Did you know that the average household throws away an estimated 15% of the food that comes into the kitchen? If you spend $100 a week on food, that means you’re throwing away $15 a week, $60 a month, and a whopping $720 per year. And it could be a lot more. Not only is this wasteful but it’s bad for your budget. Just think of what you could do with that money! Luckily, there are tons of ways to get a handle on your food waste and save some money in the process. Here are some strategies you should definitely put into effect.
1. Go Euro. We have a tendency to plan our meals for the week, buying all of the ingredients in one fell swoop. But this can be problematic in terms of food waste because fresh items may go bad before the week is out and many nights, overworked parents end up ordering takeout instead of going to the added trouble of making a meal after a long day at work. So take a page from the European playbook. Traditionally, Europeans tend to visit their local, neighborhood market daily to get whatever fresh items they need for their meals. This is a great policy that not only ensures variety and that your foods are at the peak of freshness, but also that there is less food waste from spoilage.
2. Cook in bulk. If you have a lot of extra food in your fridge and you fear it will go bad, simply cook enough for several meals and freeze it in the serving sizes you prefer. When you need a quick meal, all you have to do is thaw and heat your frozen meals. It’s an easy and economical way to use your food instead of letting it go to waste and it makes for easy meals on nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.
3. Make smoothies and sauces. If your fresh produce has a tendency to go bad, consider that there are uses for fruits and veggies that have gotten a little too ripe to look appetizing. So long as they’re not moldy or melting, many fruits and vegetables can be made into delicious smoothies with milk, soymilk, juice, or even water as a base. And if you want a cool and healthy treat for the kids, pour your smoothie into popsicle molds (you can order them on Amazon). As for other veggies, consider steaming them, throwing them in the food processor, and then simmering to make delicious pasta sauces that you can save for later. Produce could also be canned and jammed for later use or to give away as gifts.
4. Host a potluck. Rather than throw food away because you accidentally bought more than you ended up using this week, invite family and friends for a potluck. You can use up all the extra ingredients in your kitchen before they spoil and your guests can provide side dishes or dessert.
5. Use what you’ve got. Every so often, say once a week, it pays to go through your fridge and pantry to see what you’ve got and figure out how to use it in a timely manner. Whether you want to spice up your leftovers or you’ve got a bunch of random ingredients, you can find ways to turn them into appetizing meals with a little creativity. Instead of ordering pizza for dinner, pull out your fondue sets, get some sauces bubbling, and use them for dipping extra veggies and leftovers from the week. Or use a website like Supercook.com or MyFridgeFood.com that allows you to enter ingredients from your kitchen in order to find recipes that you can make with them. You’ll use up anything that might go bad and save some money in the process.