Fried rice can be the best way to use up your leftover takeout rice. Credit: Tom McCorkle | The Washington Post

What if there was a way you could spend less on food, have less trash to take out to the curb each week and eat really well? There is. All of these things are possible if you are willing to work to reduce food waste at home.

And if you are willing to do that, the benefits to you are numerous. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when you reduce food waste, it saves you money, helps lower your carbon footprint and even helps you contribute to the use of less energy.

Reducing food waste at home begins by being more cognizant of your food. In other words, know what you have in the kitchen, know what you and your family like to eat (and what you don’t) and use this information to avoid overbuying.

When you know what you have, you can formulate your weekly food plan around shopping your kitchen (use the food you have first). This will mean, by extension, that you have to buy less and you can ensure that the items in your pantry, fridge and freezer don’t go to waste.

But it’s more than that. By creating a weekly food plan — or, in other words, meal planning — you can ensure that you’re prepared for the meals you need to cook. Part of this is knowing your week. What days will you and your family be home for dinner? What days will only some of you be there? When will you eat out, if at all?

It’s also not overplanning. Instead of planning to make different recipes each night, include time to eat leftovers — either by just reheating them or by remixing them into other meals. Leftover veggies can be tossed with a favorite sauce and served over rice, stir-fry style without the stir-frying. Saved burgers or hot dogs can be cut into pieces and mixed into macaroni and cheese. Leftover steak and chicken breast top a lovely salad. And leftover rice is perfect for homemade fried rice.

But if you just don’t want to eat the leftovers, don’t let them go to waste. Many leftovers are easy to freeze in airtight containers for defrosting and enjoying later.

Scraps of veggies can be saved in a freezer bag to make stock later. Or toss them in your compost pile. Either way, they don’t go to waste.

And, above all, when you do head to the grocery store for the week, stick to your plan. Avoiding those temptation buys — the impulses that grip us when we see a sale sign or a particularly alluring treat — will benefit your efforts to reduce food waste at home.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the country goes to waste. Much of it happens at the supply and distribution levels, but it also happens in homes every day. According to a 2011 University of Maine School of Economics study, nearly 28 percent of waste was food waste.

This is not a small problem. But you can make small changes to help move that needle in a different direction.

Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is the senior editor, features, for the Bangor Daily News and the editor of Bangor Metro magazine. She’s the author of “Classic Diners of Maine,” and five cookbooks including “Easy...