Coming home after more than three weeks in Europe, our refrigerator was practically bare. Kris and I love food, and our fridge is usually filled to the gills with tons of good stuff, so seeing the vast emptiness was almost shocking. But in a good way.

One of the drawbacks to keeping a full fridge is that we sometimes lose track of what we have on hand. It sucks to dig behind the smoked salmon to discover…more smoked salmon! Which has gone rancid! I’m especially bad at remembering what I still have left to eat. (This is despite our attempts to use a leftovers list.) As a result, I waste far more food than I should.

Lori Bongiorno writes the Conscious Consumer blog at Yahoo! Green. Recently, she featured a step-by-step guide to wasting less food. She writes:

Americans are notorious for wasting food. Each year, we toss out about 27 percent of edible food, and the average family of four throws out about $600 worth of groceries.

Bongiorno’s tips range from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.

For example, she says it’s important to undertand how expiration dates work. Some are important to observe, but others aren’t. (Did you know you can often eat yogurt three months past the date on the package? I’m ashamed to admit that I know this from first-hand experience.) She also cautions against buying food just because it’s on sale. As I wrote this morning, cheap things you never use are no bargain.

Bongiorno’s complete article contains lots of other tips. For Kris and me, though, I think the key to wasting less food is changing the way we shop.

For the past couple of years, Kris and I have actually tried to make large, infrequent trips to the grocery store. There’s plenty of research showing that this is one of the best ways to trim your food budget. But you know what? If doing this increases the odds that I’ll waste food — and it does — then it’s probably not saving us any money.

The morning after we returned from Paris, I made a quick trip to the store. Despite the empty fridge, all I bought was milk, bread, fruit, and cheese. “I want to try something,” I told Kris. “I want to shop like they do in Europe. I want to buy what we need when we need it instead of stock-piling food all the time.”

While this is sure to cut down the food we waste, I’m not sure it will save us any money. But I’m willing to experiment to find out!

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