One Small Thing

This refrigerator hack will help you eat healthier, reduce waste and save money

New year, new fridge! The average family tosses about 25 percent of the foods and beverages they buy each year. That's too much waste. Start the new year off with an overhaul of your refrigerator to both save money and eat healthy.

Check out these top tips for better eating, and see how TODAY Parents editor Rebecce Dube made improvements in her own fridge.

5 things I learned from my TODAY fridge makeover

1. Start with a clean refrigerator

  • Use mild soap and water and wash and dry the shelves and bins.
  • Skip products with fragrances and any bleach-containing products.
  • Put an opened box of baking soda in the corner to absorb odors (and change it every few months).

2. Throw out old condiments, and duplicates of opened containers.

3. Store leftovers in glass containers or zip-lock bags.

Consume them within about 5 days.

4. Fill your fridge with colorful fruits and vegetables.

While pricier, cut up vegetables purchased in smaller amounts often save you money in the end. You might have multiple uses for that large head of cauliflower or broccoli, but often the good intentions wind up with a single use, and that head ages until it’s unusable and thrown out.

Try buying flowerettes, or check out the salad bar for smaller, single use amounts. Or buy frozen vegetables — no waste, and use what you need.

5. Choose seasonal fruits for optimal flavor and cost savings.

Frozen berries save you money, and have the same nutrient profile as fresh (although the texture differs).

6. Whole eggs are a must-have in a healthy fridge.

One of nature’s easiest and best digested protein, eggs are also economical and a quick meal any time of day. Don’t store them in the door, where the temperature is not as cold as the main shelves.

7. Keep low-fat or non-fat dairy products on hand for a quick meal or snack.

Stick with plain yogurt or cottage cheese and add your own fresh or frozen fruit, or spice them up with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Low-fat cheese sticks are the perfect on-the-go snack for the whole family.

While you always want to eat your fruit and not drink it, include one container of 100 percent juice if you like, to add a splash to your water or seltzer.

8. Keep a single stick of butter or trans-fat free margarine on hand.

Freeze the three other sticks in that one pound package for later use. It’s good for at least 6 months in the freezer.

9. Choose reduced fat salad dressings and mayonnaise and watch the portion size.

Skip the fat-free products, that have far fewer calories, but lack flavor and real-food texture so you often add too much of it. A fresh easy dressing is olive oil and vinegar, plus packaged or fresh seasonings - reversing the amounts of the recipe’s oil to vinegar ratio.

Keep in a glass container in the fridge for multiple uses (or a Good Seasons type salad cruet).

10. Don’t store your tomatoes in the fridge.

Leave them on your kitchen counter, at room temperature. Refrigerated tomatoes lose their flavor (and all natural ripening stops), and become dried out. Because the fresh tomato season is so limited, stick with canned tomatoes for most uses, except for the summertime.

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