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Americans discard about 25% of the food in their homes, amounting to over 20 pounds of food per person each month. About two-thirds of this food gets thrown out because it was not used in time and went bad. Food conservation is becoming an increasingly urgent issue for the planet and everyone’s budget. Refrigeration is effective for preserving perishable items if done properly. Tweaking how you store a few items can help you maximize your grocery dollars and get the most out of your fridge contents. Prep your food to last longer in the refrigerator with these tips.

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1. Watch the Temperature

Pathogenic bacteria can cause foodborne illness without affecting the appearance, taste, or smell of food, so their presence largely goes undetected. These organisms make 1 in 6 Americans sick and lead to 3,000 deaths every year. Spoilage bacteria can continue growing at low temperatures and eventually cause food to develop bad tastes and smells. However, they do not typically make people sick. Bacteria grow fastest in the “Danger Zone”, the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Federal food safety guidelines recommend keeping refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees or lower. Few refrigerators show actual temperatures, but an inexpensive appliance thermometer can help you make sure your fridge is keeping its cool. Place one in the freezer as well, and check them regularly.

food temperature appliance thermometer Serenethos / Getty Images
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