Food is a huge part of everyone’s monthly budget. But what’s great for those of us who are saving and watching our spending, is that we can control how much we spend on food. Unlike many of our bills, we are able to set our monthly total cost.
Even if you already know how to save on your grocery bill, the battle is not over. What’s just as important is how to make the most out of our food once we spend out hard earned money on it.
Food Waste Statistics
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the average family throws away at least $600 worth of food every year. Follow these 8 tips to stop wasting food and start making the most out of your food.
Stop Wasting Food
- Store it correctly.
Foods require different storage conditions to maximize their quality and increase the duration they will be edible. Avoid putting foods that spoil quickly, such as milk and eggs, on the shelves of the fridge door. Instead, put them in the back of the fridge where it is coldest. Put vegetables and fruits that you want to remain crispy, such as ice burg lettuce, into your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. On the other hand, keep in mind many foods shouldn’t go in the fridge at all. Basil and other fresh herbs will wilt much faster if they’re put in the fridge. Tomatoes can become mushy in the fridge. Some fruits and vegetables will not ripen properly if you store them in the fridge. Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark place such as a pantry. Beer’s worst enemy is light so store yours in a cool, dark place as well. Ask your grocery store’s produce manager for suggestions on what the best temperature to store food is and whether or not a food should be exposed to light.
- Use your leftovers.
Whether it’s leftovers from a meal at a restaurant, something you cooked at home, or leftovers from a holiday meal always use your leftovers. Adding a few new ingredients can make it seem like an entirely new dish. Try to get creative so you can enjoy leftovers more often. I always keep leftovers in mind when I’m planning my meals for the week. If I’m making baked chicken one night, I’ll buy extra chicken so I can make chicken quesadillas the next night.
- Cook it before it goes bad.
If your produce or meat is about to go bad, cook it. Cooking an item that is about to go bad gives it a few more days in your fridge. Whenever I have a bunch of vegetables that are about to go bad, I sauté them with rice for a stir fry or make a Chinese inspired fried rice. I do the same thing with meats and veggies with an omelet and pasta. Keep dried pasta and rice on hand so you can always make a quick meal out of food that is about to go bad or leftovers.
- Use everything.
Before you throw that peel and stem away think again. Get your money’s worth by using the entire product. The stems of cilantro have flavor just like the leaves of celery. Stop peeling potatoes and apples and discarding the stems of broccoli. Peels have many vitamins and a great flavor. Use a parmesan cheese rind to flavor soups and sauces. My favorite double duty item is zest. I love shaving the zest of lemons, limes, and oranges. The zest packs a ton of flavor and is less acidic than the juice. I’ve added zest to marinades, salsas and sauces, and even store bought frosting.
- Clearly mark expiration dates.
I’ve always stocked up on items while they’re on sale. A while back, I realized a handful of chicken broth cans had expired because I was using the newer ones first. Anytime you buy something, note the expiration date. You can even use a marker so you can see it more clearly. If you’re buying more of the same product, put the newer items behind the older ones so you use them first. You can take inventory of expiration dates when you’re planning your meals or heading out to the store.
- Freeze foods.
Your freezer is a money saving machine. With using your freezer, you can buy in bulk and freeze it to use it later. It’s also great for stocking up on something on sale, like meat, so you don’t have to eat it right away. I always freeze bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, and bagels. They stay preserved for a long time, and I just pop them into the toaster when I’m ready to use it again. It’s more economical for me to buy the large cans of sauce and larger quantities of meat when I’m making my homemade pasta sauce. Putting the leftover sauce in the freezer guarantees several meals from it all.
- Seal it well.
Meats, cheeses, produce, and leftovers need to be wrapped properly in order for them not to spoil. Investing in a little better quality containers and baggies can save you more in the long run. Choose ones that allow the least amount of air to come in contact with your food since air will lead to it molding or going bad faster. Try to squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it up. Do You Have a Foodsaver?
- Swap out products for ones that last longer.
Anytime I had a recipe that required bay leaves, I bought a bunch of fresh bay leaves, used one or two, and ended up throwing the rest away. Now, I just buy dried bay leaves. They stay good much longer, and I have them whenever I need them. I love fresh herbs, but consider buying dried herbs for a longer shelf life if you’re only using a small amount. I also do the swap for certain frozen fruits and vegetables. If you’re having a harder time using certain vegetables and fruits before they go bad, buy a bag of frozen veggies instead.
How do you make your food last longer?