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How to cut down on food waste and save money while you're at it

Tips for curbing food waste
Good Housekeeping expert on how to cut down on food waste 04:30

In addition to the rising cost of groceries, food waste is also eating into Americans' budgets. Sometimes shoppers are buying more than they need, but oftentimes they just aren't storing perishable foods properly. 

This leads the average American family to waste more than $1,800 per year on food alone, according to Penn State University researchers. 

Here are some tips for extending the life of groceries to cut down on food waste and save money.  

Don't overfill your fridge

For starters, don't overfill your fridge. When at the grocery store, only buy what you can reasonably expect to fit in your refrigerator without stuffing it to the gills. 

"You don't want to overcrowd that fridge," Good Housekeeping deputy nutrition director Stefani Sassos told CBS Mornings. "You want to keep a little space in between items. That way you're going to allow the cold air to circulate, keep your food fresh, that really does start at the grocery store, not overbuying, only getting what you need."

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Keep meat in the back 

Consider where you store particular items in the fridge. Keep anything that is highly perishable in the back of the fridge, where the air is coldest. 

"The back of the fridge is the coldest section, the front of the fridge is the warmest area, and the top shelf is warmer than the bottom shelf, so keep that in mind for highly perishable goods," Sassos said. "Anything like meat, dairy products — put that towards the back of the fridge."

Reserve shelves on the refrigerator door for things like condiments and water bottles which don't spoil as quickly. 

Contain food properly

How you store food makes a big difference, too. Invest in high-quality containers. High-quality plastic containers with tight-fitting seals on the lids are Sassos' top choice. 

"They're highly portable, super convenient; that's good for on-the-go," she said. 

For leftovers storage, oven-proof glass containers are a good bet, because they can live in the fridge, freezer and go in the oven at high temperatures. 

"Invest in a good set, it's worth it," Sassos said. 

Clean out your freezer

At least once a week, take inventory of what is in your fridge and freezer. 

Throw away anything that smells funky or has a texture that has changed. Of course, look for the usual signs of spoilage like mold. 

Freeze food that you wouldn't otherwise have time to consume. 

"Your freezer is the ultimate tool for reducing food waste," Sassos said. 

For example, take ripe bananas: peel them, slice them, line them up on a baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze them. Once they're frozen, keep them in an airtight food container in the freezer. Bananas will keep in the freezer for days. You can use them as needed in smoothies or to bake with. 

Not everything expired is bad

Expiration dates printed on food and beverage containers typically suggest when the item is best consumed by or should be sold by. It doesn't necessarily mean the food item is spoiled, although check for signs of spoilage before consuming.

"They're more indicative of quality and flavor, not necessarily that they've gone bad," Sassos said. 

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