Monday, August 20, 2012

Frugal Your Food. Save Money, Maybe World {Guest Post}

Wishing you could have traveled more this summer? Want to be debt free by the holidays, or have more cash for Black Friday 2012? Just looking to streamline your budget and have more money for fun? Open your fridge.

By now you should have a budget. Don’t have one? You should know better, but don’t fret, making one is easy. Now take a look at that number you have next to ‘Food’.  What if you could cut that number down by a third? You won’t have to downshift to Ramen, PBJs, and millet.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to become an urban-hippy-dumpster-diver either. All you have to do is be slightly smarter with you food.

Only Get What You Need

I know, that seems pretty obvious, but it actually is the important step. Remember those times you saw that 5lb sack of potatoes at the store? Remember how cheap it was, and how it seemed dumb not to buy it? Remember that time you actually finished them all? Me neither. Well, not that last part anyway. The point is 30-50% of all food gets thrown away. We are all consistently overestimating what we need at the store, and buying too much food. It’s easy to get on track though:
  • Make a list before you shop. Plan your meals for the week, and be honest about it. Usually hit happy hour on Thursdays and don’t feel like cooking? Plan for take out that night, or have leftovers waiting for you. 
  • Stick to your list. Coupons and sales are nice, but only if you needed the items already. It’s very easy to be wowed by deals and leave with an extra grocery bag. Is it really saving money if you spend $25 you didn’t plan on spending? 
  • Be smart with your list, and consolidate your menus for the week. Want salmon for dinner tonight? Buy a little extra and plan for fish tacos tomorrow, instead of starting over with a new main dish.
  • Also, my personal rule is to never grocery shop when I’m hungry. Everything looks good. It’s a problem.

Use What You Buy

Now that you have your food, you need to make sure you eat it. I love to cook, but don’t have the time to do it every night. I usually go big one night, cook a ton, and then work on the leftovers for a day or two. The problem is sometimes leftovers get lost in the refrigerator shuffle and forgotten. You can fix this by stocking your food like they do at the store. Anyplace that sells food uses F.I.F.O. (First In, First Out). This means storing the most perishable food front in center, less time sensitive items in back. Keep the leftovers and older fruits and veggies where you’ll see them, remember them and use them. You don’t need to see your mustard to remember you have it.

There are also plenty of ways to extend the life of the food you have. Fruit and veggies that are on their way out can be used for stock, or juice, or smoothies. Shredded cheese can be frozen. You can even coat your eggs in mineral oil so that they keep longer.

When you do have waste, treat it as knowledge. Keep a food waste diary. You’ll be able to see what you are buying too much of. This will help you create better shopping lists and streamline your budget even more.

Save a Little Bit of The World

So we won’t pretend that you buying one less pack of cookies a month will reinvigorate the polar bear population, but reducing food waste is important. When you start looking at the big numbers, the millions of tons of waste numbers, food scraps are a large part. In fact, only paper generates more waste. Also food in a landfill rots fast and turns into methane. According to the EPA, methane is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide. The 300lbs of food each person throws out each year does a chunk of damage. So cutting down food waste a little bit is a big deal. Also it is always good to have an iron clad plan in place before you take on the cookie aisle.

Disclosure: Monetary compensation was received for this post, however all opinions are my own.

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