Monday, October 31, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Six

Food Waste

I read somewhere that Americans can throw away as much as 45% of the food they buy.  That means if you spend $800 a month on food, you might be throwing away $300!!!  I have been guilty of this myself, although not to that extreme.  I have had a week just recently where we were a combination of kind of lazy with our habits, and I was experimenting with some recipes to share with you all and all of this food ended up in the frig as leftovers, but we didn't eat it all before it went bad.  We threw away a lot of food.  Had I been able to give that to someone, we could have fed another couple for almost a  whole week!  That's bad and we vowed to not do it again.  With a little planning it is possible to waste very little if any at all.

To begin with, I highly recommend you invest in a vacuum sealer if you plan to freeze foods that you buy in bulk, that you make for once a month cooking, or leftovers that you plan to warm up at a later date.  They are not all that expensive anymore, and your foods will last much longer, without freezer burn, than with the original packaging or regular zip bags.  Zip bags are fine if you are really good at squeezing out the air and you plan to use the items within a month.  Another thing I really like are those Ball brand freezing jars.  I put soup in them up to the fill line and it's better than other containers I've tried for not having a layer of ice crystals on top.

If you have a mom or a Grama (yes, that's how I spell was our thing) like mine, they have a pantry and frig full of expired food stuffs and if you say anything they'll say either "oh, it's still good, that's just a suggestion!" or "smell it....yep still good".  PLEASE DO NOT KEEP FOODS PAST THE EXPIRATION DATE!  It is on there for a reason.  Foods break down and some give off toxins as they do.  When you buy foods ALWAYS check the expiration date before putting it into your cart, and ask yourself, will I use it or freeze it by then?  If not, don't buy it.  PLUS, sometimes stores have not cleaned out the shelves yet.  I have found dairy products on the shelf that are expired and the other day I saw a premade pizza crust hanging there with a huge green moldy spot on it.  Yes, I have heard arguments about certain products still being good a week or so after the date.  Do an internet search on the particular product if you'd like to see if you can still use it, but please follow whatever directions you find even if that means you'll have to throw it away this time.  Take it from someone who has had food poisoning once ain't worth it!

So now you've checked your dates and you're taking your groceries home.  In the pantry always remember to rotate the stock.  Put items in order of expiration date, so you use up older things first.  Do the same in the frig.

Produce!  Some people firmly believe one way or the other about how to keep produce, but if you check around you'll find that Apples, berries, mushrooms and celery all last longer in the frig and that potatoes and onions should NOT be in the frig but in a cool dark place.  I keep mine in the basement in these tubs I got from Tupperware, but you can find similar ones out there.

Leftovers! This is a great way to save time and money by planning leftovers into your meals and budget.  BUT anything with meat or dairy in it should not be eaten after four days in the frig.  If you freeze it though, you can save it for six months!  So I'll repeat, leftovers are a great way to save money....take them to work and don't eat out, have them on a busier night of the week....but you need to stick to the plan so the don't get thrown into the trash 4 days later.

That's just the highlights....keep in mind, I'm no science expert.  You can find a lot more info on this topic out on the web.  My main points are watch your dates, don't make too many leftovers, but either eat them or freeze them!  These are our main areas of waste, and if you can master them, you'll be surprised at how much money you can save!

Until Next Time.....

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