Even in this depressed economy, did you know that the typical American family of four throws away roughly $600 in groceries every year? That's right-and a recent UK study found that Brits were just as bad- tossing about 1/3 of the food they purchased-that's equal to 1 in 3 bags of groceries landing in the trash. Here are 4 easy ways you can reclaim that $600-which translates into an extra $50 per month-freeing up your budget even more for healthy eating. What's not to love?
4 Easy Ways to Whittle Your Grocery Bill
1. If You Buy It, Use it.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It should be. But for most of us, simply letting food spoil in our ginormous American fridges before we get around to cooking it is a big reason we waste so much food.
According to the UK study, fruits and veggies that had spoiled before being eaten were the #1 source of food waste in British households. I suspect it may be the same on this side of the pond too-after all, while it can feel good to buy healthy-sounding food with best of intentions ("I can't wait to make kale for dinner tonight!") , actually ushering it onto the dinner plate is another matter. So if you're loading up your reusable bags at the farmers market or stockpiling your cart at the supermarket in a moment of health zealotry, be sure your enthusiasm doesn't fizzle before you actually serve it. While certainly not an excuse to stick to a "produce-free" diet that's dietitian approved, the simple act of planning and following through will save you money (and time too-no more fishing out foul stuff from the produce bin).
2. Eat in order of most perishable first.
Decide what needs eating first-and be sure they're in easy view in your fridge. For instance-fragile berries are most perishable, so serve those first. Heartier summer fruits like melon can last a bit longer, so save those for later in the week. Baby spinach or arugula gets eaten before heartier veggies like baby carrots or fingerling potatoes. And so on.
If you're buying at the farmers market, ask if you can have a few ripe fruits (i.e. peaches), as well as some that will be perfect in a few days-one of the bonuses of buying directly from the farmer.
3. Don't Supersize It.
Unless your family resembles that of John & Kate plus Eight, buying large amounts of food, especially perishable food, can backfire-and if you toss it before you eat it, you aren't actually saving money then, are you? Don't confuse bulk shopping with smart shopping- evaluate your bulk purchases (or runs to the Big Box Store), or other value driven pricing if it causes you to (1) blow through the food more quickly or (2) means your tossing portions of it out due to spoilage.
4. Serve Smaller Portions.
Supersizing our plates not only has the potential to supersize your backside (which I am guessing you knew), but also contributes to another reason we toss out $$... all that plate waste. The heaps of food scraps and mishmash at the end of a meal that gets tossed in the trash is money down the drain. It's also another reason we have an SUV diet of eating styles- as all of that food waste, when it gets to the landfill, releases the potent greenhouse gas methane-which is 23 X more warming than carbon dioxide.
You should finish a meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed. Smaller portions will help you keep your diet and your budget on track. And save leftovers, no matter how small-for a snack or to be part of the next meal.
Got any other ideas or tips? I'd love to hear them!