Do you throw your money in the trash? You do if you throw out food. And as much as we cringe when we do it ... we all (Americans, that is) do it probably every day. That’s why 12 percent of the U.S. waste stream is made up of food scraps. Keep your hard earned dollars out of the trash and help preserve the world's resources by using these simple tips to help reduce your family’s food waste.

Make a list: Before you head out to the grocery store, take a few minutes to think about your family’s schedule for the week ahead and which foods will work best for your menu. If you're uber-organized, go ahead and plan out your meals for each day. For the rest of us, just aim to have a good idea of the types of meals you will eat throughout the week. There is no point in buying a lot of great organic ingredients if everyone will be too busy to eat them. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need and stick to it.

Pass it on: Got an extra jar of creamed corn or box of mashed potatoes that you’re not likely to use? Pass on any non-perishables (or even unspoiled perishables) to your local food bank so that they can feed someone in need. Check out America’s Second Harvest to find a food bank near you.

Give it to the birds: What is it about bread crusts that makes them so hated by kids? Save those discarded bread crusts along with any stale crackers or moldy rolls and bring them along to feed the birds on your next outing in the park. (Make sure that it's OK with town or park officials for you to feed the birds before you do it.)

Be a dirt farmer: Don’t toss those rotten tomatoes or banana peels in the trash. Turn them in to compost instead. Compost is the ultimate recycler … it turns useless yucky stuff into really valuable yucky stuff. It also reduces waste, saves money, and can help protect your plants from diseases and pests. And it’s not as hard as you might think to get started. Check out this post on starting a compost pile.