Grocery CartTake a quick mental inventory of the food you purchased on your last shopping trip. Did it all end up on your plate or in your belly? Chances are, probably not.

Food waste is usually not intentional, but nevertheless a very common occurrence in households. A carton of milk gets shoved to the back of the fridge and passes its expiration date. The lettuce wilts. Leftovers never get eaten.

It’s regretful to see what was once perfectly edible get tossed, and furthermore, many people spend more money on food than they need to.

Food waste also puts stress on the environment. Scraps pile up in landfills. Farmers and manufacturers must use natural resources to grow, produce and package more food, and energy must be used to deliver those products to consumers.

To put the kibosh on food waste, try these tips:

  • Get educated and motivated. Did you know that 40 percent of the food produced in America isn’t eaten? Sustainable America’s website I Value Food features more sobering statistics like these, and a personal food waste quiz. Learn more in this video:

  • Don’t take sell-by or best-by dates as gospel. There are no standards for these dates, which are largely meaningless (read more in this Washington Post article). To learn more about how long you can keep food (including 3-5 weeks for eggs!) visit StillTasty.com or EatByDate.com.
  • Create a detailed meal plan for the week and build a shopping list around that meal plan. Try using this meal planner from Eureka Recycling or the EPA’s smart shopping list (PDF).
  • If your fridge is full of random items, use an online tool to help you find recipes, such as Supercook or MyFridgeFood.
  • Prepare food in advance. When you get home from the store, rinse and chop your produce so that snacking and meal prep is easier during the week. That way you’ll be more likely to follow through on making the meals you shopped for.
  • Be strategic about how you store and eat your produce. Vegetarian Times provides a great explanation of why some veggies and fruit go bad before others, and offers a handy chart to help you plan your week. Label your food to remind yourself which items need to be eaten first (such as with these handy signs from the EPA), and freeze food that’s about to go bad so you can use it in the future.
  • Take the uncertainty out of whether an item is spoiled or not. The USDA’s Food Keeper application for Apple and Android devices provides expert-backed advice for storing and eating more than 400 foods and drinks.
  • Create a compost heap in your backyard, or invest in a worm bin.
  • Store food strategically. Fasten a produce storage guide to your fridge door, such as this one from the EPA (PDF), so you know which foods keep best inside or outside the fridge. Also, learn about where food should be stored within your fridge. Your shelves, drawers and doors are different beasts and designed to hold different types of foods, per the NRDC’s Refrigerator Demystified infographic:NRDC’s Refrigerator Demystified infographic: