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We spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, eating and hanging out. Since eating is a necessity, we probably don’t think much about waste or how much money we spend to feed our families and friends. We just buy food, cook, eat and enjoy! A United Nations study says one-third of all food grown and produced is wasted.

Some of this is in the field, but most is at the store and at home. Wasted food wastes energy, labor, land, water and money. If a farmer grows an acre of lettuce and half of it ends up in the trash, his resources have been wasted. We have no control over stores and restaurants throwing away food, but we can take control at home. We can reduce waste, eat healthy, save money and live lightly with a little awareness.

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1. Plan meals

I used to shop every two weeks, because the store was far from home. I’d make a menu for every day and shop accordingly. You’d be amazed at how little food gets wasted with some planning! I also didn’t end up buying things on impulse that never got used.

You know how you see some produce or a jar of something on sale and think you are going to make something glorious with it? Then you don’t buy the rest of the ingredients, and your produce rots in the fridge. We’ve all done that. Menu planning saves food, money and farmer resources.

2. Shop the “walls” of your supermarket

That’s where you will find produce, dairy and meat. That’s all you need. Merchandise in the aisles is processed and full of preservatives and other things with 35 letters in the name. Processed food is also not the bargain it seems to be. Eating whole foods is a better choice all the way around. Stay away from prepared foods!

3. Do not shop when you are hungry!

Eat before you go, or you will be tossing things in your cart that you have no use for. I’m sure you’ve done this before. You get to the check-out and wonder what on earth you are buying! Much of that food goes bad or eventually gets thrown away. Always shop on a full belly.

4. Learn to bake bread

I was never very good at making yeast breads, but I am great with quick breads, muffins and tortillas. The ingredients can be altered for variety, you can bake in bulk and freeze it, and most important, you know what you are eating.

5. Grow your own food

Talk about knowing what you are eating! This is the best way. Start with a small raised bed garden or grow in pots. Gardens always have more than you can eat, but you can put up some food for winter, share with friends and/or compost was does not get used. I don’t consider composting as waste. This is putting food back into the ground to nourish future crops, and that is so different than sending food scraps to the landfill.

6. Buy food in bulk

Most supermarkets now have bulk food bins. Buying this way reduces packaging waste. When anything is marketed in small quantities, there is waste of the product, the packaging and the shipping, and all of that is not environmentally friendly. Bulk buying reduces waste, even back on the farm.

Some stores will even let you buy grains, flour and potatoes in 50# or larger bags. If these things are stored properly, they will last a long time. This is also very economical. Bulk food costs less per pound than packages of smaller quantities.

7. Eat at home

You will have more control over what you cook and serve. There is a LOT of food waste in restaurants, and I have worked in dozens of them. It’s not cost effective for them to be careful with portions and scraps, so a lot of food goes in the trash. When you eat out, you add to that problem.

Eating at home is more economical, too. I bought a burrito the other day for $7! I could have made it at home for a buck. Save eating out for the occasional splurge. Being aware of waste is the first step to changing daily habits to reduce it. Awareness is key!

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It is empowering to be more self-reliant by buying only what you consume, growing your own food, eating out less and eating healthier food. This is time well-spent in the kitchen and better for your friends and family.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.