Frugal Tip #2: Do Not Waste Food
If you cook at home fairly frequently you’ll find that isn’t too difficult to cook extra and learn to love leftovers. In fact, before long you’ll find yourself saving money and feeling much less stressed at dinnertime. While tip #1 helps you avoid fast food and restaurant bills, tip #2 ensures that you actually eat the food you prepared. The goal of tip #2 is to actually eat all the food you bring home from the store. In essence the goal is not to throw any food away.
If you’re really serious about not wasting food try to keep tabs of what you eat. You don’t have to write down every little morsel of food you eat but try to remember how many times you dragged that same green apple back and forth to your office. Write down how many times you intended to eat salad but never got around to it. You may think that you eat an apple a day but actually find out that you actually eat only one or two a week.
When you’re at the grocery store try to think hard about what you’re buying. Even if you’re in a hurry pause and think to yourself, “should I really buy lemons this week”, “will I really have time to make that new lemon chicken dish?” If you know your schedule will be packed to the brim stick with easy to cook foods that don’t require a lot of ingredients or require ingredients that won’t spoil.
Speaking of taking time at the store, take a second or two to look over the expiration dates of the foods you buy. I’m always amazed by shoppers who reach in and pull out the first gallon of milk they see. The difference in sell by dates can be more than a week.
If you find it really hard to eat all of the produce you bring home consider turning to frozen veggies. I always have frozen peas, corn, broccoli and spinach in the freezer. It lasts an amazingly long amount of time without spoiling. Best of all frozen veggies can often be added to soup and casseroles without even defrosting. If you aren’t specific about brands you can find a plethora of coupons for frozen veggies in the weekly newspaper. I’ve purchased bags and boxes of frozen vegetables for less than $1 after combining grocery store sales with Internet coupons.
If you decide to follow frugal tip #1 and end up looking forward to your leftovers you may need to purchase new containers to store them. I suggest purchasing clear, glass containers with reusable lids. Colored and/or tinted Tupperware is not a good solution for our family. More often than not when food is stored in opaque containers it ends up spoiled, moldy and rotten. I now stick primarily with clear containers so I can literally see exactly what I have left on hand. I prefer glass, because I think it’s better for us and the environment, but I’ll turn to clear plastic if I must.
Another trick is to spend 30 seconds digging through your fridge. If the leftover containers get stuck behind that gallon of milk and reusable water bottle you’ll never see them, which means you’ll never eat them. Every night before you go to bed move the containers back to the front of the fridge where they won’t get lost in the shuffle.
You may also want to take this time to dig through the vegetable bins. You can take notice of what you have on hand and what might spoil soon. My husband and I often create meals based on what produce is nearing it’s expiration date.
The goal of tip #2 is to spend just a few minutes a day thinking about what food you have on hand and what food you need to eat. It takes a lot of time and money to fill your fridge and pantry and it’s an absolute shame to watch it go to waste. If all of these steps seem overwhelming start small. Next time you grab a gallon of milk off the shelf stop and check expiration dates.