David Bakke is a single dad and small business owner living in Atlanta, and writes about money-saving tips on the popular blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance.
photo credit: sushiboy
There’s much you could do with $1,200 – for instance, you could make a mortgage payment or a few months of car payments, or pay your annual auto insurance premium. Unfortunately, each year the average American household spends that much on food that eventually spoils or goes unused. Given that the average family spends $700 per month on groceries, that means a whopping 14% of all consumables purchased end up in the trash.
Even though you’ve probably thrown out wilted lettuce or spoiled meat before, with a little planning and common sense, you can dramatically reduce the amount of food you toss each year. Check out these five ways to keep your pantry stocked and your garbage can empty:
1. Organize Your Refrigerator and Pantry
Consider reorganizing your pantry by designating shelves for pasta, canned items, and dry goods. This ensures that you can find items more easily – plus, having items in plain sight can inspire some magic in the kitchen. Also, a better organized fridge can make it easier to open and close drawers, lift out heavy items like gallon jugs, and keep everything sterile.
2. Freeze Your Leftovers
Cooking big meals is a great way to save time in the kitchen – but you’ve got to make sure you eat or freeze your leftovers before they spoil. Make sure to leave sufficient space in your freezer though, and don’t freeze any items unless you’re certain you have room. You don’t want to end up throwing food out for lack of space.
3. Plan Your Shopping Trips
The best way to plan your meals effectively is to create a short menu for the week, and then make a list of the ingredients you will need each day. Check out your pantry and fridge to determine what you need to buy. Remember, it’s okay to stock up on non-perishables, especially if they’re on sale – but think twice about stocking up on produce since it’s quicker to go bad.
4. Plan Portions More Efficiently
You can protect against having too much unwanted food by preparing yourself a smaller portion for each meal. If you’re still hungry afterward, complement your meal with a piece or two of fruit. Not only are you saving money, you’re also on the path to a healthier diet. And if you’re still hungry, don’t be embarrassed to polish off your kids’ meals if they don’t finish.
5. Be Creative With Leftovers
If the fruit in your kitchen is becoming overripe, chop it up and run it through the food processor. Add some milk or yogurt and you’ve got a delicious smoothie. Be creative – your overripe bananas can be used to make fresh banana bread, and aged carrots can be roasted and put on salads or in soups. Use any older beans or meats to make a hearty minestrone soup, or mix it up with some angel hair pasta for pasta primavera.
Another great reason to start reducing your food waste is that food prices are likely to increase in the near future. Because of the recent droughts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts retail food could rise as much as 4% in 2013 – so start planning now to reduce your wasted food. You wallet will thank you.
What other ways can you think of to reduce food waste?