Friday, March 16, 2012

Use It Before You Lose It

There is a lot of food waste in America. The average family of four wastes enough food to feed another person for a year. This video clip is a perfect example of what I am talking about. There are things you can do to cut your food waste and save money at the same time.

1. CLEAN OUT YOUR FRIDGE BEFORE YOU SHOP. Each week, I clean out my fridge the day before I go shopping. I pull everything out, one shelf at a time, and clean the shelf and then check expiration dates and look inside containers to see what I have before I put it back. If the milk is close to or over the expiration date, I will plan to make pancakes that week with the rest of it. If I have several yogurts in the fridge that need to be used, I will make a smoothie with the yogurt and some old fruit that needs to be used. After I wipe down the shelf, I put things back according to how soon they need to be used. The things that need to be used first go in the front. If I have veggies that need to be used, I will wash and cut them and put them in containers to use for a stir fry or an omelet. While I clean, I make a mental note of what I have so I don’t buy doubles of what I already have. By going through the fridge before I go shopping, I know exactly what I have and won’t buy things I don’t need. I can assess what I have leftover from the last week, see what I need to use and how soon it needs to be used. One way to keep on top of what is in your fridge is to label leftovers with the date they were made so you won’t have to rely on your memory alone and accidently eat something that has been there much longer than you remembered.

2. FREEZE WHAT YOU CAN’T EAT. If I find leftovers that I can’t use right away, I will freeze them for later and send them for lunches or have them on a busy night. If I got more than I need of something that was on sale, I will chop it up and set aside what I need for the week and freeze the rest for later. By freezing things I can’t use right away, it just gives me more time to integrate them in our menus for the next few weeks. Don’t waste leftovers by just throwing them away each week. Freeze them right away if you won’t be able to use them in the next day or two. I try to use my leftovers the next day for lunches so they don’t sit in the fridge. But, when I make a recipe and we have a lot left, I will just freeze it in meal size portions or single size portions.

3. PLAN MENUS AROUND WHAT NEEDS TO BE USED. As I go through the fridge, I take note of what I have and plan meals for the next week around the things that need to be used up in the fridge. If I have sour cream, I may make a Mexican dinner or make muffins that we really like that use sour cream. If I don’t have enough for a whole recipe, I will make half of the recipe or find something else to make that needs less sour cream. I don’t overbuy and I don’t buy doubles of what I already have because I know exactly what I have from going through the fridge before I shop. I do the same thing with the food in my cupboards, and integrate the food that will expire soon into our menus. If there are foods that spoil more quickly, I will try to make those meals sooner in the week, so the produce doesn’t go bad by the time I am ready to make the recipe.

4. DON’T BUY MORE THAN YOU NEED. By going through my fridge each week, I am more careful in what I buy for the next week. It is easy to buy too much and let things spoil when you don’t know what you already have. I also make sure that I put the new food I buy behind the old food, so the oldest food gets used first. I call it the FIFO rule: First In, First Out.

National “Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day” is November 15th. You don’t have to wait until November to start cleaning out your fridge. You can clean it out weekly, so you can reduce food waste and save yourself money. The grocery budget is one of the largest variable expenses in a month. By staying organized through cleaning out your fridge each week, you will enjoy the financial benefits as well.

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