9 ways the Scraps family has reduced food waste and saved some money
Australian’s throw away thousands of $$$ worth of food a each year. That’s THOUSANDS! I don’t know about your family, but ours definitely doesn’t have thousands of disposable dollars laying around to waste on food that we don’t get to eat.
We’re by no means perfect or even experts but we do manage quite well on what I consider a very lower middle-class income. I’ve had lots of questions about it lately via face-lurk, especially when I post about saving on groceries or put up recipes that feed the fam for next to nix. So today I’m going to share the principles we follow to reduce (mainly food) waste and save a few $$$ especially when the budget’s a bit tighter than usual.
1. Know what’s in the pantry
By knowing what’s in the fridge, freezer and cupboards—fresh fruit N veg , canned stuff, dry herbs and staples like flour or rice—the less likely we are to return from the shops or to get home and realise we’ve already got one (or more) of something. On weeks when the budget’s really tight shopping the pantry first can be a real lifesaver. We often find enough for at least half a weeks meals are already there. The teens are really good at coming up with creative ideas for whats in the cupboard….they’re not always great ideas, but they are creative….
2. The List Abides
Writing a shopping list based on what’s at home and what we plan to cook during the week means we avoid buying more than whats needed and don’t purchase items we can go without. (Although I do try to include at least one small “indulgence” each week like a little chocolate or the extra ingredients for a special desert or Lunchbox snack). I actually loathe shopping (of almost every kind) so having a list makes this a much faster and less painful task and thankfully, our greengrocer delivers!
3. Check the expiry date
We check expiry dates when we’re shopping and try to buy things like milk, cheese, dry and tinned goods, with the longest shelf-life remaining possible. We position older items at the front of the fridge or cupboard, so they get eaten first (actually Mr Scraps is much more vigilant about this than I am). If fruit and veg start to go a bit soft, we also look at ways to incorporate them into soups, sauces and desserts. If we’re short on time, we freeze them for later (which reminds me …I have a bunch of squishy fruit in the freezer that we can use for smoothies this week).
4. Portion control
No, I don’t mean we put the family on a diet. But we’ve found out the hard way that if there’s only three of us at home on Thursday but my meal plan looks more like something for when there’s five or six of us, we end up tossing A LOT of uneaten food to the Immortal Chicken. We try to buy and cook only what we need. And if I’m making extra,that it’s something that can be easily frozen for later. Every now and then I do this on purpose so there’s some individual servings of whatever in the freezer for lunches or those nights when something unexpected crops up and we can’t cook (or I just plain don’t want to).
5. Storing food
Airtight containers, fridges and freezers all play a part in prolonging the shelf life of certain foods. So, if we’ve got meat in the fridge that we’re not going to eat this week,we put it in the freezer. Same for fruit and veg. For example green beans are on special at the greengrocer this week so I’ve ordered a box full to be delivered. After work today I plan to blanch and freeze most of them for later ( unless of course Mr Scraps channels his inner kitchen fairy and has it done already by time I get home).
6. Leftover nights
If we make more food than we can consume, rather than throw it out, we pack it for lunch or save it for dinner the following night. The bonus is I don’t have to cook again the next day. I try to have a Leftover night written into our Meal Plan once a week.
7. Keep a Container
In the car, bottom of the pram or your bag. If Mr Scraps and I or one of the Scrap kids can’t finish our restaurant meal, we ask to take it home. If we can stretch one meal into two – we not only reduce waste and the second meal is essentially free so we save a few $$$$.
8. Compost or find a chicken…
We don’t actually compost because we have the Immortal Chicken. Chickens are great for recycling things like fruit and veg peels (except onions and citrus) and all manner of scraps. If you don’t have a chicken of your own (or a neighbour who does) compost bins and worm farms will break down food scraps and at the same time create natural fertiliser for plants. If you’re lucky (like people in our area) your local council has commercial compost facilities, but also check out your local schools or community gardens if you can’t (or don’t want to) compost at home.
9. Grow your own
Okay, so I’m not so great at this (I’m told I have a “black thumb”) but saving money is one of the biggest reasons people grow food at home. Having a stash of herbs and vegetables means always having access to fresh ingredients and just the right amount. I have had some success regrowing veg like celery and carrot tops from the scraggy end bits we usually cut off and throw to the Immortal Chicken, but it takes a while and I’m too impatient.