If you’re anything like me, all your new groceries are proudly displayed at the front of your fridge while your older groceries are jammed in the back. And by the time you spot the container of strawberries and bag of spinach lurking in the corners, there’s really no saving them—they’re headed straight for the trash.
Preventing food waste isn’t always easy, but it’s an issue the United States needs to tackle. Denise Bustard, PhD, the scientist-turned-food blogger behind Sweet Peas & Saffron, has a refrigerator hack you can use to ensure your produce never goes uneaten.
“The ‘use me first’ bin came about because I kept losing food in my fridge, and it would expire before I could use it. Placing a bin in the fridge was such a simple idea to get a little more organized, and to prioritize which fruits and vegetables we eat first,” says Dr. Bustard. “All of our half-used produce (like cucumbers, lettuce, snap peas, and broccoli) or anything that’s starting to get a little bit squishy (like berries and tomatoes) go straight into the bin.”
With a set place for everything that’s about to expire, it always gets eaten. Instead of digging around the fridge looking for something to eat, that bin is the first stop—and it’s in plain view, so you’ll never miss it. “When we’re looking for a snack, or looking for veggies for a stir-fry or salad, it’s the first place we look,” says Dr. Bustard. “It’s so simple but has made a big difference in reducing our food waste.”
Dr. Bustard has a few helpful guidelines to use when choosing your own “use me first” bin. “My biggest tip is to use a clear container, because being able to see what’s in the bin really helps spark ideas and reminds you of what you have,” she says. “I also recommend a larger-sized bin that fits things like romaine lettuce or half a cucumber. I was initially using a narrow one and found it was too small and always overflowing.”
Even with the best intentions, Dr. Bustard says you’ll still occasionally have something go bad. We’re only human, after all. But keeping those items separated from the rest of what’s in your fridge won’t just make it easier to decide what to make for dinner—it’ll also save you money, help out the planet, and leave you with a more organized fridge. The only downside is not coming across this hack years ago.
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