Save $$: Keep Your Food Fresher, Longer

Americans throw a lot of food away.

"Early Show" Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen pointed out on "The Early Show" that $155 billion worth of food is wasted each year, with $55 billion from families. She said the average family wastes around $1,200 annually, throwing out about 500 pounds of food each year. Fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy, she said, top the list of most-wasted foods.

But how can you cut the waste and save some money in the process?

Koeppen shared these tips on "The Early Show":

(All information provided by: Grain Foods Foundation, Produce Marketing Association, American Meat Institute, Dairy Management Inc. and National Milk Producers Federation.)

Freezing:

Never freeze: eggs in the shell and canned foods.

Freeze: Meat -- a great way to keep your food from going bad. You can freeze your meat right in the package, but a better way to go is to rewrap the meat in foil and then put the meat in freezer bags. You can freeze meat indefinitely, but for the best flavor, freeze steaks four to12 months, chicken nine months, and lunch meat can also be frozen for three months.

About freezer burn: Freezer burn doesn't make meat it unsafe, just dry in spots.

Freeze: Bread -- You can keep bread in its original wrapper for two weeks in the freezer. But it should be stored on the counter and used in a week. Putting it in the refrigerator encourages staleness.

Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Fresher:

Some last longer than others. Berries, mushrooms and leafy greens go bad faster than apples, citrus and potatoes. Where you store them is important. Apples should go in the refrigerator. Potatoes and tomatoes should be stored on the counter. To keep your asparagus fresh, cut off the bottoms and keep them in some water. To keep your cut up fruit from turning brown, mix it with some lemon juice.

Keeping Dairy Fresher:

Milk should be stored in the way back of the fridge and not in the door. It's colder in the back. Also look for milk that comes in non-translucent jugs. Those help keep the flavor longer.

Wrap the cheese in wax paper, and put it in a plastic baggie and store it in the cheese drawer. If hard cheeses like cheddar become moldy, you can still eat the cheese. Just cut off the moldy parts and eat non moldy parts. But don't do that with softer cheeses like cream cheese or cottage cheese. If you see mold toss it out.

As for yogurt, it's still fresh a week after its expiration date.