Did you know that families in the U.S. throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages that they buy? This translates into an estimated $1,350 to $2,275 wasted annually for a family of four. This loss is due to confusion over date labels, spoilage, a lack of planning, and over preparation. Despite these facts, you can be proactive and do things to cut down on the amount of food you and your family wastes.
Check out the tips and resources below and don’t forget to take our pledge to Get Food Smart!

Food Waste Reduction Tips

Planning beforehand can reduce the amount of food you waste at the end of the week.

  • Plan your meals before grocery shopping, so you purchase only what you need.
  • Include quantities on your shopping list to keep from buying too much.
  • Keep a running list of foods that are frequently enjoyed in your house.
  • Check your refrigerator and pantry when making your shopping list to avoid buying items you already have. Don’t forget to mine the freezer for items as well.
  • Order only what you can finish at restaurants, or plan to take home leftovers for a future meal.
  • When preparing for a large gathering, plan ahead to prevent from preparing too much food. Use the Guest-imator from Save The Food to help you decide how much food to buy and prepare.

Is your favorite restaurant doing their part to combat food waste? Click on the image below to download and print our postcards to share with them!

Storage Tips

Storing your produce in the right place and at the right temperature can reduce the chance of waste.

  • Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables.
  • Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves and store fruits and vegetables in separate bins.
  • Wait to wash berries until you are ready to eat them to prevent mold.
  • Store fruits and vegetables at the right temperature to ensure freshness.
  • When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge, freezer, or pantry, and put new products in the back. This is the First In, First Out plan.
  • Check out our Smart Storage Guide for more tips on proper storage of various fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Additional tips for safe food storage and preservation are available from USDA.

Prep Tips

Planning out the week can save time and reduce the chance of having to throw away food.


  • If you have space, a backyard compost bin can be a relatively small one-time investment (or you can even build one yourself) that will allow you to divert food waste from landfills to your backyard. Compost is a great addition to soil and substitute for fertilizer. To learn more on how to build your own backyard compost bin, visit here. You can also join Tennessee Environmental Council"s “Come Post Your Compost” Statewide initiative.
  • If you don’t have the space or are not interested in having your own backyard compost, you may have a local curbside composting organization in your area. Check out this map to find an organization near you.

Food-product Dating Tips

Understand what food product dates mean and when they may indicate food is no longer safe to consume.

  • There are two types of product dating that you will see:
    • Open Dating – a calendar date applied by the manufacturers or retailer to tell you the period of time that the food will be at its best quality.
    • Closed Dating – a code that consists of a series of letters and/or numbers applied by manufacturers to identify the date and time of production.

  • These are some common phrases used on food labels and what they mean:

    • “Best if Used By/Before” – indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
    • “Sell-By” – date that tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
    • “Use-By” – date that is recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.

Additional information on food product dating and food safety is available from USDA.


You can reduce food waste by donating food to a local food bank or food pantry. Check out our Donate page for more information and to find a location near you that accepts food donations.