How to save $2,000 a year on food

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How to Stop Throwing Away So Much Food

What if I told you that your family, and most other American families (including my own), are throwing away $2,275 a year? Don't believe me? It's true.

No, we're not throwing actual cash into the garbage can. We're tossing out food — and lots of it.

According to this report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away a whopping 40 percent of the U.S. food supply each year. That's $165 billion in food, which equates to a family of four throwing away $1,300 to $2,300 each year.

This waste is not only bad for your pocketbook, but it's also taking a toll on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency says that discarded food accounts for roughly 20 percent of the municipal waste sent to landfills each year.

"Plus, consider the resources — water, land, labor, transportation — it took to get that food into our hands in the first place," says Slate.

We weren't always so wasteful. The NRDC report says Americans today waste 50 percent more food than we did in the 1970s.

Check out 12 ways to slash your grocery bill:

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12 ways to slash your grocery bill

Buy in bulk
Even if you don't think you need a bulk amount of an item, you can always find a way to use it, especially if it's a dry good or item you can store for a long time. It'll save you down the road.

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Memorize rock bottom prices
You may have to jot down the prices you pay for certain items a few times before you can gauge the maximum price you should pay every time you shop for that item.Eventually, you'll commit it to memory.

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Research specific stores' policies
Certain grocery stores will price match or honor deals from other grocery stores, while some might have certain designated deals on different items on certain days of the week. Research before you shop.

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Buy a mix of name brand and generic brand products
For dry goods and condiments, stick to generic brand. For products like meat and dairy, stick to a brand you trust.

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Skip out on anything prepared, pre-packaged or pre-sliced
It's almost always more expensive than buying bulk ingredients and using them to prepare on your own. 

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Leave the kids at home (if possible)
"How did eight boxes of fruit snacks get into the cart?"

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Don't buy boneless chicken or meat
It will cost you the price of the meat plus the cost of preparation. Buy with bone-in and prep the meat yourself.

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Take advantage of "buy one, get one" deals
Especially if they're items like meat or bread, which can be frozen and stored for quite a while.

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Plan meals around when things go on sale
Instead of planning out your meals for the week and shopping for the appropriate ingredients, figure out when certain items go on sale, buy them and plan your meals around those ingredients.

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Look at the unit price
It's possible, for example, that buying two boxes of 10 granola bars is cheaper than buying one box of 20, based on the price per unit.

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Look up, then look down
Grocery stores tend to stock their most expensive items at eye-level. Look at the top and bottom rows for cheaper items.

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Skip out on personal care items
Your best bet for these kinds of items is drugstores.

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"We can get back there again," says the report. "Doing so will ultimately require a suite of coordinated solutions, including changes in supply-chain operation, enhanced market incentives, increased public awareness and adjustments in consumer behavior."

One solution is already in the works. Congress is now considering the Food Date Labeling Act of 2016, which is aimed at reducing Americans' food waste by standardizing food date labels. It's estimated that consumer confusion with current food labels contributes to 90 percent of Americans prematurely throwing out food that is still good.

"One of the most common arguments people seem to have at home is about whether or not food should be thrown out just because the date on the label has passed. It's time to settle that argument, end the confusion and stop throwing away perfectly good food," Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

There is no federal standard in the United States for "use by" labels on food.

"Many consumers believe that ... it's a federal government label, and it's actually a manufacturer label dealing with optimal freshness, or maybe optimal taste," Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "They assume that it's done for purposes of safety and quality, and that isn't the case."

I know I'm guilty of throwing away food, though the fault lies not only with me using food labels as a guide, but also because I forget what I have in the fridge (or pantry) and it goes bad before I have a chance to use it.

However, now that I'm aware that I could be pocketing up to $2,275 each year by planning my meals better and knowing how to accurately read food labels, I am going to try to make some changes.

The first thing I'm going to do is follow a recommendation from Roni Neff, program director at the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Neff told Slate that keeping a food-trash diary for a week is a good way to get a handle on what you're throwing away so you can make shopping and/or meal changes.

Do you find yourself throwing away food on a regular basis? Do you think standardized food labels will help curtail food waste? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Grocery stores that have disappeared over the years
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Grocery stores that have disappeared over the years

Farmer Jack

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Genuradi's 

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