The Best Way to Save on Your Food Bill

by admin on May 18, 2011

The average North American wastes 650 pounds of food per year.  This staggering figure is according to an article from Business Insider, in which they examined a study recently published by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This is not the first study to confirm this level of waste.  The New York Times published an article a few years ago with similar findings.

All of this is not consumer waste, but would you believe 250 pounds a year can be attributed to food that we simply throw away?  I don’t know about you, but I find this disturbing and simply unacceptable.  I blame Costco.

OK, I don’t blame Costco, but there is something to be said for buying in small enough quantities that you don’t end up throwing so much away.  Living a waste-free life is something we should all strive for anyway.  Not only does it save money, but it helps to preserve our natural resources and conserve energy.  After all, that stuff doesn’t just materialize at the grocery store.  Someone has to plant it, water it, harvest it, package it and transport it to the store.

So how do you prevent this problem of wasted food?  You can start by figuring out where you are wasting.  Simply pay attention.  Do you throw away food that has spoiled or gone stale?  Do you cook huge meals that end up with significant portions in the trash can?  I can plead guilty to these things, and I am generally careful about wasting anything, literally right down to my shoes.

Here are some specific steps you can take to minimize this.

Ease off on the groceries.  Is your refrigerator overflowing with who-knows-what?  Are you continually discovering long lost mysteries and science projects in there?   Are items stacked so deep that you can’t glance inside the fridge and see what’s inside?  These are signs of over-stocking.  Perishable items are the ones most likely to be thrown out, and if they are out of sight, they are out of mind.

Make more trips to the store.  That may sound counterproductive, and maybe it is for many, but if the grocery store is near your home, or on the way home from work, you should strongly consider this tactic.  Planning is a good thing, and we will cover that as well, but in my world plans go awry a lot more than I think they will.  Things come up, people get sick, friends call, you have to stay late for work, the grill runs out of propane at the most inopportune time.  You name it, it will happen sooner or later.  My point here is this.  If you plan a week’s worth of meals and go shopping on Sunday–if your world is like mine–by Wednesday your “plan” is completely worthless.  I sometimes write down my plan at the beginning of the week, and I then going to the grocery store several times during the week.  The big bonus by using this method is that your food is fresher, and therefore better, and of course less likely to spoil before you use it.

Plan ahead.  You can plan a week’s supply of food and shop accordingly.  I never do a week of perishables at a time, though, due to my multiple-trips-to-the-store and plans-never-work-out theories.  But still, I do plan ahead.  I just hold off on the meats, fish and vegetables part.  If you plan ahead you are less likely to just start picking up items off the shelves.  Your grocer no doubt loves this approach, but that doesn’t mean you should.  I also make plans using items in the freezer for later in the week, and take it out to thaw the night before using it.  This way when the inevitable monkey wrench falls into your best laid plans, you can just move the meals back a day and keep the stuff in the freezer.

Keep a list at home.  When you run out of something, or close to running out, put that item on the list.  That way when you are ready to shop, you can fill the orders and not leave yourself in short supply of necessary items.  No one likes to run out of milk at the wrong time, right?

Don’t be tempted by bulk savings.  I love Costco, but not for perishables unless you know you are going to use them right away.  If that is the case, I love Costco even more.  Having friends over?  Great!  But if you have a family of two or three, you should probably stay away from those double-super-size containers of food.  It’s not a bargain if you throw it in the trash.

Don’t shop when you are hungry.  George Carlin had another theory (at the 3:35 mark, fair warning, there is language in there), but he was kidding, I think.  If you shop when you are hungry, you will end up with all kinds of stuff, and you will subsequently end up tossing out all kinds of stuff, so at least have a little snack before you go.

If you follow these guidelines, you will save money, eat better food and help save the planet.  Bon appétit!

 

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