One of the cheapest ways to save on your food budget is to use a variety of techniques to use all of the food items you purchased. Some suggestions are below. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment to share.
Below are 6 suggestions to minimize food waste. These tips are NOT part of the 10 Step Supermarket Combination Technique. They just provide some additional tips to consider.
1. Use a Menu
There are many benefits in working with a seasonal menu beginning with another way to minimize food waste. Start with a 2-week menu. There are many websites that provide info about seasonal fruits & veggies.
Resources to help with this:
- Choose My Plate
- Eat Seasonably
- Eating Well: Dinner Plans
- Food Network: Plans that Make Healthy Eating Easy
- Fruits & Veggies: More Matters: This Week’s Healthy Meal Ideas
- Leslie Beck, Registered Dietitian
- Living on a Dime: 13 Easy Family Menu Ideas – Dinners Your Family Will Love
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Menus
- It saves money by preventing spur of the moment purchases
- It is a great time management technique
- You can eat healthier with a menu. Check out this free resource: Choose My Plate 10 Tips Nutrition Series
- Stops last minute grabbing what is available
- Include seasonal foods that are cheaper and taste better in season
- It is fun to include holidays, festivities, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
2. Leftover Night
Serve appropriate serving sizes. Many people provide way too much food and end up tossing some of it in the trash. Some people have so much food left that they cannot even eat all of the leftovers.
Resources to help with portion sizes:
After you serve a meal, store ALL leftovers (that includes those that are less than a full serving). Stay within safety zones. Guidelines to keep foods safe:
Use these guidelines for safety zones
Or check out Recipes for Disaster
Cooked foods should be used within 4-5 days so be sure to have leftover nights to remain inside the safety zone.
Store all leftovers in the same area of the fridge or post a note on the fridge door so you don’t lose track of them. Plan on having a “LEFTOVER” night each week and include all those partial servings that were mentioned before. Make it a fun event: lay out a buffet and let everyone have the foods that they want. Who says every meal has to have all the different food groups?
Storage is another item that you should focus on to eliminate as much BPA as possible from your food usage. If you are interested, check out my article: Those Pesky Plastic Containers, which will be posted in January
Remember to include leftovers that you bring home from restaurants.
Arrange all leftovers on the table, and let everyone take their favorite leftovers to build their meal that night. It always feels good to see the container completely empty!
At the end of the meal, serve a fun dessert (I don’t serve dessert every night).
Only those who had leftovers get dessert.
- Those who don’t eat leftovers, don’t get dessert
- It won’t take long for everyone to know that they get dessert ONLY if they share the leftovers!
- Desserts can be frugal and fun. Below are examples:
The Decorated Cookie: is a great website that shows some of the ideas I love: building fun into my day-to-day life and fits perfectly with fun and frugal desserts.
Fresh For Kids is an excellent resource that also incorporates seasonal foods. Keep in mind that this is an Australian website so the seasons are opposite ours (their summers are our winters, etc.)
People who are in the Traditionalist Generation all lived during the Great Depression, are an excellent resource for living frugally. For a decade, they were forced to live frugally. Compared to the lives they lived during the Great Depression, living frugally today is a cake walk!
One of those tips came from my Mother, whose formative years were spent during the Great Depression. When my son was in grade school, I was a single parent. Back then, divorces were totally unaccepted in society and every day was a struggle not only for me but also for my son. My struggle was primarily financial issues; however, my son’s struggle was that kids were very nasty to him because he came from a “broken home”. One way for me to stretch my money as far as possible was to use a variety of “No Frills” items (actual name of items back then). The kids teased him so much that he stopped eating lunch altogether. I called my Mother to ask her advice (you never stop needing Mom!) and I did everything she told me to do. The result? Not only did my son start eating lunches again, but he also turned what I did into an entrepreneurial opportunity! If you want to read two funny tricks I used, check out: “Think Outside the Box Entrepreneur”. One other trick that I used because the kids he went to school with all wore brand name clothes. I could not afford it; however, I found a way. If you want to read how I did that, read “How to Outsmart Peer Pressure”.
NOTE: Keep in mind that even when you trash some of the leftovers, you still reduced the amount of food that you would have trashed were it not for leftovers being served.
4. Use Your Freezer
In some cases, when I already have the ingredients to make a recipe, I purposely bake once to eat twice and freeze the second meal, especially when a recipe only calls for half of an onion or green pepper, etc. When my son was a teenager, I had everything I could do to keep up with his hunger. I never knew anyone could eat so much and never gain weight – and – he was ALWAYS hungry! I ended up buying a 16-foot cubic stand up freezer, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Even today, now that he has his own family and I’m by myself, that freezer still saves huge amounts of money.
5. Keep Foods Fresh Longer
Although I’m all about making foods last longer, I’m also keenly aware of keeping everything safely. Some great resources are:
- FDA Food Resource Educational Guide
- UC Davis: Storing Fresh Fruits & Vegetables for Better Taste
- Fruits & Veggies: More Matters: Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Best Flavor
Nothing is worse than getting food poisoning because you tried to keep foods longer than they should be kept. Another critical point to cover before we get into how to keep foods fresh longer is care of both your refrigerator and freezer.
6. Make Foods Go Farther
Keep in mind that someone has to pay to slice, shred, chop, form, and package food items such as sliced or shredded cheese, pre-formed meat patties or veggie patties, cube meats, chop or shred veggies, etc. Convenience costs money.
7. Inventory Trashed Foods
Make a note of what food items you are throwing in the trash:
- You will probably find that most of the food items you toss in the trash are foods that are kept in the refrigerator. This is where posting an inventory of foods in your fridge (and freezer) helps.
- As I am preparing the menu for the next couple of weeks, I always make sure to use recipes that will use the foods that are already at home, and listed on my inventory.
- If you throw primarily produce into the trash, that means you are buying too much produce. Reduce the number of fruits & veggies that you buy. One way to do that is to go to the supermarket or farmers’ markets more frequently so you can buy fewer items.
- If you are throwing away canned items because they are past the expiration date, remember to put all new canned foods as you buy them behind the canned foods that are already in your pantry or kitchen cupboards.
- If you are throwing away milk because you do not use it fast enough either buy smaller containers or switch to using a soy-based product. In my own case, I do not drink milk very much. The price of a one-quart container of milk was expensive.
- One thing I tried was to make bread puddings, baked oatmeal, custards, etc. to use up the milk I had as it neared the expiration date.
- I finally tried Almond Silk and similar store brands. The expiration date of those types of milk are usually more than a month.
- If you are throwing away butter, start storing the butter you buy in the freezer and only thaw the butter right before you need to use it.
8. Last Ditch Effort
- Make Stock: I prefer to make my own stock so I can reduce the sodium. If you buy whole chickens, make chicken stock: use the gizzards, neck, and bones from the chicken; make vegetable stock: use broccoli stems, cauliflower cores, cobs from corn on the cob, cut the eyes off potatoes that have seen better days, quarter the potatoes, etc.
- Make Sauce: put ragged-looking herbs in a food processor and puree with things such as lime juice, Serrano pepper, paprika, fresh ground pepper, etc. to make a variety of sauces to serve with other meals.
- Use stale bread to make your own bread crumbs. Add a variety of seasonings to flavor the bread crumbs.
- Make bread pudding, which requires stale bread anyway. Add raisins or craisins to change the flavor of your bread pudding.
My point is, if you watch the foods that you normally trash, you will know that you are buying too much of some food items. Adjust your menu and buying habits and you will automatically save money.
TAKE ACTION #1: Defrost your freezer, be sure everything is appropriately labeled and dated, create an inventory as you enter the foods back into the freezer, and put the foods that will expire first toward the front as you return the foods.
TAKE ACTION #2: Decide how you want to set up your menu; whether on an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document, or graph paper. Go through the recipes that you have and decide which ones you and your family would like to use to start your menu. As you will see in the 10 Step Supermarket Combo Technique, there are a variety of steps that you can use to save big bucks in your food budget. They each take time to set up the process; however, none of those steps cost any money. You only need to set things up one time.