Friday, July 11

Eating Well on a Budget Series - Part 5 - Avoiding Waste

A huge part of keeping food costs down is to not be wasteful.

I'm going to make the wild assumption that most of us do not consider ourselves wasteful. It's a relative term, and surely there are people who waste more than I do, just as there are many people who do not waste nearly as much as I do. The same can be said for you as well. I do believe it would be safe to say we could all be a little bit better at not wasting our food.

According to , 40% of the food in the U.S. is wasted. That's not only heartbreaking, it's also expensive.

I do my best to clean out our refrigerator once a week. My goal for each of these sessions is to be able to clean my fridge without having to throw anything out. I find myself making a lot of lunches each week that consist of little bits of this and little bits of that. It may not be exactly what I'm desiring at that given moment, but I think that's a good habit to form. There are very few places across the globe where people can eat exactly what they want, when they want and how they want it. We are fortunate enough to live in one of those few places and it's nice to be reminded of that and appreciate it from time to time. Don't get me wrong, I believe food should be enjoyed, and the process of eating should be a shared event whenever possible.

An added bonus to not wasting food is less garbage. In our community, we pay for garbage pick up and have a choice of either paying a flat monthly fee or per bag. When we first moved here, we figured out that we would save money every month in garbage pick up if we were able to keep our waste to one bag per week. It's not a huge savings, I estimate over the last 10 years it has saved us about $800 total. But it's more than just saving a few dollars, it's also leaving a smaller footprint on the earth. We have successfully been able to maintain that one bag of trash a week goal, even with the birth of three children and the addition of a few pets over the years. Sometimes we only have one bag every other week.

If you do your best to only buy what you need, and to use up every little scrap of what you have, you will likely be rewarded with extra money in your pocket.

Here are a few ways to avoid extra waste...
  • Freeze your vegetable scraps until you fill up a gallon sized bag and then use to make soup stock.
  • Use your coffee grounds as an exfoliant for your skin, or use them in your garden. Here's a link.
  • Save the heel of your loaves of bread in the freezer. You can use them to make bread pudding, bread crumbs, or croutons once you have enough.
  • If you're making a recipe that uses only egg whites, save the yolks and make something like lemon curd or a custard.
  • Save the whey that separates from your yogurt by pouring it into a container with the date written on top. Keep adding the little bits of it to that same container until the expiration date on the original package has been reached or up to two weeks for homemade yogurts. You can use this for fermenting, or add it to smoothies, or in place of some of the water in bread recipes.
  • Blanch and then freeze veggies before they turn if you won't use them up fast enough.
  • Chop up and freeze fruit before it turns if you won't use it up fast enough.
  • Save and freeze the small scraps of meat that are not enough for another meal, to use in a casserole or fried rice.
  • When you make a pie crust, save the discarded bits, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar and bake them for the kids to snack on as a treat.
  • Experiment with different homemade granolas to use up nuts, seeds and dried fruits that have been hiding in the cabinet for too long.
This by no means covers everything you can do to save on waste, every family is different and uses different things. I would love to hear of some creative ways you use up what you have to avoid waste.
Have a great day!

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