How many times have you reached down and pulled out wilted and slimy vegetables from drawers in your fridge? And just how many times have you pushed dishes of leftovers to the side looking for just about anythingelse to eat, or better yet, to make room for more leftovers? If you’re like me I would guess it happens often, realized or not. But NOT anymore. I’ve taken adulting to new heights and I’m going to tell you just how I save money and preserve food by making three simple tricks my oh-so-beneficial lifestyle habits.
I want to take you back to a rainy Saturday afternoon , when I was rummaging through my fridge hoping to find something creamy and delicious and filled with seafood. Never mind the fact that not one of those three things presented itself. What DID present itself was the fact that I had no space in my fridge, whatsoever. A bag of grapes nearly finished was resting on the top shelf, a lonely tomato rolling around aimlessly in the back – a mess. A bunch of junk was occupying the Illinois Ave and Park Place of my fridge and I didn’t like it. (And you thought Boardwalk was the prime real estate in Monopoly, guess again my friend.)
This was the Saturday I decided, “Hell no. Everything must go” and pulled everything out, laid it on the counter and began sorting through what was needed and what needed to go. Embarrassingly enough, I can admit I found Thai Chili sauce from 2017 that had only ever been opened once on the bottom shelf of the door, chillin. Likely waiting years for a comeback – only to retire in my trashcan.
What I noticed was a habit that was costing me a lot of money! A habit everyone, at some point or another, was guilty of and quite frankly could get gross at times. I started seeing dried green onions, old and new sour cream squeeze tubes, half empty BBQ sauce bottles, limp celery stalks and partially consumed bags of shredded cheese that had not expired, but clearly no one anticipated eating anytime soon.
A complete waste!! Now, depending on family size, food waste can vary anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars monthly. Hundreds. Of. Dollars… Monthly!! Great time to start thinking about how those new-found dollars can be reapplied, isn’t it? I knew a tried and true method that had always worked for me in the past, but life happens. The holidays had just passed and quite honestly, it just didn’t look that bad.
Truth is, it …kinda sort of…is…kinda bad. Food is how we nourish our bodies. We use food daily to function. Not only to function, but to entertain and to bring families together! And I’m pretty sure we can all agree we want the kind that tastes good. We want food that is fresh and full of nutritional value. That last part is subjective, but we’re not here for that argument… not today. I’ve got three tips that can help you SAVE money, PRESERVE your food and keep your Saturdays open for other things. There are things far more exciting than cleaning out a fridge with some left-over junk from last week!
I am the person that knows I only need two lemons, but will buy four. I am the person that will see a two for $5.00 deal and think I’ve gotten over on Nabisco, only to end up with a box of crackers left behind, somewhere next to the half empty box of thin spaghetti and macaroni elbows.
Granted, there are times when over-buying makes sense – entertaining a party, gathering items for a potluck, thinking of someone else, etc. Majority of the time though, there really is no need to buy more than what I need at that time. I’ve acquired some personal “rules of thumb” and they are as follows:
Poultry/Fishes: Buy specific items for specific meals, specifically. Know what I intend to cook that week and cook it. No meats left behind!!
There was a point in time where I fell into this trap of buying meats in bulk at Costco because I figured I could freeze them and save myself the time and trouble of always having to go to the store and blah – when in REALITY, half the time I didn’t feel like waiting for the meat to unthaw and I’d end up buying fresh poultry/fish from the store.
I wanted the advantage of being able to prepare a meal quickly, yet everything I had previously purchased in bulk was just sitting there… growing snowballs and weird white lines of freezer burn. Ultimately, this pattern left me with frustrating moments of rotating globs of foil in my hand playing “What do you think this is?” only to peel back a corner of the foil and throw it right back in the freezer because – nobody wanted it.
Of course, there are exceptions to buying poultry/fish in large quantities – if cooking for a large party, or meal prepping — but it has to make sense.
Dairy / Condiments: This depends on dietary needs, of course, but rule of thumb still applies. Save money and BUY IN SMALLER QUANTITIES!!
Unless I’m baking two cakes, pies, eating cereal five days out of the week and making iced coffee every day, twice a day – I am notbuying a gallon of milk. It will sit, it will expire and it will smell – really bad. I try to stay within the quart to half gallon range – firmly standing on the idea that if I need more, I can go get more – fresh. Milk costs far too much, to let go to waste. And exactly how long do you think it sat before the grocery store received it? Add that time to the time it sat in the store before you walked up and made your selection, then to the time it’s going to sit in your fridge.
Same goes for cheese – but I’ve got a loophole for that too. I now stop by the deli – and get my cheese pre-cut, whether in slices or in a block (if I want it shredded). It’s cheaper and you can buy exactly what you need, rather than allowing the amount you never end up using, to go to waste… hereby helping to save money.
Again, there are always exceptions: Dry Goods: Flour, Sugar, Yeast, Beans, Whole Grains, Oats, Pasta, etc.
Fruits / Veggies:Buy enough for the next three days only. I like the habit of having fresh fruits and vegetables available each time I cook. Personally, I would rather drive to/past a store to get what I need than get home and find that my green peppers have soured or vegetables are a little less crisp than I’d like them to be.
I have found that the benefits of only buying fruits/veggies for such a short spurt of time far exceed any inconvenience going to the store may cause me. Every few days, I can get new foods that don’t have that “refrigerated” taste. I can get what’s fresh at the store each time they put out fresh fruits and vegetables and I can buy what I need, when I need it for exactly what I need it for… and, I save money!
Perfect segway into …
I make efforts to avoid leftovers whenever possible – unless the food is just so nice, I gotta have it twice. Being completely honest with myself, leftovers are only good for things – leaving something behind to have for lunch or to avoid cooking the next day.
I started to challenge myself with only allowing main parts of the meals to serve as leftovers. I began measuring out side dishes to avoid leaving random glassware of rice or potatoes au gratin in my fridge. Once I mastered that – a new challenge presented itself. What are you going to do about pastas? Because you definitely eat a lot of that … (that’s me, talking to myself.)
Then I came to understand that if I cooked with intention – the dry goods I did purchase, would last a lot longer. I began to notice, I had fewer leftovers. I was also able to eat freshly cooked foods daily and the amount of food I was wasting decreased significantly.
You know how much you eat and how much those in your family will eat. You can quantify those things. Try to cook just enough for that night. Continue to practice this until you get accustomed to understanding exactly how much you will need. Try utilizing the measurements given on the back of food boxes until you find what works best for your needs and your family’s needs. And if you ever accidently make less, then congratulate yourself for unintentionally avoiding one of the seven deadly sins. Technically, you could end up envying someone for having more than you.. if the dish were to come out really good – but I won’t go there..
Finally, when you’ve done all you can do and that little bunch of green onions is on its last leg. You know, in the back of your mind it won’t make it another two or three days. Use it. Cut them up, integrate foods into dinner somehow, even create a snack! Take the time to use what you have and make it work. I am notorious for having extra tomatoes and cilantro lingering around – and you know what I do? I make salsa..
Randoms like the corner of Philadelphia Smoked Salmon cream cheese spread, I spread on Ritz Crackers, it’s delicious. Anything you can think of, which you will, if you get hungry enough. Get creative and find ways to incorporate them into your meals!
There are amazing benefits to keeping a fridge clean. There’s pride in keeping foods from being condensed and fit snuggly onto that ledge on the second shelf because you’re running out of space. A clean fridge allows a refrigerater to work as it’s supposed to by keeping certain food groups at optimal temperatures. It will also help to keep your food fresher for longer periods of time. Added benefit, your clean fridge will be odor free.
Try to integrate these three simple tips into your lifestyle and watch the difference it makes. Not only in your life, but in the lives of others. As of 2018, 150,000 tons of food is wasted each day in America alone. You can work towards limiting your own food waste by trying the following three things mentioned in this post:
- Prevent over-buying.
- Cook with Intention.
- Get creative and Use it!
Good Luck!! =)