Waste Not, Want Not

Everyone is feeling the pressure of the rising cost of living. Healthy food seems so much more expensive than the processed stuff. Dollar signs cloud our vision.

I can’t affect the cost of groceries, but I can make some suggestions that might help cut those costs and allow you to feed your family the great stuff you know they deserve. Not all of these will apply to your situation, but if you can pull one idea out of this post, I’ll consider it a success!

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Plan your shopping. This can apply to groceries, gadgets, clothing, and so much more. Impulse buys (while fun) can be a huge time and money suck. (strange to hear this from a retailer, eh?) I often get asked if I have a certain gadget in my home, and many customers assume all of us ladies must have well stocked kitchens. (We do, but not the way you’d imagine.) I joke that I have to hold on to my paycheck with a death-grip, since my husband is a chef, this is his candy store. We’re careful, however, to only purchase what we plan to use in the near future. (Unless it’s a smoking deal and we know it’ll be used in the next 6 months.) I pick a project (lately it’s been bread making) and purchase the tools we need (so much easier, faster and cheaper with the right tool for the job).

Plans don’t have to be exact or restricting. They give you somewhere to start from. For example, we shop at our home as if we were ordering for a restaurant. We have a “menu” in mind, and make sure that we have the ingredients necessary. We try to keep our weekly menus to related meals that use the same ingredients in different ways. This keeps us shopping in larger quantities (=bulk prices) and cuts down on waste and leftovers. We’re also comfortable enough with our favorite meals that we can adjust on the fly to take advantage of sale items and in-season produce. If what we had in mind isn’t on sale, we’ll often change our plans on the spot.

Use your Leftovers (Think: Ingredients!)

left-over-wine

Pinterest abounds with ideas for how to use leftovers. This is beyond roast beef sandwiches and jokes about leftover wine. I’ve pinned a collection to one of our Pinterest boards here, ranging from freezing pasta sauces and soups in muffin tins for portion control to using the pulp from your juicer as a thickener in sauces and moisture in your baking.

I usually plan for leftovers; cook dinner, and keep the leftovers for lunch at work the next day, or for solo dinner nights when I don’t want to cook for just me. If I’m going to the trouble of making lasagna, I’ll usually make two. One to eat, one to freeze. Once you get in this habit, there’s usually something in the deep freeze that you can pull out on the those nights you really can’t bring yourself to cut a vegetable. Leftover roasted veggies and meat make great ingredients to soups, frittatas, pizza, quiche, etc.

The idea is to get creative about how to use the left over bits around your house. Certain produce can be brought back from the brink with cold water; lettuce leaves, celery, chard and other high water content vegetables. If push comes to shove, and it’s really not edible any more, feed it to your plants!

Compost

Gardener’s Gold; I had Sara Jeffreys write us a post on composting last week that you’re welcome to check out. Overripe fruit can be suitable for smoothies, but otherwise it’s destined for the compost pile. Freezing, drying or canning overripe produce will result in a less than ideal product. You want to be proud of your preserves, not disappointed after all the work that goes into making them!

A Final Note on Tools

I haven’t mentioned much in the way of products in this post, since most of these tips are about how you think about your food supply. Throwing food in the garbage is the same as throwing out money, and drives up the cost of eating healthy. With a simple shift in thinking, we can focus on reducing our waste through planning. We’re slowly building the pantry of our dreams, with all the ingredients necessary to make our favorite things. We then simply need to buy the fresh stuff to go with (and hopefully our garden is productive enough to cut back on that, too!).

Zojirushi_New_White_breadmakerMaking meals, bread, pasta, soup and other food stuffs at home can be very economical since you’re buying the raw ingredients and not paying for someone else to cook it for you. You can also control what your family is eating and cut back significantly on the sneaky added sugars and preservatives found in a lot of convenience foods. Baking bread isn’t for everyone though; there is a time commitment to make your food from scratch. It’s a good idea to start small; pick your favorite thing and learn how to make it. Research the tools necessary; see if you can borrow them (the Garden Guru group lends out a lot of equipment for preserving). When you’re ready, invest in the best tools you can afford. Quality will make your life easier! Trying to work with old, malfunctioning or sub-standard tools is a nightmare regardless of whether you’re building a shed or making pasta.

[questionbox]I’m going to build on our archives of “how to” and recommended tools as the year goes on; if there’s something specific you’d like to hear our recommendations on, leave a comment below and we’ll put it on our to-do list. If you’ve recently learned how to make something for yourself that you’d normally buy, leave that in a comment, too! It’s inspirational to hear from other “normal”, busy people that are making an effort to life healthier and with less waste. [/questionbox]
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