A large amount of food is wasted in the U.S. According to NPR, 141 trillion calories of food go to waste every year. When it comes to throwing out expired items, most people are (at least a little) guilty of wasting what was once perfectly good food.food-waste.jpg Admittedly, I am definitely responsible for this. Dairy products and vegetables seemingly grow mold really quickly in my household, and I end up kicking myself because I wasted money on items I ended up throwing out. I could not figure out what to do to make the best out of the items I buy. However, I’ve learned there are some tips that are easy to follow when it comes to smarter, conservation-minded grocery shopping. Although it may be impossible to never accidentally leave a container of sour cream in the refrigerator too long, being careful of your shopping habits should reduce the amount of food you waste dramatically.

Shop more

I used to have the habit of limiting my grocery shopping as much as possible. I would purchase food every two weeks, or even less frequently if possible. It made me feel like I was saving food and money. But shopping less has its downside. Many food items will not last more than a week, or even a few days, such as fruits, vegetables and many meat and dairy products. If you buy small amounts of food you need for the next few days, the chances of your food going bad diminish greatly.

Make lists

I still have a lot of trouble planning my meals in advance. I tend to grab items on the shelves that I think will sound good later and make spontaneous choices for what I will have for dinner when I get home from work. This is an easy way to waste food. If you plan and write down your meal choices in advance, you know exactly what you are looking for at the grocery store, and there is less of a chance of buying food you do not need.

Educate yourself about your food

I remember the first time I bought tofu I was shocked to see how quickly it spoiled after opening the package. Most people do not have a clear idea about when the food they are buying will expire. Websites like StillTasty are available to help you be an informed consumer, or you could ask an employee at your local grocery store. With more awareness, it is easier to be careful about what to buy in the store, and consumers can end up saving a bit of money. There are, of course, plenty of other ways to prevent food spoilage. Pay extra attention to expiration dates, freeze items you want to keep a while and, if you have roommates, split bulk purchases. I believe that simply not being mindful is a major contributor to the excessive waste we produce domestically. If we remind ourselves about the difference it can make when we do not waste our food, we can begin to focus on the more severe issue of the amounts that go into our landfills.