Aug 21 (Reuters) - Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study released on Tuesday.

"As a country, we're essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That's money and precious resources down the drain," said Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council's food and agriculture program.

The NRDC report said Americans discard 40 percent of the food supply every year, and the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food.

Just a 15 percent reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough to feed 25 million Americans annually. It also would lighten the burden on landfills, where food waste makes up the largest component of solid waste, according to the NRDC, a nonprofit environmental organization.

Particularly worrisome, the organization said, was evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s. Unsold fruits and vegetables in grocery stores account for a big part of the wasted food.

But consumers and restaurants are also to blame, preparing large portions that result in leftovers that often go uneaten.

The NRDC said it is asking for the U.S. government to study losses in the food system and set goals for waste reduction.

"No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it's not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources," said Gunders. (Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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  • Corn

    With summer corn coming into season, we will all have a ton of corn cobs on our hands. You don't have to throw these away. Use the cobs for a base to make a silky corn soup. The milky "corn juice" comes out of the cobs when you simmer them in a pot and can add a deeper flavor than chicken stock. Try it with this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/corn-chowder_n_1056611.html" target="_hplink">corn chowder recipe</a>.

  • Pickle Juice

    If you make homemade pickles, you should know that you can reuse your brine. Once you've eaten up your batch of pickled vegetables, save the juice to throw in new vegetables. It's double the pickles for the same amount of brine.

  • Shrimp

    Shrimp peels and tails are great to hold on to. Whether you're looking to make a seafood stew or just a simple tomato soup, they make flavorful stocks. Store them in the freezer and you'll always have something on hand to make a good homemade stock.

  • Potato Chips

    When your <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/broccoli-slaw_n_1048994.html" target="_hplink">potato chips</a> lose their crunch, they can still be used to make a great breading for chicken, fish or vegetables. Crumble them up and use them as you would bread crumbs.

  • Broccoli Stems

    Most of us use the broccoli florets and throw out the stems, but these stems can be used to make a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/broccoli-slaw_n_1048994.html" target="_hplink">refreshing summer slaw</a>. Ever notice that the grocery store sells bags of slaw? It's often times made with broccoli stems.

  • Fresh Herbs

    More often than not we buy fresh herbs to make a recipe and then leave them to wilt in the fridge. But if you take one additional step you can preserve the fresh flavor of the herbs for later use. Making <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/how-to-make-compound-butter_n_1654505.html?1341838864" target="_hplink">compound butter</a> with the herbs or freezing them in olive oil to cook with later is a great way to get the most use out of your basil, cilantro or parsley.

  • Bread

    Bread is one of those basic ingredients that we almost always have in our kitchens, and we often throw out the last couple of slices that have gone stale. But you don't have to waste them. Use those stale pieces to make croutons or bread crumbs.

  • Wine

    If you didn't finish that opened bottle of wine fast enough, you can still use it to cook with. Wine has the ability to enhance dishes with a complexity of flavor. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/recipes-with-wine_n_1137289.html" target="_hplink">Check out these recipes </a>for some ideas.

  • Vegetable Tops

    Just like with the broccoli stems, the green tops of carrots, beets and fennel (as well as other veggies) can be used in recipes too. You can use them to flavor soups, garnish dishes or even in salads.

  • Citrus Peels

    Before you eat your oranges or squeeze you lemons, save the peels. They can be used in so many different ways to enhance your dishes. You can air dry the peels to <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/what-to-do-with-leftover-citru-73447" target="_hplink">add to meat dishes or make candied peels</a>. You can also pulverize the peels (making sure to remove the white pith) and make orange peel essence -- which you can use to top snacks like popcorn.

  • Cookies

    Cookies that have seen better days can be crumbled and saved for making pie crusts. It'll get one you step closer to enjoying a homemade dessert.

  • Potato Peels

    If you're inclined to peel your potatoes before you cook them, you can use those peels to make a <a href="http://angelfoodskitchen.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/baked-potato-peel-chips/" target="_hplink">quick batch of homemade chips</a>.

  • Celery

    Just like fresh herbs, celery is another one of those items that many of us buy to make just one recipe and then forget about it in the fridge. Before that happens, chop up the remaining celery and freeze it. Next time you need just a few stalks, you'll have it on hand. (You can apply this to many other vegetables too.)

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