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What To Do With Expired Food

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"I'm starting to think I buy bananas just to watch them die a slow death in my own home." --Anonymous.

Did you go bananas over the weekend? You should have -- last Saturday was National Banana Bread Day! Who knew? And thanks to banana bread, there's no need for overripe bananas to go to waste.

But here's an important tip -- bananas are not the only food that can be used past their prime. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. That's like throwing $165 billion into a landfill each year.

Here are some creative ways to use food that's expired, too ripe or past its prime.

Produce is the most wasted category of food. Keep a sealed bag in the freezer and when vegetables or herbs start to wilt, toss them in to make a vegetable stock with later. You can also throw in trimmings from carrots, celery, even corncobs.

Overripe fruit is the perfect candidate for jam and it's simple to make. Basically, all you're doing is boiling down fruit with sugar and lemon juice. Even unprocessed jam (skipping the boiling water bath) will last about a month in the refrigerator.

Grind stale bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs, which have endless uses -- coat fish filets before frying, bulk up meatloaf or sprinkle on top of your favorite casserole before baking.

The average shelf life of ground spices is about 6 months. After that they lose their potency and aren't as great for cooking. Instead, create your own scented candles by melting down old candle bits and blending them with spices like cinnamon or rosemary.

If you like your coffee strong, then you probably won't be satisfied with expired beans. No need to toss them, use them as fertilizer in your garden. This is also a great way to squeeze extra value out of used coffee grounds.

One last tip: Some food is only past its prime because of "expired" packaging. This could be a chocolate bar with Cupid on the wrapper or a box of crackers advertising an expired sweepstakes. These often end up heavily discounted in a grocer's clearance section or at a grocery outlet -- look for great deals on this type of clearance.