I don’t like penny-pinching any more than you do. I hate clipping, carrying and using coupons. I am not crazy about this whole budget thing, even though it does seem better than my “spend blindly and hope for the best” plan of yore. Besides my rent and debt payments, my biggest cost each month is food. And I know that there is plenty of food I end up tossing each month, so I am looking for ways to cut down on all the waste.
I buy too much food for a two-person household, and at least half of the stuff I buy goes bad before I finally throw it out. I have good intentions about making food, but I still don’t do it. I often come home to a full refrigerator and look at the head of lettuce and think, “I’ll make a salad tomorrow. It’s not going anywhere.” And I repeat that mantra until the lettuce is sufficiently soggy and brown to warrant throwing out. It’s not just me though, at least 1/3 of the world’s food production ends up going to waste. There are foods where this happens way too often and here are a few foods that are always outsmarting me:
7 Foods that Go to Waste Way Too Often
Ciabatta, pita, sourdough, tortilla, naan, sangak, lavash, bagels, seedless rye and plain ol’ Wonder bread. Those are just the kinds of bread I have in the house right now. I love bread in all variations and when I buy too much of a good thing, I can’t eat it all, even when I eat bread everyday. If I leave it out, it gets moldy, and if it stays in the fridge for too long, it becomes stale. I can’t win!
Solution: Buy less varieties of bread at a time, or at least finish one type of bread before buying another.
Asparagus is a super food and it’s freakin’ delicious. My boyfriend does a great grilled and marinated asparagus, and every time he makes it, I immediately go out and buy more asparagus the next day so we can make it again. But of course we don’t eat asparagus two days in a row, and by the third day the excitement has waned and I’m eyeing the asparagus warily and wondering how long before it goes bad? And the answer is, you’ve got about a week. And if you can’t get excited about asparagus within the week, say goodbye to that $3.99 a pound vegetable. Ok, sometimes it’s on sale for $1.99, but that’s not everyday and my cravings don’t change because of sales. (Although they should. Note to self: rewire cravings mechanism in brain. Has Steve Pavlina written about this?)
Solution: Don’t buy asparagus until the day you are planning on making it.
Mangoes need no extra flavoring or fancy preparation, and they are so sweet and distinct from other fruits. It takes some time to peel a mango, but it’s not really that part that detains me, I think that you have to be in a certain mood to eat a mango. Like, let’s slow life down a little bit and eat this amazing mango. It’s bright and yellow and it’s has rough and soft texture at the same time. Lately I haven’t been able to slow myself down and my mangoes are turning into leather in the fruit compartment of the fridge.
Solution: Relax and eat more mangoes.
4. Cucumbers, Zucchinis, Bell Peppers, et al
These all fall into one category because they go to waste for the same reason: they go bad fairly quickly and sometimes you just don’t need a zucchini in your dinner. But they’re all great foods and the solution here is pretty much the same as with the asparagus.
Solution: Buy smaller quantities of vegetables that spoil quickly and don’t buy too many varieties before you already know what you are going to make with them (and plan to make it soon).
5. Feta Cheese
Even though feta cheese keeps for a long time, especially in brine, I just buy way too much of it. I think it’s always been a comfort food and so I buy a pound at a time, even though I’m the only one who eats it, and even then, I always forget I have it. Also, I like getting stuff from the international market, where they have the best Bulgarian feta and they always nod approvingly every time I order it.
Solution: Buy a 1/4 lb. of any specialty cheese at a time so you don’t get sick of eating it. Stop seeking approval from strangers.
How many times have you used 1/2 lb. of hamburger meat, frozen the other 1/2, and promptly forgot all about it? What about with chicken breasts? In bigger households, the use half, freeze half method works great, because they are much more likely to use the other half of the meat quickly. But if you’re single or just two people, there are probably tons of foods you’ve frozen and forgotten about until it was time to clear the fridge. It might not always make sense, but why not just make the entire portion and serve the extras for lunch the next day?
Solution: Buy smaller portions and use as much of the meat as you can right away, keep frozen portion in high-visibility shelf of the freezer to remind yourself to cook it sooner.
I eat a banana a day, but I also buy a lot of bananas. But bananas are the one food that I have been able to save, even without eating them right away, as long as I remember to freeze or use them before it’s too late. I freeze them for smoothies or throw them into a very quick banana bread recipe.
Solution: Freeze them before they turn into blackened, fly-attracting banana corpses or mash them up for banana bread.
I always over-shop for food, especially when I’m hungry. If you find yourself throwing out food on a regular basis, it doesn’t hurt to try buying smaller portions, even when Costco’s monster portions are being shoved in our faces as the “economical” choice. But how economical is it to buy an entire wheel of brie if you’re not going to eat it? Or the Hagrid-sized antipasto platter when you have 2 friends coming over? That’s my thought for the day, and now I’m off to finish this antipasto platter before it goes bad.