6 Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
Creating meals for your family takes a lot of time, money and effort. Menu planning, shopping and cooking make up a large part of the week, as well as your family’s budget. At the end of the week do you find yourself throwing a lot of food away…and with it much of the time and money that you’ve spent? Here are 6 ways to reduce food waste and save money.
Plan before you Shop
One way to reduce waste and save money is by planning your meals for the week before going shopping. Make a list of each of the meals that you’ve planned and the items that you need to make each one. Then use an free online coupon database to print off relevant coupons as well as sales fliers to help you decide what combination of stores will be best for you to visit as you work to fulfill your list.
One word of caution to shopping for stores’ sales: If you have to travel a great distance to save a small amount on one item, the cost of gas to get to the store may not make your trip worth the effort. Weigh your savings with time and travel expenses when deciding on where you will do your shopping.
Buy Only What You Need
If you’ve planned your meals before you head to the store, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need (and what you don’t.) Sticking to your list is essential if trying to minimize the amount of food that will get thrown away. Don’t let yourself buy snacks, desserts, etc. just because they sound good.
Are you guilty of impulse buying at the grocery? Make sure to head to the store right after you’ve eaten. The hungrier you are, the more that will look good to you as you’re perusing the aisles.
Don’t Fall for Sales
Not all grocery store sales are as wonderful as they sound. If you find that you can get 2 of an item for a lesser price per item (such as 2/$3.00 or $2.00 each for cream cheese) think about if you really feel that you’ll use 2 between the time of purchase and the expiration date. While the sale price does seem enticing, if there is little chance of you using more than one, you are just paying an extra dollar to throw away an unopened item.
Carefully Check Freshness Dates (before buying)
Not all stores are good at removing expired food from their shelves. Before you purchase items (especially those that are less common) look carefully at the expiration dates printed on the packaging. Make sure that you’ll have time to finish the item before it expires.
Similar to the idea of shopping for sales, sometimes it pays to get smaller packages, even if they appear more expensive. In the case of milk, eggs, etc. getting a greater amount may be a lesser price per item (for example a half gallon of milk for $3.00 or a gallon for $4.00) but if you know that you won’t finish more than a half gallon before it goes bad, go with the lesser amount. It will save you money while making less food waste.
If you’ve made a meal and not finished the leftovers, you may want to consider freezing them, rather than letting them spoil. Unfinished leftovers can be great for quick individually packaged meals to take to work for lunches. Simply package them in single serving leftover containers and pop into the freezer. You may want to also write the date on a piece of tape and place it on the container, as even in the freezer food will spoil over time.
Be Creative with your Cooking/Baking
As you’re getting ready to cook or bake, take a look at the ingredients that you have and try to build from there. Do you have bananas that are looking pretty ripe? Then they’re perfect for banana bread or muffins. Do you have a bunch of veggies that are going to have to be tossed pretty soon (if not eaten?) Then soup or salad could be on the menu for dinner. Rather than allowing food to spoil, incorporate it into your meals.
Do you know of other ways to reduce food waste and save money? Please share some of your ideas!