Are you a wannabe frugal? Tired of throwing away unused produce in the green bin? Fed up of spending hundreds of dollars on ordering food at the last-minute because your refrigerator was empty? Would you like to start saving money in your kitchen?
If you answered any of the above questions with a yes, you are at the right place. Trust me, these won’t hurt your taste buds, wallet or the environment. They are completely frugal, small changes which will save you big bucks in the long run.
Steps to saving money and reducing food wastage in the kitchen
No one wastes food deliberately, especially when it is so expensive. However, poor meal planning and unawareness of food present in the pantry is often the main cause of such wastage. Sometimes, to solve a problem, the first and the most important step is to identify that there is one. So the first step is,
Monitor and identify wastage
I monitored what I threw the most and when. I then calculated the amount of money I lost on a weekly basis. It is a small but very important step. I realized that I was throwing lettuce, organic baby spinach, strawberries/watermelon/cantaloupe, tomatoes and leftovers which contained expensive spices and some more vegetables. On a weekly basis, I was throwing away at least 20 CAD which is 80 CAD per month. Yikes. It helps to know how much money goes waste due to poor planning.
Last summer a friend of mine introduced me to this app. It helps save bucks. It is super easy; you can choose to include/exclude whichever store you want to. It helps to consolidate and go through all the store flyers in one app. You can also circle the item you like and add it to the shopping list. You can get clippings of coupons and email them for printing. The main reason I use this is to note down the items on sale and then incorporate them in the next step below.
Meal plan and make a grocery list
Once I know what is on sale this week, I check my pantry. This helps me know whether I can use that item in the meal plan, freeze it for later use or store it. There are innumerable printable lists available online to make life simpler. You can also use apps to do the same. But I prefer using my good old notebook. I meal plan for the week. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to eat with tea). The knowledge of what you have is the what makes the meal planning faster and easier.
Once per week and don’t go empty stomach
There are weeks when I meal plan right out of my pantry. No grocery trip. Yuppie. On other days I do not enter the grocery store without a list. If it’s not on the list it is not bought. I also factor in the tax in my grocery list so that I do not cross my weekly budget of 100CAD. I avoid going to the grocery store more than once a week and I carry the trolley bag I purchased a year back from Longos. It was expensive, but it is totally worth it. It helps me get everything in one trip and assists me to avoid using plastic. Every time you make an unplanned visit to the grocery store you will come back home with impulsive purchases . If you have the first two steps done correctly, then this would not be an issue. Next thing is, grocery shop after a meal, the walk will aid in digestion and will prevent you from buying ready to eat (expensive and unhealthy) items from the store just for the sake of craving. I go grocery shopping on Sunday mornings after a heavy breakfast. Once I come back I sort everything and start pre-prep for the meals. This includes mainly making portions and storing fruits and meats, which brings us to the next step.
Use mason jars and store produce correctly
This one I recently discovered. Sometimes wastage is caused due to simple reasons like not knowing how to store the produce (tomatoes stay longer outside instead of inside the refrigerator) or not knowing the best storage container. I have realized that sliced strawberries and grapes stay fresh the longest in mason jars. You don’t need to rush to the store and buy new ones. You can use the empty ones from jams, pasta sauce, and other preserves. Just make sure you dry them in sunlight if you are using them to store dry spices or grains. You can use paper towels to wrap lettuce and herbs like coriander/cilantro (if you aren’t keeping their roots submerged in water) before storing them in glass containers or reusable take out containers to prolong their freshness. Meats are cut into portions and frozen in zip-lock freezer bags or as whole if I am planning to cook in bulk.
These are the first five steps to a frugal kitchen. Hope they help you get started. Stay tuned for the remaining five. See you soon!!