Real Food on a Budget Part 1: Waste Less

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in budget, real food | No Comments

We spend too much on food.  Now I don’t mean to imply that there is some sort of magical amount that you should aim for.  $100 a week is never going to be a reality for my family.  I believe that food is the most important part of our budget, as it affects our health and happiness so directly.  Still, I think I can do better, and my bank account would really like me to try.

I’m not willing to start feeding my family kraft dinner every night, so what’s a girl to do?  Well to start with, I need to waste less food.  I’m guilty of being disorganized and letting my fridge turn into a bit of a science experiment.  I am sure that many of you are better at this than I am, but I know I’m not alone.  Ever been embarrassed to have someone else look in your fridge?  I surely have.

I’ve been doing much better this past month and I’m noticing such a difference.  I’m less stressed about it and I currently have no mysterious containers lurking in the fridge.  Here’s what I’m doing:

8 Ways to Waste Less Food

1) Keep your fridge clean
Try to clean out your fridge before you go grocery shopping.  This helps you to know what you already have on hand, as well as make room for the new food.  Also, if you actually do it once a week, you won’t grow chia pets on old stew.

2) Store things in clear, glass containers.
I use these by anchor ware.  They are pretty easy to find and come in a bunch of sizes.  If I store food in something I can’t see into, I will forget it 90% of the time.  I also use mason jars with reusable lids for liquids like soup or homemade salad dressing.  Plastic just isn’t ideal as it doesn’t microwave as safely and holds weird stains and odors.

3) Mark containers with the date
I use a dry erase pen to mark all my left overs and homemade dressings.  Apparently the sniff test is less than fully reliable.  Especially as I have a terrible sense of smell!

4) Freeze leftovers in single servings
This works really well for us for lunches.  I just freeze leftovers during the week and half my work is done for Craig’s work meals.  Apparently you should only keep leftovers for 4 days.  So unless you’re planning on eating it for lunch tomorrow, just freeze it.

5) Don’t overcrowd your fridge
Freezers like to be full, but fridges need a bit of room for airflow to keep everything cooled.  You don’t want it to be half empty, but if you have to balance your egg cartons up on top of the yogurt on top of the bacon, it’s too full.  Not that I have ever done that…  Also, again, you want to see your food.

6) Keep everything in it’s place
Everyone’s fridge is different, but they are designed to be organized a certain way.  Keep veggies and fruit in separate crispers as they will keep longer.  Keep raw meat on the bottom shelf so it doesn’t drip on everything.  Save the door for things that don’t go bad quickly, like condiments.  Your milk needs to stay in the main fridge where it’s cooler.  Again, if you stick with a system, you don’t lose things and you waste less.

7) Have a way to use up your produce every week
I go grocery shopping every Friday morning and I try to be nearly out of produce by then.  Things that keep for ages like potatoes, carrots, and onions are fine to keep for a bit, but otherwise I want to get it all eaten.  I’m starting to do a stir-fry every Thursday night and then veggie omelets on Friday morning so that all the little bits get used up before I head out shopping.  Some people do soup.  Pick something you like, so it isn’t a chore.

8) Keep track of your freezers
I am still working on this!  Freezers need to stay organized as well.  I do pretty well with my two deep freezes as they have lots of sections and baskets so it’s easy for me to see what I have.  My fridge freezer is another story and currently attacks me with bits of food when I open it (danger danger!).  When I get a good system going I will post about it.

I really think I’m saving money and just wasting less by being a bit more organized.  It’s not even any real extra work, it’s more just getting into a rhythm that works for me.  I love having a tidier fridge, it feels like a weight lifted off, for real.  Do you have any great tips for wasting less food?

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