(WTNH) – With inflation on the rise, all of us can use some help in finding ways to save money. One great way to save is to lower the amount of food you use, and how much you throw away.

Up to 40% of the food produced in America goes to waste, studies show. The cost to the average household of wasted food is more than $1,800 per year.

A lot of food is wasted because consumers don’t understand the expiration date labels on food products. The FDA says the confusion about date labeling accounts for an estimated 20% of consumer food waste.

“I like to say that the Best By dates are a suggestion,” said Tanya Christian, from Consumer Reports.

There are no uniform requirements for these dates, so experts say if you have something that’s past its “Best By” date, examine it for signs of spoiling before chucking it. For example, look for changes in color, consistency, or texture.

“People tend to throw things away as soon as the Best Buy date is over,” said Christian. “But you can really get more longevity if you just make sure before consuming that you don’t see mold or it doesn’t smell off.”

Another tip is to be creative with food in your pantry that’s nearing its expiration date.

“I like to do like a simple search online, ‘what can I do with salsa and chicken?’ And you come up with a million options on Google using those two ingredients,” Christian added.

Using your freezer is another great option to avoid wasting food. Things like fruit, for example, are great to be stored in a freezer. If they’re not perfectly ripe when you want to use them, freeze them! Strawberries, pineapples, bananas, and more can be stored for later, plus they make for great smoothies.

You can also consider donating food that is near its expiration date to a local food bank or soup kitchen.

“Place a phone call to your local pantry and see what they need,” said Christian. “During the holiday season, so November, December, they’re always looking for donations. Give them a call, stop by and figure out what they need before you throw out those foods.”