Saving Money on the Grocery Bill: Reducing Food Waste.

Reducing Food Waste, Part 1

I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a series of posts about how to cut your food bill without sacrificing healthfulness, and am finally getting around to it.  Today we’re going to start with reducing food waste.

Americans throw away 1/3-1/2 of the food produced in this country.  Food waste for most homes is 25-50%, depending on which study you look at.   If your family spends $200 a week on food, and you’re throwing 25-50% of it away, you are essentially throwing out $50-100 a week.  There are myriad reasons this is bad, from costing money to just being plainly a bad use of resources to having far more environmental impact than we’d need to if we were more careful consumers.  But, what we’re concerned with here is the cost.

I. Plan your meals.

I harp on this continually, I know, but it really is one of the biggest ways to cut down on food waste.  How many times do you buy something with the best intentions, then not use it before it goes bad? How often do you need only a part of the total quantity of an ingredient for a recipe, and have nothing to do with the remainder? Planning meals allows you to deal with these issues, and can dramatically reduce food waste.

When you do your meal plan, look at your recipes and ingredient lists to determine if you’re going to have leftover ingredients. Does that bean salad recipe call for only half a can of chickpeas? What are you going to do with the other half? Well, if you’re planning the meals, then you can use them later in the week in a different way, such as hummus or as an addition to a stew, instead of letting them sit in the refrigerator to go bad.

When I mention “planning meals” to people, I get so many excuses that my head starts to hurt: “Oh, but we prefer to eat spontaneously!,” “But, I don’t have time!” Etc. If you don’t want to save money on groceries, don’t plan. But if you do, you’ve got to stop making excuses. You either spend the time making the plan or you spend the money throwing food away. You either realize that eating spontaneously is causing food waste (and often a huge eat-out budget, as well) and learn to eat in a slightly more planned way, or come to grips with the grocery bill as is.  Changes don’t happen without changes.

We’re going to talk more again, later, about other ways meal planning will reduce your food bill. All around, it’s the best tool in for frugal and healthy cook’s tool box.

Tomorrow, more on how to save money by reducing your food waste!

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