Are you like me and go out and buy a cabbage for a recipe you’re making? Maybe a bottle of vegetable juice for Instant Pot Manhattan clam chowder? After that item is used, it languishes at the back of the fridge until I notice it’s gone rotten or moldy. Yuck! Chuck that sucker out!
What about dinner leftovers that went bad?
How about that loaf of bread that went stale or moldy before finishing it?
Who else has reached for the package of cheese and found it’s turning blue and green?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve remembered to buy salsa at the grocery store so that I can finally finish off the bag of tortilla chips in my cupboard only to realize they’ve gone stale. Fortunately, I can put that salsa to use in my easy vegetarian Mexican shepherd’s pie!
I hate discovering fridge experiments! Some things just get pushed to the back of the fridge, especially smaller items. Out of sight, out of mind.
How’s this for a statistic? More than a third of the world’s food is wasted.
This is horrible! This is food that could have been eaten! Not only are we throwing away money from our food budget, but when the wasted food ends up in landfills, it creates methane gas that contributes to global warming.
What if you bought that food using a credit card? The food is gone, but the credit card bill is still due.
Here are thirteen tips to help you stop wasting food and wasting money.
1. Only buy what you’ll eat
This one is kind of obvious, but – only buy what you’ll eat. If you think you should eat cottage cheese for the healthier lifestyle you’re planning to live, but you don’t like it, then don’t buy it. Same thing goes if you hear me talking about buying a bag of spinach because it’s cheap and gives me salads for a week. If you don’t like spinach, even after putting salad dressing and other toppings on it, then don’t buy it and doom it to a sad ending of wilting away in your fridge.
2. Don’t buy too many perishables
This loosely follows the buy only what you’ll eat tip. Even if you love cauliflower but can’t eat it all before it turns, then buy a smaller head or the prepackaged florets.
If milk is on sale, look closely at the expire date because it might be within the next couple of days. Unless you have an immediate plan to consume it or bake with it, don’t buy it.
Keep it simple – only buy perishables if you have a purpose for them before they expire/go bad.
I don’t buy meat, but if you buy fresh meat, it has to be consumed within a couple of days before it goes bad. Or, depending on the product, you can freeze it.
Don’t let this happen to you!
So now I’m going to share a story. I was over at my parent’s house back in the early 90s. There was this really bad smell. My father had been unable to find the source. I started searching and went downstairs where the stench was stronger. I checked the freezer thinking maybe it had become unplugged, but it was fine. The smell was very strong. The door to the other room was open, resting against the freezer. I pushed the door to a closing position and saw a plastic shopping bag on the cement floor, with some kind of juice leaking out of it.
“Hey, I found it!” I yelled to my father, and he came downstairs.
Even though he’d searched downstairs before for the smell, he hadn’t pushed the door aside like I did. Inside the bag was a turkey. A rotting turkey. I think it might have been purchased frozen. My father said my mother had bought it a week earlier. We figured she came downstairs to put it in the freezer, put it on the floor to open the freezer lid, and got distracted by something (the phone rang?), and forgot about it.
Yuck! That was one nasty smell!
And yes, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and this was just one of the clues.
3. Buy less
Again, following the above tips, just buy smaller portions or don’t buy it at all. Even if something in bulk is a great deal, if you’re not going to use it up, or store it in your freezer to use later, skip it or find a smaller package.
As a single, sometimes it means passing up the “deals” if you buy two or three of one product. If I want one box of potato chips and it costs $2.79, it really irks me to see a “special deal” to buy three for $5, but the single purchase price doesn’t change. Resist temptation!
I love grapes so much I’m giving them their own paragraph! Grapes are expensive and they can turn soft and mushy in an instant. If you bought grapes and they’re going soft, rinse them in a colander and leave them to dry. Overnight is fine. Once dry, or mostly dry (!), pull the grapes from the stem and put inside a freezer bag. You’ve just invented grapesicles! Very nice. Refreshing, especially in the summer, but don’t be afraid to do eat frozen grapes in the winter. Grapes can turn mushy year round.
5. Freeze it!
I’m single and I’ve discovered I waste less food if I don’t cook so much and freeze the extra portions.
My freezer is stuffed to the gills right now! I have to stop baking and cooking until I eat some of this down! This sounds like a post for another day – eat my pantry!
If you don’t plan to eat them, then don’t do anything to create leftovers. As a single I have to plan ahead when making something to eat. Is this something I can make as a single serving such as potato salad for one? Or am I making something like sweetiepie baked beans that will have several portions? If I’m making something with more than one serving my plan is to eat a portion for my next meal and freeze the rest.
If you don’t plan to eat the leftovers the next day, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it! Overeating is a problem for many people, including me. Either cook single portion meals or freeze the leftovers. I can’t eat two dozen pumpkin chocolate chip muffins before they go bad. I don’t want to pig out, so I freeze them.
7. Doggy bag
Who remembers going to restaurants and asking for a doggy bag to take home the uneaten food? The doggy bag was a container, maybe even just a paper sack, and the presumption was the family dog was going to eat the leftover restaurant food later on.
There’s an old joke at the end of the meal when the dad asked the server for a doggy bag, and all the kids cheered. “Yay! We’re getting a dog!”
These days we’re more than likely to ask for a take out box than a doggy bag, and the dog isn’t going to enjoy the meal later on! Sometimes the restaurant staff packs up the leftover food or they’ll bring you a take out container to do it yourself. This works well for people watching their portion sizes who don’t want to waste money and food when they don’t eat the entire meal.
It also works well if you plan to give the food to the dog. Many times when eating with others and they don’t finish all their food, I’ve asked if they plan on taking home the leftovers. If the answer is no, I always ask if I can take it home for my dogs and no one has ever turned me down. On my trip to Lincoln City, Oregon last year, my dogs polished off the clam chowder in the sourdough bowl that I enjoyed at Lil Sambos.
8. Buy frozen produce
It’s great to have fresh fruits and vegetables in the house, but when you’re looking at items that only have a few days of life in them, see the above rules about buying less or buying only what you can eat before it goes bad. Frozen fruits and vegetables are especially great for singles who can’t eat fresh produce fast enough before it spoils.
9. Stock up on “sturdies”
There are some things you can buy in the produce section that have a longer shelf life. Apples and oranges usually last longer than a week. Same with potatoes and other root vegetables.
The bane of my existence has pretty much been milk going sour before I can drink it. Most of my adult life I’ve purchased skim milk. I’m not much of a milk drinker and I find 2% or anything higher tastes too rich and creamy for me. I used to buy a big jug of milk, then I scaled back to the 2 litre cartons. Then maybe the 1 litre size, which I hate to buy because it’s a better deal per ounce to get a larger size milk.
About ten years ago I started buying Almond Breeze milk that comes in the tetra pack on the shelves of the supermarket. If I have one of those on hand, it works out nicely if I discover the milk has gone sour.
These days I pretty much buy the refrigerated two liter cartons of cashew or almond milk. They have a long shelf life – several weeks. I’ve never had one turn sour on me before I finished drinking it. Yay! Good deal at Walmart, two for $7.
11. Best before/use by
Keep an eye on expiry dates. I’m not just talking about perishable food items. Look in your pantry. Soup and other canned products have a best before date. Depending on the product, you might have to do some research on the difference between best before date and expiry date. Some items are still good to consume for a period of time after that date. I tossed out a box of Bisquick when I realized the date was a couple of years past and after some research online suggested it could be rancid, I tossed it.
Remember the golden rule: when in doubt, throw it out.
The next Bisquick I bought hit the freezer so it’ll last me much longer!
Check your soda pop cans. I never really thought about this but some people swear that pop tastes stale after its best before date. Same with candy. Years ago I remember I had some peanut butter M&Ms. They’d gone stale. One of my co-workers had two little boys and I asked if he’d like to take them home. He said the boys gobbled them down. Less discerning tastes at that age!
12. Use it before you lose it
What can you make before the food spoils? Soup, casseroles, and smoothies are good choices.
13. Out of sight out of mind
I try not to keep too much stuff in my fridge. I have a lot of condiments in the door and the rest of my fridge has milk, iced tea, produce, more condiments (can’t all fit in the fridge door!), margarine, eggs, and yogurt. Maybe leftovers and a few other things. This way I can generally see everything I have on hand. It might look like I have a sparse fridge, but I try not to buy more food than I can eat before it spoils. It’s so easy for some things to get pushed behind larger things and when I find them again, they’re no longer edible. I’m looking at you, lemons, and your habit of rolling behind bigger groceries! Declutter your fridge and you might avoid some of the above mentioned fridge experiments.
When we waste food, we waste money. These might seem like little, simple steps, but when it comes to preventing food wastage, every step, every potato, and every penny counts.
We spend good money on our food, so value it.