Today’s mantra: I will eat everything I buy at the grocery store! (unless it’s a non-food… don’t be eating toothpaste, people).
Today’s action: Make this week’s grocery list with the above parameters in mind.
I have to say, I failed Liz’s quiz. Some weeks I do better than others. This week I threw out a zucchini, an avocado and the end of an Asian slaw. How did you do?
I try and freeze what I can before it goes bad. This week I had cooked up some breakfast sausage for my husband to make a breakfast burrito. A few days later I popped it into the freezer. Yesterday I took it back out and used it to make the biscuits and gravy my husband has been craving.
Freezing is always the easiest option for me. Pop the leftovers into a ziplock, label it and stick it in the freezer. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Just don’t be lazy like me and forget to label it- despite what you think now, you won’t remember what kind of soup that it. Sometimes your sweet potato tortilla soup turns out to be lentil curry.
When I was taking an inventory of my freezer on Friday I discovered leftover butternut tikka masala- I know what I’m having for lunch this week! I still haven’t found a good way to keep track of what’s in my freezer. I’ve tried to do digital inventories, but I’m not very good at keeping up on it. The classic paper on the fridge method is probably my best bet.
I tend to poke around in the freezer on the weekends to see what’s there and if there are any good options for lunch for the upcoming week. I try to use my work lunches as a way to clean out the fridge. It’s frugal, easy and adds variety to my meals.
Meal planning is another great way to save money on food. Before the start of my work week, I take an inventory of what’s in the house- not a literal inventory, I just look around and familiarize myself with what we have. Then I chat with my husband to see if he has any requests. We’ll discuss what’s in the house, what we can make with it, what he’s craving that week and what we can do with any leftover ingredients. He’s the creative one, so he’s a big help with meal planning. I make a list of what we’re missing and head to the store.
This past week, we made Copycat Applebee’s Wonton Tacos, because we already had some of the chicken in the freezer and all the sauces. I knew the recipe called for cilantro, but not much. I decided to make a black bean and corn salsa with the rest of the cilantro, knowing that I had black beans in the pantry and corn in the freezer. A yummy way to use up the excess ingredient and it was a nice healthy snack to have on hand. I bought one too many bags of coleslaw mix for the wonton tacos though, so this next week I’ll need to find a way to use it up.
The clincher to making meal planning really successful for me is to meal prep the day before going to work. I chop everything and cook and assemble what I can. I know that when I get home from work I’ll be too tired to want to cook anything from scratch, so I’ll either snack all night, wasting the healthy food I bought, or go out to eat. Meal prepping is insurance against this happening. When the ingredients are sitting in the fridge, all ready for me, it’s much easier for me to get the motivation to throw them together and make dinner.
I make sure that my dinners are simple things that don’t take much to whip together. I know my limits after work and so I try and make things as easy as possible for myself. I want to set myself up for success, not failure. Planning and prepping does that for me.
Something else we’ve discovered is that we only need 3 different meals for dinner each work week. We always end up having more leftover of one than we anticipated, or my husband works late so I just make myself a simple meal that I like and he doesn’t (my dinner making motivation has its limits- I’ll make dinner for my husband, but I’m much less motivated to make dinner for myself). Only having to plan, prep and cook 3 meals sounds much more manageable to me and it saves us from wasting food, trying to make more food than we actually eat.
Have you found a good system to combat food waste? Are you a master meal planner or prepper? What have you tried that does or doesn’t work for you?