The grocery store is where you commit — to spending both money and the resources it took to grow the food — even if it doesn’t get eaten. That’s why careful shopping is the fastest, easiest way to cut food waste. Here are a few ideas to help:
- Make a list: Research has shown that shoppers who use and stick to written lists—only about 25% of us—have lower grocery bills and make fewer shopping trips. They’re also less susceptible to impulse buys.
- Skip the cart: Bigger dinner plates encourage us to eat more, and bigger carts call us to fill them. Hand baskets can help improve your grocery store discipline. Plus you can count it as strength training.
- Scrutinize deals: Five bananas for a dollar is a good deal only if you eat all five. Also, many stores offer the sale price even if you buy less than the stated quantity. If you’re unsure, ask.
- Shop the bulk bins: Many stores offer grains, nuts, spices, and other dry goods in bulk bins that allow you to purchase only the quantity you need. This is very helpful if you just need ingredients for a specific recipe.
- Use the salad bars: For mixed vegetable dishes or salads that call for small amounts of different types of vegetables, shop the salad bar. They will cost more per ounce, but less overall. On top of that, they’re also already prepared, which is a real time saver for busy cooks.
- Use a portion planner: When you’re not sure how much you’ll need for your dinner party, use your smart phone to consult an online portion planner. My favorite portion planner is at Love Food, Hate Waste, a great UK site.
- Keep it cold: Buy perishable and frozen foods last so they spend less time at room temperature. And be sure to shake the water from produce—water encourages rotting and adds weight. If you won’t be home for a while, keep a cooler in your car.
- Be okay with imperfections: Scarred and oddly shaped fruits and vegetables are perfectly normal. If we don’t buy them, the store will toss them in the trash. (If you’re on Instagram, be sure to follow uglyfruitandveg for some pretty fun pictures of imperfect produce.)
- Buy the last one: People often avoid buying the last item on the shelf. Be a grocery store contrarian. Buying these loners discourages stores from overstocking just to create the appearance of abundance.