It doesn’t make sense, yet it’s something that all of us have done — buy perfectly good food at the store and let it sit in the fridge until it rots. Or worse yet, spend even more money and effort on preparing a meal that only goes to waste. That's why 12 percent of the U.S. waste stream is made of food scraps. Keep your hard-earned dollars out of the trash by using these simple tips to help reduce your family’s food waste.

Plan ahead: You've heard this one before, but it's worth repeating. Make a list before you shop and stick to it when you get to the store. Take a few minutes to think about your family’s schedule for the week ahead — field trips, late-night meetings, soccer practice — and plan out which foods will work best for your menu. You don’t have to go so far as to assign a meal for each day of the week (although if you’re uber-organized, you probably do this already.) But there is no point in buying a lot of great organic ingredients if everyone will be too busy to eat them. 

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 nonperishables (or even unspoiled perishables) to your local food bank, so that they can feed someone in need. Check out Feeding America to find a food bank near you.

Feed your flock: What is it about bread crusts that kids hate so much? 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.

Get composting: Don’t toss those rotten tomatoes or banana peels in the trash. Turn them into 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.

Reducing your family's food waste
Why pay for good food only to throw it away? Here's how to slash your food waste (and even your food bill!)