With the cost of food continually rising these days, wasting food is as good as throwing your hard-earned money away. If you want to maximize your food budget and utilize all of your ingredients in the most efficient way, a little planning goes a long way.
First of all, when you make your grocery list, try to meal plan at the same time. Shopping the sales and using coupons will also help keep your expenses down. Try to alternate recipes based upon what the best sales are and also cook a variety of different meals, rather than the same ones which can get boring after a while. Also, check to see what you have in stock in your pantry and fridge so you don’t end up buying what you don’t need. One exception is, if there’s a good sale stocking up on items you use frequently can save money on your overall grocery budget.
Once you’ve established your shopping list and meal plans, set a cooking schedule based upon what fresh ingredients have the shortest shelf life. Check “use by” dates to make sure you utilize any particular ingredient before it spoils. The next tip is to cook just what you need for the meal. In other words, don’t make so much that you’ll end up throwing half out. Some of the best planned leftovers often go to waste, either by forgetting to use them, or throwing them out to make room for new items.
If you do have leftovers, another tip is to try to create a new and different meal from the ingredients. For example, if you have leftover grilled chicken you could make chicken salad, a soup or a pot pie with it. If you have leftover baked potatoes, you could make home fries with a breakfast omelet. Then you’ll have a new and exciting meal with ingredients you made good use of and got your money’s worth from.
If you don’t have a way to re-purpose leftovers, freezing is an option, if you actually use it. A good rule of thumb is to use refrigerated leftovers within 5 days or less and frozen leftovers within 6 months. Keep a list on your refrigerator so it’s in plain sight and note the storage date on the list as well as the date to use it by. It’s also a good idea to label your leftovers with what the contents are and what date you stored them. A set of freezer safe containers, freezer bags and a roll of masking tape with a Sharpie® marker are all you need to stay organized and store your leftovers properly.
You can also set reminders on your smart phone or tablet to alert you to something that needs to be eaten or frozen. Keep in mind, once you defrost food, you shouldn’t generally re-freeze it unless it’s something like puff pastry dough, but always check the package instructions to be certain. When all else fails, you could also offer some of your leftovers to neighbors in need or just as a kind gesture. Most neighborhoods have a community social media page, such as Facebook. In difficult times, it couldn’t hurt to help someone out by treating them to some of your delicious home cooking!
Ann is a professional writer who brings dedicated experience having written international and domestic news, blogs, and web content for over 20 years. She’s also a published poet and graphic designer with degrees in Business and Graphic Communications and has been a music distributor, music industry sponsorship sales director and band manager.