A study examining whether people could reduce how much food they wasted found that providing a flood of information -- Use veggie scraps to make stock! Preserve produce before it goes bad! -- wasn't helpful. What did help: targeted, personalized recommendations based on people's biggest sticking points. Use these scenarios to help identify and reduce your food-waste footprint.
1. If you don't know how much you waste:
Most people don't; in fact, 75 percent of us believe we waste less than the average American. Jot down all the food you throw away for a few days -- to get a sense of what and why you waste, from the food your kid flings on the floor to the leftovers left too long in the fridge. Then you can address those specific issues one by one.
2. If you tend to overbuy:
Shop several times a week, instead of once. Make it easier by ordering ingredients online from grocers with same-day delivery or a supermarket that offers drive-thru pickup. Or keep a cooler in your car and shop during your lunch break.
3. If you love trying new recipes:
Stick to a specific type of cuisine -- Thai, Mexican, Indian -- for several meals a week, since they tend to use the same ingredients. Shop the grocery store salad bar if you only need a small amount of an ingredient. And plan for a clean-out-the-fridge stir-fry, soup or pasta at the end of the week to use whatever odds and ends you have left.
4. If you often forget about leftovers:
Pack them in single-serving containers for lunches that night. If you freeze them, label and date the leftovers and put them on your list of planned meals for the week.
5. If you frequently bargain-shop:
Only buy it if it's nonperishable, like pasta or cereal, and something you would normally buy anyway. Otherwise, keep walking.
6. If you always make too much food:
Freeze the leftovers in individual-size portions. For dinner parties, send guests home with the extras. Also handy: a portion planner (like the one at savethefood.com/guestimator) can help you more accurately figure out how much food to make.
7. If you frequently chuck the mystery meal in the freezer:
Label everything. Keep a marker and masking tape right next to the fridge and jot the date you made that chili, when you opened that carton of stock or when you put those shrimp in the freezer. Also, organize your fridge with the newest stuff in the back and the oldest in the front where you can see it.
8. If your kids don't eat all their food:
Be realistic, not optimistic -- and give them smaller portions. They can always have seconds. Or take less yourself, knowing you may be nibbling whatever they leave behind.
9. If you often buy things on the fly:
Meal-plan carefully and try not to deviate from the items on your list. Research shows that shoppers who stick to their grocery lists are less susceptible to impulse buys, spend less on groceries and -- you guessed it -- don't waste as much.
10. If shopping at bulk stores makes you load up.
Be strategic. Stuff that can stick around a long time (boxed broth, kosher salt, steel-cut oatmeal) gets a green light, but that giant sack of grapefruit? Maybe not. Or try splitting purchases with another family.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)