This post is mainly to get my own butt in gear regarding food waste, but I think many of you could benefit from it as well! Or at least input some valuable tips for those of us that need some help! 🙂
These days it’s essential to save money on groceries, so here are five tips to make the most of your food and minimize food waste.
5 Ways to Waste Less in the Kitchen
Use what you buy
A very obvious tip, but I too often find produce or other time sensitive ingredients sitting in my fridge on their very last legs. There are some days at the grocery store when I purchase something because it looks good and is on sale. Yes, a spur of the moment purchase, thinking that I can transform it into some tasty meal or snack during the week. The key here, with these purchases, is that I actually have to use the ingredient! So if I don’t have a particular purpose in mind when I buy it, I quite often find it sitting in the fridge rotting away. One way I’d like to help myself with this is to do something with the item right away. Maybe it’s a giant bag of carrots that I could cut up into sticks for easy snacking throughout the week!
Learn to use the ingredients you have
An important factor in my success with using these spur of the moment purchases is learning how to use them. Especially if they’re a bit more unique. I once used a coupon for a free tub of Greek yogurt with the intention of using it in some muffins. But, never having used, or tasted Greek yogurt before, I was unsure if it would be a good replacement for regular plain yogurt. I asked the wonderful people at our Simply Frugal Facebook page how I’d make out if I used it. They convinced me it would be wonderful and even healthier for us! That day, I learned some great tips about a product that was unfamiliar to me.
There are many websites out there that allow you to input an ingredient you have on hand, then generate a meal based on your input! Check out SuperCook.com, All Recipes ingredient search, and Kraft Canada.
Make the most of older food
If some of your produce is starting to show its age, don’t throw it out, simply salvage what you can! This is probably the area I fall the hardest. I have intentions of turning that soft apple into apple sauce, but making it happen is another story. I get lazy 🙁
Here are some suggestions to make the most of older food:
- Cut around the bad parts
- Turn stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs
- Make apple sauce out of soft apples
- Puree tomatoes into sauce or salsa
- Brown bananas are the best for smoothies or baking
- Old vegetables can be used in soups or stews
- One bad potato in the bag? Weed out the rotten produce so you don’t contaminate the rest of the lot!
Know what you have
Knowing exactly what you have on hand can save you tons in the grocery budget. Make an effort to regularly go through the contents of your fridge and freezer so that nothing slips by unnoticed. Store things in clear containers so you can see the exact contents at a glance. Label your freezer food well. Learning to store your produce properly will also ensure nothing goes to waste before you have a chance to use it!
Use the freezer
By now you might have noticed that I’m a big fan of using our freezer. Here are my favourite ways to fill it up with extra food:
- Freeze any dinner leftovers to make for a super simple meal on a rushed night
- Put all the end bits of vegetables in a freezer bag to make broth once the bag is full
- Take advantage of local, seasonal fruit and stock up, but freeze the majority of it for a taste of summer all year long. Here’s how I freeze peaches if you’re interested!
- Put any extra wine, broth, tomato paste, lemon/lime juice into ice cube trays to add to meals at a later date.
- Freeze extra rice to turn into fried rice
What are your tips to make the most of your groceries and leftover food?
If you are struggling with getting your budget under control, then you’ll want to download this free monthly budget form!
There are spaces to add your income and expenses, a place to record your savings goals (for example, if you are saving up for a vacation, you can write down your progress each month), and a place to write down any notes related to you spending. Having everything on one sheet of paper should be helpful for you!
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We live a frugal lifestyle. For the most part we are okay with it, and even thrive with this lifestyle, but sometimes it can be exhausting. Sometimes we get tired of making meals from scratch, cutting coupons, price matching, and doing whatever we need to do just to save some money. Sometimes we just want to throw caution to the wind and buy some brand new furniture for our house, or put a vacation on a credit card, or eat out as a family at some local restaurants. In those moments it can be easy to throw our hands up in the air and say “I don’t care” and make careless decisions. But in the end we would regret those decisions. So what should you do in those situations?
1. Treat yourself to something SMALL and AFFORDABLE.
The other day we went out for “Loonie Shakes.” Under 5 dollars for milkshakes for our family, yet it still felt like a splurge for our family.
2. Remind yourself of your goals.
On the inside of my wallet is a piece of paper I taped to it that says “Do you want more stuff, or do you want to travel?” so that every time I open up my wallet to buy something on impulse, I am reminded of my goals.
3. Take a social media break.
Sites like Facebook can heighten our desire to spend our money on things we can’t afford when it may feel like everyone else around us are able to make those purchases at the drop of a dime. But the truth is, you don’t know the back story of the pictures you see on Facebook. You don’t know if they’ve been saving for months or years to make that purchase, or if they are up late at night stressed at how they are going to make payments on their purchases they bought on credit. So give your heart a break and turn off the social media.
4. Do something fun that is free.
Invite some friends over for coffee and board games, go for a nature walk trail, go star gazing, or go for a bike ride. Finding some free fun will remind yourself that life can still be fun on a budget.
Related: 36 Things to Do Instead of Spending Money
5. Browse the internet for inspiration.
Read frugal living blogs. One search on Pinterest will reveal tons of articles written by people who have successfully conquered their financial dreams by living a frugal life. When you are starting to feel like you can’t live frugally anymore you will be able to draw strength, motivation, and inspiration from these articles.
Remember that “this too shall pass.” These feelings of fatigue will end, and if you stick with your budget and your saving goals, you WILL reap the benefits.
Most people have difficulty creating a budget and actually sticking to it. That’s because it can get pretty restrictive and time consuming. The good news is, you don’t have to make it hard. You can find ways of making a budget that works for you.
Instead of focusing on your expenses, try instead to concentrate on your savings. This process of reverse budgeting lets you figure out how much you need to save every month. Once you are able to figure this out, you can then set it up so that you have that amount going into your savings account automatically. That way it’s sort of like “out of sight out of mind” and you don’t really miss it or end up using it.
Here are a few tips on how you can create a budget that works for you:
Before coming up with a budget, it’s important that you write down your short term goals. Doing this will increase your chances of success. This is because when you write down your short term goals, you’ll be able to fully understand the big picture. You get to see what it is you are saving up for and how you can accomplish that goal in the future.
Start by writing your goals out. You can do this for the next 3 or 6 months, 1 year, or even 5 years or more, it’s up to you what fits your needs. Remember to include the date you want to complete them along with the expected cost. After you have written down your goals, that’s when you can determine how much money you need to set aside on a monthly basis. Here’s an example:
By simply dividing the cost of the goal with the months you have available to complete the goal.
Cost of goal: $2000
Months to complete goal: 12
$2000 divided by 12 = $166.66
So you need to save $166.66 each month for 12 months to reach that $2000 goal.
The next task is to number the goals by assessing their priority.
You can also do the same for your intermediate term goals and long term goals. Remember that if you are unable to meet the monthly savings needed to complete your short term goals after figuring out your expenses, you may need to reevaluate the things that are important to you and make necessary adjustments. What you don’t want to do is quit. You want to adjust. You can do this, but be realistic when setting your goals.
It is a wise idea to set up an automatic withdrawal from your main account or paycheck that goes directly into your savings account. This way, you won’t have to withdraw the money from your bank which can make it tempting to spend on unnecessary items.
When you’re opening a new bank account to do this, make sure that you choose an account that will earn you a higher interest rate. This is because you won’t be touching the money for a long period of time. If you let the interest accrue, it means that your funds will grow as long as you leave them in the bank.
As soon as the account has been opened, and you have your expenses figured out, set up an automatic monthly withdrawal with the amount that meets your goals. Then forget about it. Use your regular method of paying bills and ignore this new account so that it can grow and not be used as a backup and you’ll be on your way to meeting your savings goals in no time flat.
Trying to make another person’s budget and lifestyle work for you is probably setting yourself up for failure. You have to find something that works for you. Be kind and understanding to yourself. If you fall, get back up and keep going! Just. Don’t. Quit.
The more I think about it, I really think that being organized is the key to saving money. Not only does my sanity thrive when things are organized in my home, I find our bank account is happier too. 🙂
Here are 6 ways being organized helps to save me money:
Know what I already own
Having a spot for everything will help ensure that you know what you have on hand at all times. No need to buy the beans that are on sale because you know that you already have plenty in the pantry! Being organized (or more organized because we can’t be perfect!) stops you from spending money to replace items you can’t find.
I’ll avoid late fees
When you have an organized system in place for paying bills and returning borrowed items on time, you’ll certainly avoid the ugly late fees. Avoid paying late fees by implementing a system that will work for you. I have to tell you a story about the one time I had a late fee on the Visa bill. My bill paying “system” is not how my husband would do it and he suggested I try it his way. His way was to pay off an amount as soon as there was a balance. My way is to pay it once a month on the due date, the balance of the statement in full. As soon as I receive the statement in the mail, I log into our online banking and schedule the payment to be made on the due date. Sure, it may be a larger amount doing it my way, but I’m never late in paying it! My husband has learned to just let me do my thing in that regard. 😉
Have time to plan a menu
When you’re organized, you’ll have time to set aside to plan the menu for the week. I’m a firm believer that having a menu plan in place will save you unnecessary trips to the grocery store and your sanity. In our case, it saves us a ton because we’re avoiding the drive thru and actually eating what we buy from the grocery store.
Have time to cut and use coupons
If you’re a coupon user, being organized means you most likely have some time set aside for printing and organizing your coupons. Which also means you are probably organized to use the coupons at the store to pay rock bottom prices!
Know what projects you have on the go
Let’s pretend that I don’t know all about incomplete projects. (you know, those unfinished sewing and knitting projects that I found…) Every once in a while I get an urge to do something creative. But when I take the opportunity to have an organizing session, I usually discover a few unfinished projects.
Most recently, as I was going through my fabric stash, I found two unfinished projects. A purse, which only needs to have the handles sewn on, and material for a sweatshirt I’ve cut out for my husband. I now have two projects to finish to satisfy my creative urge without spending any more money!
Buy gifts well in advance
When you’re on the ball with upcoming special occasions, you can buy ahead when you find a great deal online or in the store. Helping you to avoid paying full price for something near your deadline.
How does being organized save you money? In what ways would you like to be more organized so you can save more?
I recently got to thinking about some of the items I don’t mind paying more for if it means better quality. Outerwear and most footwear would be on my list. I would consider those investments that I can make use of for several seasons. But, even then, I try to get a deal! So….
I’m Wondering: What are some items you don’t mind paying more for? Would you ever pay full price?