America is the land of plenty. We have our entire economy based on consumption of goods. These goods, obviously, include groceries. We consume, but we also waste. We waste food like nobody else on the planet. According to a January 2013 blog article in Bloomberg Businessweek:
“As a nation, we waste 40 percent of the food we produce, according to estimates from the National Institute of Health. Last year, Americans threw out the equivalent of about $180 billion worth of food”
This amounts, the article further explains, to about $2275 a year for a family of four. I know my household wastes food, whether it is unused leftovers or produce that wilted while waiting its turn to be consumed. Based on those numbers, the average family of four wastes about $43.75 per week in unused food products. We, of course, compound this expense with the additional cost that is usually associated with larger garbage containers. After all, waste is also a $10 billion a year industry in the United States.
So What Can I Do?
With five simple steps, you can organize your kitchen to reduce the amount of waste in your weekly grocery spending.
Figure out a game plan for the week for both meals and snacks. Identify food items that wilt or spoil quickly, and also identify meals that normally produce leftovers when you make them BEFORE you go to the grocery store. Find creative ways to use leftover meats and vegetables. For example, I use leftover grilled pork kabobs to create a tasty and colorful quinoa salad for lunch the next day. Leftovers…gone.
Use a small magnetic dry erase board on the refrigerator to track three major things. First is your meal plan. You will greatly reduce waste by eating meals in the order of food deterioration. Use the stuff that goes bad first. Keep tabs on the leftovers, with item, date, and brief description of the container. This will save you from having to dig into all sorts of science experiments later in the month. Also track items in longer term storage by item and date frozen, canned, or otherwise stored. This will give you a better understanding of your inventory. Like a good restaurant, a lower wastage factor will lower your overall costs, driving up “profits” (savings).
In other words, stick to the plan. Buying a week’s worth of meals and then deciding it is too hot to cook can skyrocket the waste in your refrigerator. If you plan on eating out once or twice during the week, then work that into your meal plan as well. Otherwise, buy what you want to cook, cook what you want to eat, and eat what you do not want to throw away.
I think my sister in law is the biggest contributor to this idea. She will freeze anything. Frozen fruits in her house are typically last week’s unused fresh fruit. She uses them for smoothies and protein shakes. If a head of lettuce goes bad, you can at least compost it to keep your refuse down. Save that left over barbeque pork; it will make a delicious addition to that pot of chili on opening day of football.
Find a donation truck in your area that will pick up the food you are not going to use. They will find someone who needs it. We waste more food than any other nation, yet the amount of people without access to regular meals in this country is staggering. If you can’t use it, find someone who can!
Hopefully, with these five steps, you can start putting more of that $43.75 from the garbage can back into your pocket where it belongs. Remember, that is over $170 per month for the average family of four in the US. What would YOU do with an extra $170 a month? Save for a vacation? Pay off that credit card? Put a picture on your fridge to provide the extra motivation to stay on top of your grocery dollar.
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