Food waste is a real budget killer

Food waste is a real budget killer
Team Clark is adamant that we will never write content influenced by or paid for by an advertiser. To support our work, we do make money from some links to companies and deals on our site. Learn more about our guarantee here.

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.

Read more: 29 ways to keep your fresh produce fresher for longer

Then I started thinking when I read about this NRDC study how many times things go out of date or spoil at my house.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.

Find recipes to cook what you have at home

Meanwhile, websites like and 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. 

Understand ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ labels

According to the USDA, if a product has a ‘use-by’ date, follow that date. And if a product has a ‘sell-by’ date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the following charts:

Food waste is a real budget killer

Food waste is a real budget killer

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


Clark Deals
Clark Howard About the author:
Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. More about Clark
View More Articles
  • Show Comments Hide Comments