Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stop throwing Cash with the Trash!

In my last blog, I talked about reducing waste to save money. Sometimes budget can be about what you are throwing away. 
My father grew up in Northern Wisconsin. He was one of 12 children and his father passed away when he was 7. My grandmother was legally blind in one eye and could not drive. From what I’ve been told, things weren’t taken for granted and there wasn't this attitude of "excess" that is so prevalent now. I've had enough, if not an abundance, of everything I've ever needed in this life. Sometimes it is good for me to remember that no one is as far from poverty and hunger as they think they are. That said, I’m pretty disgusted at the knowledge that perfectly good food is thrown away because it is not “pretty” enough for retailers. There has got to be a better way. We should all strive to give of ourselves to people who need help with time, and donations of food or funding. But in reality that isn't always possible for everyone. It can be hard to find balance. The best way to make a change is to start in our own homes. Stop the waste of good food, start saving money and when we get to that point where we can do it…start giving back. So let’s start talking about how we stop throwing out cash with the trash…

Expand your meal planning. When making your meal plans, plan for breakfasts, lunches and snacks as well. Planning lunches and snacks instead of going out, buying food in the cafeteria or stalking vending machines will save you money, but CALORIES as well
Make a list! While making a list and meal planning, be sure to go through your pantry, refrigerator and cupboards so you know what you already have. An abundance of an item might mean you change your plans for the next week and use something you already have, or you can cross off an item you don’t need more of. Only buy perishable foods that you’re going to use in the next few days.  
Don’t buy something just to buy it, or just because it is on sale. Grocery stores usually carry the same things, all the time. So unless you’re at a specialty store or a store that you won’t be at again for a few weeks, only buy what you’ll use in a couple of days. On occasion, you’ll come across something that is clearance or a special un-advertised buy. If you can afford it and it will last (in the freezer, for example) then you should consider buying it and having it next week or altering your meal plan to incorporate the sale item. But remember, buying something on sale isn't a deal if half of it ends up in the trash. 
 Invest in reusable food storage. Investing in good food storage solutions will enable you divide up the bulk items you buy into individual containers for freezing (like meat). Dividing things like yogurt means you'll always have a serving size. You also don’t have that inch in the bottom of the container that goes to waste because no one eats it. Storing food properly means you won’t lose things to waste because it wasn't wrapped tightly enough or there was a hole in a package.  
Consider reusing disposable storage. I know people who wash and reuse Ziploc bags, even purchasing special drying racks for them.  I recently learned that you can take labels off of things like butter containers with nail polish remover. I can’t make this work in my household, but if you can then you should.  
Buy in bulk and divide immediately. I do not buy in bulk much as I only have myself to feed and a small freezer. That being said, if you can find a friend to go with you and shop, buying groceries and splitting them really makes the cost much more reasonable. You could also consider splitting the membership fee at a bulk store. Then, divide what you purchased in bulk into smaller, more accessible containers. At the very least, have one container that fits into your cupboards that you can refill from the large bulk container instead of hauling out one giant container every time you use it. You’re more like to use something if it is handy and readily available than if you have to dig around in cupboards or pull out something heavy.  
Rotation makes the world go round, literally. When you buy new product or stock up on something, move what you already have to the front of the cupboard so that the older product gets used first. This is what grocery stores and restaurants do every day. Then you won’t have a forgotten and expired can or box of something in the back of your cupboard.  
Re-purpose leftovers to make new meals or have a leftover night. Use leftover mashed potatoes to top a Shepherd’s pie. Turn leftover chicken into chicken salad sandwiches. If you can’t reuse all of your leftovers by the end of the week, heat them all up and serve them buffet style on a weekend night for a quick, easy meal.  
Understand food labels. Most labels come with “Use By”, “Best Buy” and “Sell By” dates. If you won’t use something by the “Use By” date then you shouldn't buy it. Properly stored items with “Best By” or “Sell By” dates, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, are typically safe to eat for several days after these dates. Another handy tip, when grocery shopping, reach for the stuff in back and purchase products with the latest spoilage dates.

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