July 6, 2023

Food Waste Prevention Part 3: Shopping 

Shopping Basket with Food

A large amount of consumer food waste comes from people simply buying too much food at the grocery store. Overestimating what your family will eat often leads to food spoilage. You may find that, learning and sticking to proper meal planning and shopping routines when grocery shopping will help you to decrease the amount of food wasted in your home.

Grocery stores are designed to increase the amount of money you spend. There are many strategies to encourage impulse buying in consumers, but with a little knowledge you can avoid buying more than you need. Here are some things to be aware of when grocery shopping:

  1. Promotions and deals are placed where consumers will most likely see them. They are often for items that you don’t need. Before being persuaded by a good deal, think about if you will really use that food item. Try to stick to your list as much as possible.
  2. Grocery stores often put desirable foods like sweets and snacks at the end of aisles, walkways, and check-out lines where consumers are most likely to notice them. Being aware of this can help you avoid impulse buying foods that you don’t really want or need.

Here are some basic tips for grocery shopping:

  • Make a grocery list based off of your meal plans for the week, and stick to it!
  • Do not shop when you’re hungry. This can lead to impulse buying which can lead to buying too much food and wasting it later on.


Shopping Tips to Reduce Waste


·         Buy in season produce when possible because it may be fresher and last longer. Also, in season produce is typically less expensive and tastes better. Check out this Seasonal Produce Guide for more information.

·         When purchasing fresh, only get what you can use before it spoils.

·         Try canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, which last longer and may help reduce food waste! Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh and easier to prepare. Canned fruits and vegetables are still good sources of many nutrients and fiber. Frozen and canned may also be less expensive.

Breads & Dry Goods

·         Always check for freshness by looking for products that are tightly packaged and well-sealed. They should always look and smell fresh.

·         Check the use by or best if used by date. Choose the foods with the latest date.

·         Purchase reasonable quantities of whole-grain products that you will use in a timely manner to reduce spoilage.

·         Whole grains can be kept in the freezer in sealed packages, which extends the best-quality shelf life from 2 to 4 months.

·         Bread is best stored at room temperature in its original packaging, tightly closed with a quick-lock or twist tie. Avoid putting in the refrigerator because it will become stale quicker. Properly wrapped bread stores well in the freezer.

Canned Goods

·         Canned goods can be a great option to reduce food waste because they last a long time on the shelf. However, only buy products that you will use.

·         When shopping for canned foods, avoid any cans that are dented, rusted, or damaged in any way to avoid spoilage and food borne illnesses.


·         Stores always stock foods from the back so choosing items from the back will generally be the freshest and last the longest (Boyer et al., 2018).

·         Always check dates for freshness and quality of food by checking the sell by date. Choose the foods with the latest sell by date.

Frozen Foods

·         Place frozen foods in your shopping cart last so they don’t melt while you are shopping.


Shopping Bags with FoodFor more information about how to properly store purchased foods to reduce food waste, visit  Food Labels and Food Safety.

Here are some additional resources from USU Extension Create Better Health that you can use for extra tips on how to select the freshest produce and store properly to maximize the storage life of foods you purchase.



Shopping for Produce – Tips and Tricks for the Grocery Store

Fact sheet providing overall best practices for grocery shopping.

Guide to Picking Fruits


Lists of various fruits and vegetables and tips on each of how to pick the best ones.

Guide to Picking Vegetables

Shopping Each Section

Healthy Tips and Tricks for each section of the grocery store.

General Grocery Shopping Tips

General tips for grocery shopping.


Overall, probably the most important tool you can use to avoid food waste while shopping is creating a list from your meal plan and sticking to it! To learn more, check out the next article in this series, Food Waste Prevention Part 4: Using Leftovers.



Meghan Adair, Dietetics Student; Carrie Durward, Ph.D., RD, Extension Nutrition Specialist

Carrie Durward

Carrie Durward

Nutrition Specialist


Phone: (435) 797-5843
Office Location: NFS 113 / USU Campus

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