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Friday, March 12, 2010

Frugal Friday: Food Waste = Money Wasted

It's common sense really. You should only spend your hard earned money on things that you are actually going to use. Food is one of them. We don't go to the grocery store and pick up a head of lettuce thinking "I want to spend $1 on you so I can throw you away next week." We actually intend to use it.

Life gets in the way though. You forget to use up that head of lettuce so by the time you remember it you find it all soggy in a mess of brown liquid at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Yum! I admit that I am no expert in preventing food waste, I am only an expert in food waste. I am working on getting to the point where I can open the fridge and know what is in there and when it needs to be used up and figure out a way to use it up before it gets bad.

I am one of those people who puts off cleaning out the fridge too long so that by the time I do get around to it I find expired cartons of yogurt in the back, shriveled up carrots in the vegetable drawer, blue cheese in the meat drawer (when I never bought blue cheese!), and odds and ends that could have seriously been put to use had I just remembered they were in there. That waste adds up. A carton of yogurt here and a package of vegetables there probably adds up to $5 or more a month. What a waste!

I am no better when it comes to leftovers. I really should follow the lead of my mother-in-law when it comes to saving every little bit of leftovers from meals. Have a few spoonfuls of green beans left? Stick them in the fridge to add to your plate later in the week. Have some rice left over in the bottom of the pan? Stick it in the fridge! But I'm bad. I rebel. I'm lazy. If it is less than a full serving left, I often figure it isn't worth digging out a storage container (which then will need washed later). I just feed it to the dogs.

My goal is to become more observant about the food that goes to waste and try to cut it out almost completely. One tip is throwing any leftovers such as small servings of vegetables, meat, and even rice into a bag in the freezer and once full using it to make a pot of soup. Little servings of things can also be pulled out and served to a toddler or child for lunch. It's fun for them to have a big variety of food on a plate for them.

Another goal? To get the refrigerator cleaned and organized this week and then taking stock several times weekly to make sure we are using up everything before it goes to waste. Buying food only to throw it away just doesn't make sense...or cents.

What do you do to avoid food waste in your house?


  1. My mum used to do the soup thing. Every Saturday night we had a big pot of soup - what sort it was depended on what leftovers were in the fridge. Delicious!

  2. Great blog! I thought I was the only one who wasted food and hated cleaning the fridge! I do my grocery shopping with such good intentions, but too many times, i just get too tired to cook!

  3. I try to clean my refrigerator out about once every month or so. Now I know that sounds like a lot but it actually isn't. When you clean it that often it only takes about 15-20 minutes each time.

    I do save every leftover. I have one shelf in my refrigerator designated the "leftover" shelf. This is the first place I go to look for lunch for my son and I. If I see it accumulating too many containers I have a "left over" dinner night. I just pull everything out and each member of the family gets to choose what the want to eat for that night. It really has cut down on waste - which I love.

  4. I think everyone has this happen, especially when there is more than one person trying to "use up" what's in there!

    I followed a link here, and I'm not sure how. I read your earlier post and wanted to suggest a site: flylady.net It's all about not getting hung up on things being perfect. She offers fantastic advice about how to keep your house without having it be overwhelming. Maybe you're one of those super-organized people? I don't know, but I'm not :) I needed someone to point me in the right direction. What made me think of her was that basically, you "clean out" your fridge the day before grocery shopping. Makes sense, no? Good luck!

  5. The Mommy-
    Yes, I have subscribed to theflylady and even have her book. Her advice is great but I've fallen off the wagon so many times. I guess I need to jump back on.
    I wish I was one of those super organized people. I'm trying to get there. :) But the suggestion of cleaning out the fridge before the weekly grocery shopping makes sense. I'll try that.

  6. Wow so glad to hear it isn't just me. I have recently gotten into the habit of putting single serving leftovers right into the freezer to take as lunches. This saves me from forgetting them in the fridge. I think I have some slimy lettuce and spinach in the fridge now actually...Urgh! And something REALLY bad...last week I found a tupperware WAY in the back of the fridge. It contained spinach dip from BOXING DAY! And surprisingly, it was not growing! Good ole tupperware.

  7. I, too, am so bad about food waste. I love the idea of putting small servings into the freezer. I have started putting leftover stews and soups in jars then directly into the freezer. This way I don't have to worry about it going bad and they reheat so easily. But I still need to get better about produce...

  8. Oh yeah, we've all found that brown slimy lettuce and the black cool whip LOL

    When we first got married, I'd put all the night's leftover in a plate for hubby to have a hot lunch at work, now I must admit, many times they just get tossed or fed to the dogs :( I need to work on this as well. And my goal this week was to clean out the fridge, but here it is Friday and it's not done!

    I find what helps the most as far as 'forgetting' about food that needs to be used (how often do you look in your drawers in your fridge??) is planning a menu. I have a post on my blog on how I do it http://theskinnywallet.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/money-saving-tip-plan-a-menu/ with a link to some free grocery list software I SWEAR by for staying on a budget!

    It does take time. A LOT of time at first, but the more you do it, the less time it will take, and it saves money.

    I do the freezer bag thing for soup too. I consider that pot of soup "free food" cause it is stuff that would have just been throw out.

  9. I so agree with you. I have a hard time remembering to clean the fridge out too. We do pretty good with leftovers though just the cleaning part.

  10. Hi girls, Yes, I too am guilty of food waste, especially that yucky slimy lettuce! But I have been getting a LOT better at cutting down on waste. Yes I have planned menus, I do keep a running list of contents of my freezer and keep a watchful eye on the fridge. Clearing out the contents of the fridge before shopping is very useful for cutting down on waste and over spending.

    I batch cook whenever possible and believe it or not... this actually cuts down on waste. Make use of your slow cooker for this... save on fuel, doesn't heat the house up and is less time consuming. There are only 3 of us in the house these days. So I automatically put 3 servings into a container and freeze or refridgerate (depending on when we want them.) I often have 3 meals worth of stew minus potatoes, soup, chilli, spaghetti sauce, etc. stocked in the freezer as 'ready meals'. If there happens to be leftovers from a meal then one of us takes it for lunch the following day. This is gradually cutting down on our waste. It also saves money. Hubs takes homemade soup rather than a can... it's cheaper. Leftover spaghetti and meat sauce not only tastes better, he knows what's in it and it saves the cost of a can of his favourite pasta.
    If we do have leftovers like bread/rolls... I simply blitz in my little food processor... pop in a container and into the freezer. Ready made bread crumbs! No more throwing out, no more furry little bits and it's convenient.
    Now I know you can't freeze lettuce but you can prepare certain vegetables and freeze these. Peppers often bought on sale, are cleaned, chopped and frozen in bags, ready for when I will need them. You could also chop that bit of leftover onion and freeze in a bag. Don't use all of a can of tomatoes? Into a small container and freeze. Word of warning about all this freezing... keep close tabs on what you have in there, keep a list and you should be able to throw together a simple dish with many of these.



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