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We are probably all guilty of buying fruit or vegetables and forgetting them in the back of the fridge or on our countertop until they are brown, mushy or covered with mold.

Then we end up throwing them out. When you throw out food, that’s like throwing away money. Here are some tips to help you reduce wasted produce.

Buy what you need. Don’t be seduced by big bags of fruit or vegetables unless you know you plan on using them, preserving them or freezing them.

Buy what you can use. If you only need a small quantity of a fruit or vegetable, consider buying it from your grocer’s salad bar or buy pre-cut/peeled from the produce section.

Plan ahead before shopping. Make sure you shop your fridge first and use produce you have on hand before buying more. Make up a menu beforehand so you buy what you will need for meals.

Fresh may not always be best. Consider buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables instead of fresh, especially if you find yourself throwing out lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shop smart. Buy fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf life like apples, carrots, potatoes and oranges.

Handle with care. Don’t wash whole fruit or vegetables until just before you plan on using them or eating them.

Store appropriately. Make sure you store fruits and vegetables properly to help them ripen but not cause them to go bad.

The website Still Tasty has a wonderful, helpful guide that you can download: http://bit.ly/PPe26N. It offers guidelines on how and where to ripen fruits and vegetables. Some are best if kept on the counter and others are better left in the refrigerator.

The bottom line

Repurpose and revive. Before throwing out fruits or vegetables, try to salvage what is still good. Can you remove the mushy parts and use the rest of a strawberry in a smoothie? Can you revive that celery or those cut herbs in some cold water or chop them up for use in a soup?

Talk to Leah

Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at Lmcgrath@ingles-markets.com, 800-334-4936 or at www.ingles-markets.com/ask_leah.

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