That's right, I said it. Reduce. Well, that's what we're talking about already, isn't it? Yes indeed. We've done our inventories, we've done our menus, we've done our fliers and lists and shopping. If your bill is still too high, let's look at reducing it even further.
We're going to reduce a lot of things which will reduce your expenditure on groceries.
- Reduce waste! Use your leftovers. If you've just started doing menus, you've probably found yourself preparing more food than you usually do. This means more leftovers. Use them! Incorporate a leftovers day into your menu. Cooked beef lasts 4 days in the fridge before you need to throw it out. Cooked poultry or fish, 3 days. Cooked ham, 5 days. Hard boiled eggs, 1 week. Cooked sausage, 1 week. Use your leftovers for lunches. Add main dish meats to salads. Reduce future dinner entrees and use your leftover meats. Make casseroles. Freeze whole portions for quick heat & eat dinners in the future. I've started using leftover vegetables in "freezer soup." I keep a bowl in my freezer and fill it with the small amounts of leftover vegetables from our dinners. When the bowl is full, I thaw out some home made stock, add the vegetables from the freezer bowl and cook. Voila! Easy soup, and very cheap!
- Reduce dependency on convenience items. Learn to make your own. Make your own mixes. Make your own stuffing. Make your own mac & cheese. Start with one dish that you fix frequently using convenience packages, find a recipe and try it out. I think you'll find that flavours are a bit more subtle, preservatives are eliminated, salt is dramatically reduced, nutrition is increased and, best of all, it usually takes NO MORE TIME than the convenience stuff. Take a look at my easy bread dressing recipe. This takes 15 minutes. That's how long the boxed stuff takes. This is SO MUCH BETTER! There are numerous free recipe sources online. Take a look at www.recipeczar.com or recipesource.com and see what's available. Recipe sites that have ratings are especially valuable when you're trying out a new recipe. Choose ones with the highest ratings. You can even search by ingredients to find a recipe for an odd assortment of items you'd like to use.
- Reduce spoilage. Use fresh tender fruit and vegetables early in your shopping cycle and keep the longer-storing fruits and vegetables for later in the shopping cycle. So eat grapes before apples. Use lettuce and cucumbers before celery and carrots. Learn the storage time for items. Here is an excellent reference for storing fresh, cooked, and frozen foods in your home.
- Further reduce spoilage waste by freezing fresh fruit and vegetables before they rot. If your celery is getting wilty, chop it up and freeze it to use in stir-fries, soups, and casseroles. It works just fine! I've been doing it for years. Apples gone mealy? Peel and slice them and put them in freezer bags in the freezer along with some cinnamon for quick home made applesauce one day. Dice peppers and onions and lay them out on cookie sheets. Once frozen, place the pieces into baggies to add to omelets, soups, casseroles, recipes. If you freeze them on cookie sheets they'll freeze individually instead of in clumps so that you can remove as many as you need at a time and not have to use the whole bag at once. I freeze whole tomatoes and add them to my chili. Once they begin to cook the skins come right off.
Once you get started using leftovers and produce that might otherwise be waste, you'll be amazed at how much your food bill is reduced. I think it's safe to say that 25% of my groceries ended up as waste due to spoilage or mismanagement of leftovers. Once I started managing them, my bills were reduced a great deal. Salvaging celery by freezing it has saved many extra purchases of celery over the years. Doing this also speeds up meal preparation. If I'm making chicken noodle soup and I already have sliced celery and carrots in the freezer, my meal prep has just been eliminated.
I have two more posts upcoming in this topic.