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(Image from the New York Times)

I’m becoming more and more waste-phobic lately, especially about food.

This awareness stems mostly from my job, where we work with several nonprofits whose mission is simply to feed those who need food. You don’t need to be an expert to know a lot of people in this country and in this world go without food, or have few healthy options available to them.

According to this New York Times article from 2008, Americans waste about 27% of food available for consumption in this country.That includes grocery stores, restaurants and what we waste in our own homes. A University of Arizona study (the smart school…go Wildcats!)  from 2004 puts that number closer to 50% and estimates Americans spend $43 billion a year on food that ends up going to waste.

Numbers like this truly haunt me. In world where so many are going without food, and many don’t know where their next meal is coming from—or if their next meal is coming at all—throwing out food should never be taken lightly.

I’ve really been making a conscious effort lately to not waste food, to not let anything I buy go bad. I’m not perfect at this, of course. But I invite you to think about this more in your day-to-day life.

Here are some tips that have helped me:

There are few food items that you need to buy in bulk. So keep it to those few items, because you’ll probably end up wasting that 18-pound bag of lettuce. If at all possible, go to the store once a week and buy only what you need for that week.

Start eating down your pantry and freezer. You’ve got A TON of stuff in there. Use it. I’m going to try and show you over the next few weeks that you don’t need a recipe; just pull that stuff out, throw it together, and you’ve got dinner. My husband is truly a master of taking three random food items in our pantry and making it a meal. It’s really taught me about how to use everything we have available to us.

If you aren’t going to eat those cans of food, donate them to a food bank. Someone else can definitely use it.

When something is about to go bad, let it guide what you’re cooking that night. That makes it much easier to figure out what’s for dinner that night.

Eat your leftovers. On the real. Or, use them to help create a new dish. If you’re going to keep it in your fridge, you might as well do something with it.

Don’t buy what you don’t need. You’ll be surprised at what you thought was vital, but really isn’t.

What are some ways you try and cut down on food waste? We need to think about this daily. We owe it to the people in our communities and all over the world who don’t eat while we throw pounds and pounds of food away. It’s a small way we can all make a big difference.