Storing Fruits and Vegetables to Reduce Food Waste

Last week Katy shared about how she uses canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, along with fresh, in her meals, to help stretch her grocery budget. Today I want to share a few tips and resources on storing produce.  Storing fruits and vegetables properly will help them last longer and taste better. The longer produce lasts, the longer you have to use it before it goes bad and it has to be thrown out. Food wasted is money wasted and we want to limit both of those!

The first tip to storing fruits and vegetables is to develop a system so that you use the oldest produce first; this is called first in first out. For canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables, consider writing the date you purchased the item so you know which items are the oldest. In the cupboard or freezer, keep the oldest items towards the front so they get used first.

For fresh produce, keep the older fruits and vegetables in the front of the refrigerator so they can be used first. Another way to use up older produce is to include it in your meal plan so you have a way to use it up before you start to use any new produce you buy at the store.

Some fresh fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated, while others should be kept at room temperature. Watch our video on How to Store Fruits and Vegetables to learn more about this. For information on how to store, clean, and prepare a specific fruit or vegetable, check out Produce Basics for information on over 30 different types of produce.


Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Planning your Meals with Family Favorite Recipes

Planning your meals and using your meal plan to make a grocery list are a top tip for saving money on food. By planning your meals and using a list when you shop, you know exactly what you need to buy and are less likely to buy items you don’t need.

However, sometimes meal planning can seem overwhelming because you just don’t know what to make or you’re worried your family won’t like what you make and then the food (and money!) will be wasted. One solution to help with both of these concerns is to create a list of Family Favorite Recipes. By writing down recipes or meal ideas your family likes, when you sit down to do your meal planning, you will have a list of ideas to choose from and you will know that they are foods your family will eat.

We have recently added two Family Favorite Recipe sheets to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. One is divided by different categories including breakfast, side, main dish, salad, soup, and snack. The other is divided by protein type including beef, pork, fish, poultry, venison, and vegetarian. After adding your favorite recipes, keep the list handy so when you are ready to plan your meals, you can use it for some inspiration.

Some of my family’s favorite recipes are Oatmeal Pancakes, Quick Pad Thai, Mexican Chicken Soup, Quick Black Bean Salsa, and  Energy Bites. Are any of these on your list of family favorites?

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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The Total is What??

It’s no secret that food costs are rising. My trips to the grocery store are costing me more than usual and I imagine yours might be too. Here are a few ways to save money on food, including tips for reducing food waste. For additional information and resources on how to make the most of your money at the grocery store visit us at Spend Smart. Eat Smart.   

  1. Try the store brand. Do a blind taste test to see if your family can really tell the difference. They may be requesting foods because of the advertising or packaging.
  2. Use unit pricing. Sometimes the larger size is a better buy and sometimes it’s not. Use unit pricing to get the best buy for your money. Determine the unit price using the unit price calculator on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app.
  3. Choose both animal and plant-based sources of protein. Enjoy both chicken and black beans in our Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake.
  4. Store fruits and vegetables correctly. To make the most of what you buy, be sure you can eat it before it goes bad. Check out our videos on storing fruits and vegetables.
  5. Add nearly-too-ripe fruit to yogurt or use in smoothies, muffins, cobblers, or crisps. Add berries to a Yogurt Parfait or use ripe bananas in Banana Oatmeal Bread. Enjoy them for breakfast or a snack.
  6. Switch to skim milk. Lower fat milk costs less so switching to skim means spending less money.
  7. Power up low-cost staples Add protein and vegetables to mac and cheese or Ramen noodles to give them a nutrition boost. Try Meat and Veggie Mac or Ramen Noodle Skillet.

Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to share additional cost savings tips here on the blog and on social media so be sure to check them out.  

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Facts about Fat

As with most nutrition topics, there is a lot of information shared about fat. Sometimes people say fat is bad for you while other people say it’s good for you. This can be confusing. Here are a few things to keep in mind about fat.

  • Fat in food provides flavor and texture.
  • Fat helps the body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Total fat on the Nutrition Facts label includes the saturated fat, trans fat, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat that are in the food.
  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels which can lower risk of heart disease and stroke. These fats can be found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocados, olives, salmon, and tuna.
  • Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels which are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Some foods that are high in saturated and trans fat are coconut and palm oil, butter, cheese, whole milk, and processed meats and poultry products.
  • Choose foods more often that have a percent Daily Value of 5% or less for saturated fat and eat as little trans fat as possible.

Check out our video Fat on the Food Label for more facts about fat. And remember, one food isn’t all good or all bad. What’s important is eating a variety of foods that best meet your nutrition needs.

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Have you heard people say things like ‘good’ fat and ‘bad’ fat before? Are you curious what it means? Check out the blog today where Jody shares facts about fat.

Choose foods more often that have a percent Daily Value of 5% or less for saturated fat and eat as little trans fat as possible. And remember, one food isn’t all good or all bad. What’s important is eating a variety of foods that best meet your nutritional needs.

Learn how to use the Nutrition Facts label to determine the amount of fat in an item with our Fat on the Food Label video.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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‘Celebrate a World of Flavors’ during National Nutrition Month®

Every March the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrate a World of Flavors’. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Include healthful foods from the food groups. Use myplate.gov to learn more about foods from each of the food groups.
  2. Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts label. View our Reading the Food Label video to learn more about the Nutrition Facts label.
  3. Incorporate your favorite cultural foods and traditions. Enjoy foods from your culture and that are part of your traditions. All foods can fit in a healthy eating pattern.
  4. Choose healthful recipes to make during the week. Check out our collection of Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes to include in your weekly meal plan.
  5. Learn cooking and meal preparation skills. Watch our Food Preparation videos to learn how to prepare various fruits and vegetables, roast vegetables, make a slow cooker meal, and more!
  6. Try new flavors from around the world. Search for recipes from different cuisines around the world on the MyPlate website.
  7. Use a grocery list to shop for nutritious food. Use our grocery lists, available in English and Spanish, to write your next grocery list.

Happy National Nutrition Month®!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Where’s the Sugar?

As a dietitian, some people think I don’t eat candy or sweets, but I do! And on Valentine’s Day next week, I’ll enjoy the box of chocolates my husband and kids get me (and I’ll share some too!). Food and eating should be pleasurable so it’s okay to enjoy sugary foods and drinks once in a while. It’s just important to not eat or drink so many sugary foods and drinks that they take the place of healthier ones like fruits, vegetables, and water.

The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods helps us see how much sugar is in an item. And recent changes to the label help us determine how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much is added. Naturally occurring sugars are found in many nutritious foods and drinks, such as milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). These foods also contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Added Sugars are sugars or other sweeteners that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed or prepared. If we consume a lot of calories from added sugars, it can be difficult to meet recommended levels of other important nutrients while staying within calorie recommendations. Therefore, choose foods most often that have a % Daily Value of 5% or less for added sugar.

For more tips on determining the amount of added sugar in a product, watch our video on Added Sugar on the Food Label.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Spot the Sneaky Sodium

With the start of a new year many people set goals for the year ahead. And often the goals are related to health. One goal that would benefit many of us is to reduce our sodium intake. Americans eat on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Diets higher in sodium are linked to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart disease.

The recommendation of 2300 mg of sodium or less per day is equal to about 1 teaspoon of table salt. However, most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods rather than salt we add to food when we are cooking. The Nutrition Facts label is key to knowing how much sodium is in packaged foods. Here are some tips for reading the label:

  • Pay attention to the serving size and the number of servings you eat or drink. The amount of sodium listed on the label is for one serving and a food package may contain many servings.
  • Use % Daily Value (DV) to see if a serving of food is high or low in sodium.  A general guide is that 5% DV or less per serving is considered low and 20% DV or more per serving is high. Compare labels when possible and choose options with lower amounts of sodium. If you choose a food with 20% DV or more, balance that with lower sodium choices throughout the rest of the day.

In addition, check out our video Sodium on the Food Label!


Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Jody’s Food Memories

With only a few more days left in December, today I’m wrapping up our series sharing our food memories.

When I think of the holidays, a food that comes to mind is the jello that my mom makes for our Christmas dinner. Though the other food we have at Christmas changes year to year, the jello is a staple on the table. And it was this past Christmas too!

The bottom layer of the salad is yellow and is a mixture of crushed pineapple, whipped cream, and cream cheese. The second layer is green jello and the third layer is red jello. Every year my mom makes the salad in the same glass bowl so you can see the different colored layers. The glass bowl is as much a part of the tradition as the jello. The color of the salad brightens up the table and adds some holiday cheer!

What salads or side dishes are part of your holiday meals? Share with us on our Facebook page.


Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Muffin Tin Mania

Today I get to wrap up our series on our favorite kitchen tools and share with you all the ways I use a muffin tin. I love to bake and the thing I love to bake the most is muffins. They are easy to make, they make a great breakfast or snack, and it’s fun to try to different flavors.

A favorite flavor in my house is banana. And muffins are a great way to use up ripe bananas. Our Banana Oatmeal Bread recipe can be made into muffins. They are delicious! I also like to make our Lemon Chia Seed Muffins.

These days I’ve been enjoying eating oatmeal for breakfast. Instead of making oatmeal each morning, I make our Baked Oatmeal Muffins. I make a batch of these and freeze them and then reheat in the microwave when I want one.

And while we are on the topic of breakfast, another type of muffin I like to make is Scrambled Egg Muffins. No need to heat up your skillet to make scrambled eggs. Just pull out a muffin tin and make a batch of these to enjoy.

My muffin tin isn’t limited to just breakfast foods! I also like to make meatloaf muffins for supper. After mixing up my meatloaf mixture, I divide it among the muffin cups and bake. It’s a fun way to eat meatloaf and it reduces baking time!

My daughter also likes to bake and she prefers making dessert.  She likes to make our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes. Or if you’d rather have fruit for dessert, try our Frozen Fruit Cups.

It’s muffin mania!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Energy Bites

As the new dietetic intern for extension and outreach one of my jobs is recipe testing. It is a big perk of the job; I get to make and eat delicious food! This week I was able to recipe test the November recipe of the month – Energy Bites!

I am always looking for a quick and healthy treat during the working week. Meal prepping these bites helps to alleviate the stress of trying to pack my snacks for the day and looking all over the kitchen for something to bring to work with me for a snack. I can instead make the bites ahead of time and just grab them and go! The bites contain omega 3 fatty acids and fiber from the chia seeds, healthy fat and protein from the peanut butter and complex carbohydrates and more fiber from the oats to help give lasting energy through the day.

I have one tip you might find helpful for making the bites! I washed my hands and then used my clean hands to mix up the “batter” as I found that it didn’t come together as well with a spoon. It came together nicely with my hands and didn’t take much time at all. I then let it sit a couple minutes before rolling the batter into bites and putting them on a tray to go into the fridge.

Chia seeds usually come in large bags, and you may be wondering what else you can do with them? Other ways to use the chia seeds you bought for this recipe can be our Lemon Chia Seed Muffins, or you can also throw some into a smoothie or oatmeal for added nutritional benefits!  

Here is the link to find the recipe for Energy Bites: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/energy-bites/

Samantha Riess is a dietetic intern who loves cooking, hiking, and spending time with her husband and dog.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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