In the United States, it is common to buy foods and forget about them or decide not to eat. Either way, it is wasting food, which is also losing money and adding more waste to garbage cans and landfills. But by making a few changes around your kitchen, and in your everyday routine, you can reduce food costs and food waste so that you can enjoy the foods you purchase and not have to worry about food spoilage.
Some tips for reducing food costs may come more naturally to you than others. However, by just becoming more aware of your food consumption, you are already drastically reducing your food costs.
Meal Planning and Preparation
The easiest way that you can reduce food costs around the home is to plan your meals and prepare some or all of your meals ahead of time. Not only does this help you to eat healthier foods, but it also avoids prevents ordering last-minute takeout meals, which can be costly and unhealthy. It also allows you to eat more of the foods that you have in your kitchen since you know that all of the meals you have prepared are among your favorites. When preparing a grocery list for the week, you should note which days that week you plan to eat out, if any. That way all of the meals that you propose will be eaten and will not result in an abundance of food going to waste. You should also keep a list of the meals that you and your family like to eat, along with ingredients and quantities, that way you know that you are cooking meals that you and your family will enjoy and that will be eaten time and time again. Ideally, this will cause your household to eat more leftovers and result in less food waste in your trashcan.
Another way to save time and money, plan at least one night a week for you and your family to eat leftovers. By eating leftovers, you are guaranteeing that all the food that you have prepared for that week are being consumed and that little is going to waste. Leftovers from dinner can also be used for lunch the following day. That way, you will eat healthier, save food-prep time and overall, save money. Planning your meals ahead of time will allow you to establish a household budget, as you can approximate how much you need to spend each week or month on groceries.
Create an Inventory of Ingredients From Your Kitchen
Now that you have decided what you are going to cook for the week, you must do an inventory of your kitchen and pantry to make sure that the items on your grocery list are not already purchased and sitting in your kitchen waiting to be used. It is easy to overlook what foods and ingredients that you already have in your kitchen, which makes buying duplicate food items a common occurrence. If you find items in your kitchen that you need for your food prep, make sure that you have enough quantity of each. The same goes for the new items on your shopping list. You want to make sure that you have written down the amounts for each item to make sure that you do not purchase an item unnecessarily or forget to get an important ingredient. You are ultimately saving yourself from a second grocery run or throwing duplicate food items in the trash.
Follow Your Grocery List
After you have written your grocery list and you are ready to go grocery shopping, make sure that you bring a list with only the items that you need to cook that week’s meals. By doing this, you will stay away from impulse purchases, which are usually unhealthy and pricey. Similarly, avoid shopping for food when you are hungry. You are likely to make impulse purchases that will increase your food costs.
Tips for Meal Prepping
After you have purchased all of the food items on your grocery list, go ahead and prepare the perishable food items. Prepping meals with fresh ingredients that you have just purchased will reduce the amount of food waste in your house. You can prepare the perishable foods for meals and snacks by washing and drying them, then placing them in storage containers in your refrigerator or pantry. Taking the time when you first get home from the grocery store to prep fresh foods may not be a task you want to do right away. However, you are making it easier for you to prepare a snack or meal later in the week, which will save time, effort and money. You will be thankful for prepared foods after a busy day at work or driving the kids to and from school.
Follow Proper Food Storage Techniques
When you buy foods at the grocery store, fresh fruits and vegetables may seem appealing and healthy, and you may add a large quantity to your shopping cart. But when you get home and are in a hurry for a snack or need to throw together a quick meal, peeling fruit or cooking vegetables may seem too time-consuming. As a result, you may find rotten fruits and vegetables weeks later at the back of your refrigerator. To avoid letting foods spoil, make sure that you know how to store them to keep them fresh. By doing this, the fruits and vegetables will last longer which means that you will have a higher chance of eating them. If you purchase fruits or vegetables on sale and you are now worried that you will not be able to eat them before they spoil, try freezing them for a quick snack later. By freezing fruits and vegetables, you may save yourself a grocery trip, which will reduce food costs and time. Some types of produce release gases that can cause other fruits or vegetables to go bad faster, so it is important that you make sure you store your produce properly to avoid or minimize this effect.
Freeze Prepared Foods for a Later Time
Once your meals are prepared, you can store them in your refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. If you want to reduce even more time that you spend in the kitchen, you can prep meals and freeze them for future meals. Take advantage of your freezer by freezing foods so when you are ready for a comfortable and home cooked dinner that is a favorite among the family, all you have to do is a quick defrost in the microwave or oven. This is an excellent way to save money as a parent, as reducing food waste and expenses will allow you to save money and invest in your child’s future expenses, such as education or clothing.