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Consumers

Each year, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food. USDA offers a range of advice to help Americans reduce food waste, which in turn increases household food budgets and makes nutritious diets more affordable.

  • Understand food date labels – Manufacturers provide date labels to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety, and are not required by federal law. With the exception of infant formula, if the date on a food product passes during home storage, it should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly, until spoilage is evident. Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor, or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.
  • Download the FoodKeeper App – The FoodKeeper app provides guidance on safe handling, preparation, and storage of more than 650 food and beverage items. With the app, you can track storage times for different foods, learn cooking tips, and get safety recall alerts. Users can set up calendar reminders for when products are nearing their recommended storage date. The app is available free for download and also via desktop at FoodSafety.gov.
  • Reorganize your refrigerator and pantry – Food is less likely to go bad when you use older items first. Keep your pantry and refrigerator clean and organized so you can see what needs to be eaten first. In the fridge, extend the life of your food by putting it in the right place. For example, do not store perishable foods in the door. The temperature in the refrigerator door fluctuates more than the cabinets or the back of the unit.
  • Cool quickly and freeze the excess – Safely storing and preparing food helps keep you and your family healthy and reduce food waste. Find additional freezer facts from FDA.
  • Love your leftovers – Give leftovers a makeover when you reuse them in recipes. Add broccoli stems to a salad or blend overripe fruit into a low-fat smoothie. Keep leftover safety in mind.
  • Eating out? At restaurants, order only what you can finish. Ask about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take the leftovers home and keep them for your next meal. At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat. Learn more from the USDA report America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home.
Food waste posters

Since the early 20th Century, USDA has advised consumers about food waste.