Did you know that 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted? In 2014, that was 38 million tons. And that doesn't even include the resources that went into to growing or making said wasted food. Food waste is extra food that ends up being, well, wasted. It includes spoiled or damaged food, food scraps, unsold food from stores that's past the expiration date, and extra unused food in general. Think fruit peels, the leftover food you leave on your plate at a restaurant, wilted produce, coffee grinds, and crushed convenience snacks.

Some of these discarded foods can still be eaten, while others can be recycled via composting. It's a shame to waste so much food when people are legitimately starving. But you, yes you, can make a positive difference in the world by wasting less food with the following tips.

1. Make a grocery shopping list

Ellie Haun

The best way to prevent overbuying food? Make a list of what you need for the week before you go to the grocery store, then stick to it. Determine what recipes you'll make, and write down exactly what you need for each recipe and for every meal you'll eat through the week. Only buying the food you need in the correct quantities will prevent you from purchasing excess. Following your list will also prevent you from buying unhealthy "impulse" snacks.

2. Buy older and uglier food

apples, crate, Wood, Fruit, apple, farmer's market
Caroline Ingalls

Some groceries have food, usually produce, on special for a reduced price. This food is wilted, discolored, or otherwise needs to be used right away. These products are older and uglier, so they're cheaper. Buying them instead of pretty premium produce will save you cash, and prevent perfectly usable food from being thrown away. Double duty shopping!

3. Use the food you have first

tea, coffee, beer, strawberry, yogurt, berries, berry, strawberries, Fruit, fruits, fridge, mini fridge, water, green tea, orange juice, milk, midnight snack, Hungry, snack
Denise Uy

Use the "first in, first out" rule to cycle food. Eat the food you already have before buying more, and use perishable food with sooner expiration dates first. The best way to do this is by storing older food in the front of the fridge so you don't forget about it. Also keep in mind that "best by" dates are merely suggestions—if the food still looks and smells OK, it's probably fine to use.

4. Serve smaller portions

Ellie Haun

Serve only small portions of the finished product when you cook. You can come back for seconds if you're still hungry, or save the rest for a full leftover meal rather than just scraping the small bit left. This tip helps you eat less and waste less, causing less food waste and probably less weight gain. 

5. Actually eat leftovers

vegetable, broccoli, chicken, rice, stir-fry, pepper, meat
Katherine Baker

Since you'll be serving smaller portions, you'll be sure to have leftovers. Actually eat these leftovers. Take all your leftovers if you go out to eat as well, then either eat them plain or jazz them up the next meal. For example, stir-fry all your leftover ingredients at the end of the week and put it in a tortilla or over rice for a satisfying waste-free meal. 

6. Compost everything you can

herb, cereal, Grow, Garden, Gardening, farm, Rich, Soil, handful, dirt, compost
Alex Frank

Compost is a mixture of decomposing organic matter, including food scraps, that is cycled then used to fertilize soil. Put compostable food waste into a compost bin, then add it to a compost pile. Start your own compost pile, then add your food scraps. Alternately, find a local compost facility and donate your food scraps to it. 

7. Donate extra food

vegetable, pepper, tomato
Emmrick McCadden

If you happen to have extra food near the end of the week, donate it! Give canned goods you won't use to your local food bank. Just know they won't accept open containers. Give food scraps to local farmers; some accept these scraps for animal feed or for their compost piles. 

Food waste will always be an issue, since people will always buy and use food. However, now you know about it and can do something about it. Buy less, consume less, and reduce your waste (and your grocery bills). Even doing a few of these things, starting this week, will make a difference in reducing food waste. And if you get others to start these habits, your impact on reducing waste will be even greater.