of your fridge that expired in 2014? Best to toss that out!

Cook the whole vegetable: When you buy carrots and beets, get them with the tops on, which can be used to make broth, or as flavorful additions to soup. Don't toss broccoli stalk or kale stems, which make great additions to stir-fries.

Saving vegetable scraps to make broth Grant Butler explains how you can reduce kitchen waste and save money by freezing vegetable scraps to eventually turn into homemade broth.

Save vegetable scraps to make veggie broth: Save carrot peels, onion skins, romaine ribs, stems from fresh herbs and other vegetable scraps to make a flavorful broth. Just store them in a freezer bag. When the bag is full, it's time to make broth. And when you're done, those spent scraps can be tossed onto the compost pile.

Save water from steaming: Don't dump out the water used to steam vegetables. Store it in the refrigerator in a glass jar and use to jumpstart homemade broth at the end of the week.

Make herb butter: Extend the life of fresh herbs by chopping them finely and mixing them with softened butter, then freezing the mixture. Use this butter to add flavor to baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, grilled meats, even popcorn.

Save the crumbs: When you slice crusty artisan bread, crumbs are inevitable. Instead of tossing them, store them in a freezer bag until you need them to top a casserole or to coat meat or fish. The same goes for crumbs from crackers and chips.

Make croutons: Stale bread? Turn it into croutons by tossing with a little olive oil, dried herbs and kosher salt, then baking at 350 degrees until crispy and golden. When cool, store in an air-tight zipper bag to toss on salads or soup.

Put ice cube trays to work: Ice cube trays can be used to freeze small portions of all sorts of leftovers: individual portions of pesto; leftover wine, which can be used in cooking; leftover coffee, which can be used to make coffee ice cubes for undiluted iced coffee. Just pour into ice cube trays, and transfer them to a labeled freezer bag when they're frozen.

Freeze extra fresh fruit: More melons and berries than you can use? Cut them into pieces, spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. Then transfer them to a labeled freezer bags for use in smoothies or baked goods. Have bananas that are starting to turn brown? Peel and freeze them for future smoothies or banana bread.

Even with the best meal planning, some food waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing eggshells, coffee grounds and other food waste into the trash, utilize the city's composting program or start your own backyard compost pile. Don't forget to compost: Even with the best planning, some kitchen waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing coffee grounds and vegetable scraps into the trash, do the Earth-friendly thing and toss them onto your backyard compost pile.

Don't forget to compost: Even with the best planning, some kitchen waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing coffee grounds and vegetable scraps into the trash, do the Earth-friendly thing and toss them onto your backyard compost pile.

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