One of the easiest things to do to be a good steward of your grocery money is to not let food go to waste. No coupon clipping or trip stragegizing involved here. If everything you cook and buy gets eaten you will save tons. It is harder to quantify your savings on this one, but I would say that most families throw out about 1/3 of the food they purchase.
Most food goes to waste because:
1)It goes bad before it was used.
2)More was served than the person could eat.
3)People do not eat their left overs.
Putting it simply, if you actually used those groceries you would have a 1/3 savings because you would be eating that food rather than purchasing new because it went to waste. This is something we are not perfect at, but have gotten much better at remembering. Because we have slowly changed over to cooking from scratch when possible, (rather than eating out or making overly processsed foods) our leftovers are also a lot more appealing.
Things that will help you make use of all of your food:
- Put leftovers or prepared food in clear containers so that you can easily see what you have.
- Cook meals that can “roll” from one meal into the next by leaving simple ingredients separate in your fridge after cooking. You can then easily turn last nights leftover ingredients into tonight’s new meal by serving it a little differently. (More on how we do this to come.)
- Watch out for those “bins if death” that can be the place product goes to die. Know what is in them and keep them clean so that you are eating all of your fruits, vegis, and herbs before they go bad.
- If you see or know that something might go bad before you can eat it, throw it in the freezer. Most foods can be frozen to preserve them. This works well with most fruits and vegis if (some need to be cleaned and cubed), bread, leftovers, soups, meat, deli meat, tortillas, grated cheese, cookies, …almost everything.
- If you make a big casserole that seems like more than your family will happily eat before it goes bad put some of it in a small pan and freeze it unbaked. We often do this with macaroni, stuffed shells, enchiladas, etc. We do all the preparation and often make a little extra and put 2/3rds in a big pan and bake it, and put the other 1/3 in a separate smaller pan and freeze it unbaked to eat later. (When I am taking about cooking and say “we” I am almost always referring to my husband. He is a wonderful cook and does most of it at our house:)
- Keep things closed tightly in your pantry. I love these cheap little clips from Ikea to keep things from going stale…bought them on a whim and LOVE them.
- Keep all your open containers of food in your pantry together so that you eat the old stuff before opening new boxes and bags.
- Rotate stuff to the front of the fridge and freezer that needs to be eaten first.
- Make a list on the front of the fridge for your older family members with ideas of meals and snacks (so you have some help eating the things that won’t last long).
- Serve your younger eaters their meals in “courses” so that aren’t overwhelmed with their choices and just pick their favorites out and leave the rest.
Be resourceful to see if you can use everything you purchase without letting it go to waste.
Hint-When you buy natural foods (which should be preservative free) they will expire and mold much more quickly. Unless we know that we are going to use them right away, we often put them straight into the freezer. This is especially true for baked goods.
Have any suggestions on how you keep from wasting food? Share them!