My grandfather had a mantra at mealtime, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” I think he learned the value of conserving food from his family’s struggles during the Great Depression. For most families today there, is abundance of food in our pantries and refrigerators.

But it is still almost painful to look at the amount of food we throw away each year. According to an article from The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans threw away about 35 million tons of food in 2012. That is a staggering number.

So, how can you make a difference in your home? I know that my kids often eat only 1/3 of what we put on their plates. Much of the rest, I’m ashamed to admit, often winds up in the garbage.

Here are some tips to make saving food a priority:

1. Figure Out What Your Family Eats 

Take a hard look at what your kids like to eat. Sure, it doesn’t have to be the same thing night after night, but try to branch out to foods that your children will likely eat and make those items.

2. Serve Smaller Portions

Try doling out smaller portions to yourself and your children. This will have a double benefit – you might be able to save food for another meal and consume fewer calories at the same time.

3. Give Yourself Less

If you know that your kids only eat ½ of what’s on their plates, give yourself a little bit less in anticipation that you will be consuming their leftovers.

4. Don’t Be Rushed to Throw Food Away

Many times we instinctively toss uneaten food in the garbage after a meal or when we’re cleaning out the fridge. Try something else – before you dump that food, ask yourself if there’s any way to salvage all or a portion of it. Could it be used in another meal? Would someone else like to eat it? The answer might be no, but at least you start considering options.

5. Use the Freezer

There are lots of foods that you can freeze and save for a later date. Also, when you plan to make a meal, try to only thaw what you will need. That will help save more food for another meal.

6. Talk to Your Kids

If your kids are old enough to understand, talk to them about the importance of not wasting food. Explain to them that there are people in the world who do not have the luxury of such amounts of food. Also, they should know that wasting food is bad for the environment.

7. Be Sure to Share

Are there neighbors who are hungry or charities who might be able to use the food that you are considering throwing away? If you get into the habit of sharing your leftover food that would otherwise get discarded, you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

It’s all about a mindset. We are used to throwing away food that we don’t want or don’t plan to eat. By thinking about other uses for that food or other people who might be thrilled to have it, we can begin to affect a small amount of change.