Pickling is a good way to avoid food waste, though this method requires more effort than, say, buying “ugly” produce. / LibbyVision.com

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has some easy ways for you to reduce food waste and save money without sacrificing quality or nutrition.

According to the NRDC, Americans waste $162 billion (yes, that’s a b) worth of food annually. Each household puts 1.2 million calories in the garbage each year.

And the most staggering statistic, according to the National Resources Defense Council: 40 percent of all food in the U.S. is wasted.

Because the majority of that food consists of vegetables and fruits, it’s easy to prevent such waste, according to Dana Gunders, whom the NRDC bills as its “Waste Watcher.”

In her lengthy 2012 titled “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food, From Farm to Fork to Landfill,” she suggests a variety of ways to reduce that figure. Here are five easy ones, from her 2012 report and the National Resources Defense Council.

5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money

  • Shop the way much of the world does: often. Buy items you really need (and that won’t spoil, such as rice) once a week. Then make several trips to the grocery store each week for fresh produce and dairy.
  • Don’t judge a veggie by its “cover”: Just because a vegetable or fruit doesn’t look “normal” doesn’t mean it isn’t just as nutritious (or tasty) as the more attractive version. You might even be able to buy the “ugly” fruit at a lower price, thus saving money.
  • Review those “Best by” and “Use by” dates: These dates don’t mean the same thing. Pay attention to actual expiration dates (“Use by”), the NRDC says. But “Best by” dates are decided by the makers – (or shippers, if produce) – of the food and indicate freshness, not whether the product is safe for consumption.
  • Don’t scrap the scraps: Leftover vegetables can be reborn. Stale bread can become croutons, and wine past its prime can be used in cooking.
  • Get back to basics: Pickling is one way to extend the life of produce. This, of course, requires more effort than the other suggestions. If you plan to keep your pickled produce for a few months, for example, you’ll need to sterilize the jars.

For more information on how to reduce food waste, visit www.nrdc.org.