what do you do to not "throw" money in the trash? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 02-13-2006, 05:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think I'm posting in the right place. This is food related. Everytime I clean out the refrigerator, I am throwing out spoiled food. Some of it is leftovers, some was never even touched, ie, veggies, fruit, etc. What is your system to not let food go to waste? I'm tryig to come up with something so that this does not happen anymore. I really do feel bad throwing away food that was never eaten because in a way, it is money thrown down the drain, trash, or garbage disposal. Should I get in the habit of going through once a week so that I have a better idea of what is there still? or diligently plan out menus so that I only buy what we for sure will use during the week? Right now I go to the store, and buy what looks appealing veggie and fruit wise, thinking hmmm, these zuccinnis look pretty, and some soup sounds good. But then I forget they are there and a week and a half later open up the veggie drawer and there they are, covered with fuzz What works for you? thanks mamas!
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#2 of 17 Old 02-13-2006, 05:48 PM
 
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We have the same problem. On our next shopping trip I'm going to make a list of all foods in our fridge by category and tapping it to the fridge. If someone eats the last of that category (for example the last apple, broccoli, etc. ) cross it off the list. We'll see how it goes!

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#3 of 17 Old 02-13-2006, 07:27 PM
 
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This used to be a big problem for us. Then we started to be super aware--always asking the question "Are we going to eat this before the next trip to the store?"

We eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.

On Saturday, I take all the veggies that aren't yet eaten, chop them up and add them to the crock pot with broth and herbs. Then I take all the leftover fruit, peel and chop it and top it with crumble topping. Then we have delicious soup and fruit crumble with virtually no effort.

That's what I do every Saturday, assuming we have leftover veggies and fruit. Then we go snowshoing and come home and dinner's already made, and I don't have to throw out $$ of food.

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#4 of 17 Old 02-14-2006, 12:48 AM
 
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I only buy what we're going to eat for three days or so. So I know my menu for about three days for sure. I may have more meat in the freezer, but if I plan a week's meals, often plans for dinner (who will be home for dinner) will change and food goes to waste. So if I buy for three days, even if one changes, it will probably hold until the fourth. But a seventh day's plans is already wilting on the vegie shelf.

Oh, and I never use the vegie drawer. I keep leftovers and drinks on the top shelf, breads and proteins on the middle shelf, veggies on the bottom shelf. Then everyone can see what there is to eat.
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#5 of 17 Old 02-14-2006, 04:22 AM
 
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I don't even want to think about all the money I've thrown away on spoiled food Finally I sat down and added up how much I'd just thrown away after I cleaned out the fridge. $15 That could've bought me the book I wanted!

Last January, I decided I would work on one habit that cost us money: throwing out bad, unused food was it. Because we grocery shop on Sunday while we're in town, I make Saturday my clean the fridge day. Even though I plan meals, and make a specific list to go with those meals, I usually end up not cooking one of the meals because I'm too tired and will do sandwiches instead. Before I started doing this, I would've planned the next week's meals forgetting the unused food.

Now, I empty out the fridge and write down what fresh fruits and veggies are left over and not used for the week. Then I plan the next week's meals including what I still have and making sure they are used on Sunday or Monday so they won't go bad by the end of the week. I do NOT do a month menu, because imagine if I bought for it, didn't cook one meal a week, and had all of that extra spoil! I added up our grocery expenses for 2005, and we spent $200 less, even though I was pregnant and breastfeeding and eating more, we saved money by making sure we used what was in the fridge.

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#6 of 17 Old 02-14-2006, 06:13 AM
 
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I used to be just like you describe. Unidentified fuzzy stuff, rotten produce in the drawers, and sludge in my Tupperware that I needed to bleach to get clean. No more.

Now I meal-plan. First I rummage through fridge and cupboards and make a list (on paper or in my head) of what we need to use up and which meals I can make with them. Then I start my shopping list with the ingredients I need to complete those meals. Then I number the meals and add additional meal ideas for however many meals I am shopping for (a week, two weeks, etc - usually my shopping period coincides with my DH's pay period) and the ingredients I need. Mostly I only do this with dinners - lunch is dinner leftovers (with a little practice you can adjust recipes so you end up wtih exactly enough). But I also have a list of "standard" breakfasts and kid-friendly lunches (cereal, PB&J, etc) - I do the same thing with this list, see what we have on hand and then add to my shopping list the items we need in the amounts we need to get through the shopping period. I keep nonperishable staples stocked as well (baking supplies, spices, etc).

Then each night I look at my meals list and choose one meal from the list - I don't get rigid about matching a particular meal to a particular night beforehand. Whichever meal we feel like that is on the list that we haven't yet had in that shopping period, I make. By the end of the shopping period I'm getting more and more creative to use stuff up, but it all works out.

The day before I shop, I inventory my fridge - I compost or dump whatever is too old or definitely not going to get eaten, tidy up and assess what is left, and start the above process. I make a mental note of what did not get eaten up and why (Did we forget about it and let it sit until it was iffy? Did I make too much? Was is just yucky and no one wanted it?) I keep two pads of paper stuck to my fridge - one for an ongoing list of things we need at the store, and the other to remind myself of things to eat up or to be sure to make during the current shopping period (so I don't wander around thinking "we have nothing to eat" when I could be making popcorn or granola or hummus, or eating the leftover pancakes I threw in the freezer and forgot about).

It took me awhile to get to this point - take baby steps if you need to. It really, really, really helps me to hit the store with a plan. If I buy something "because it looks good," without a meal to use it in, it rots. If you like whim buying, you could give yourself some options like "veggie soup" or "stirfry" where you can put on your list "buy three vegetables for stirfry" or "buy one grain to put in soup (quinoa, rice, millet, etc)" and then decide when you get there.

Good luck!

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#7 of 17 Old 02-14-2006, 02:28 PM
 
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The only thing that works for us is strict menu planning. If I won't use it in a recipe before the next time I go to the store (veggies or meat) then I don't buy it. We were always throwing away bags of unidentifiable mush from our veggie drawer. Maybe once I get better at this down the road then I won't have to limit myself as much but, for now, it's the only thing that works.

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#8 of 17 Old 02-14-2006, 02:45 PM
 
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I have had this problem off and on, but since my two eldest sons have reached the "teen-age" years, food usually doesn't last long enough to spoil!!

One thing that helps, though, is to meal plan, and then prep the veggies when I get home from the store. (For example, if I buy broccoli for stir fry, I will cut it up into the right-sized pieces as I am putting all of my groceries away.) I store the prepped veggies in freezer bags in the deep freeze. This is a two-pronged approach in that 1) the veggies are all ready when I come home from a long day at work and I can just cook them, and 2) if I change my mind and don't use them as I had planned to use them, they just wait in the deep-freeze until I am ready to use them. (Either way, no waste! )

I freeze leftovers in (re-usable) freezer containers (Gladware, Ziploc, etc.). I also second the notion of one of the previous posters in that I have an empty 3-lb margerine container that lives in the "above the fridge" freezer, and I put into it any left-over veggies that are still fine to eat, but not enough for another meal. When the container gets full, I put it in the Crock-Pot with broth and herbs and cook it for soup. The other leftovers are put into the deep-freeze and eventually get re-born as new entrees...and they stay fit to eat in the meantime.

Hope this helps with your "fuzzy" problem

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#9 of 17 Old 02-15-2006, 11:35 AM
 
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everyone has some great ideas for you. i've been trying to do the "use what we have" thing for awhile now and it does seem to be working tho i'm far from perfect. i also have a problem with the freezer. i freeze stuff for a later date and then forget about it or whatever and end up throwing away quite a bit of stuff from there every 6 months or so.......gonna try to do better with all of this. you mommas are an inspiration
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#10 of 17 Old 02-15-2006, 11:42 AM
 
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Our trick is to buy smaller quantities. For instance, I rarely buy more than four bananas. I know that during the week I will definitely eat two-three and ds will be good for one. If he is on his banana kick, and has eaten most of the four, then I just buy some more. I tend to buy a little less than I think will get me through the week. I can always go to the store again. I work around the corner from my Co-Op, so I barely even have travel time to a store. Another thing is not be be suckered in by the buy one get one offers or the really cheap prices at the supermarket. It is hard, but I really only buy one bag of salad at a time. Buy two, and one definitely is compost by the time we get to it. Unless I am making something really specific,

I also cook in smaller quantities than I used to. Sometimes, I make just enough for dinner with enough left over for my lunch the next day and that is it. We still toss some stuff, but we are not tossing as much as before.
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#11 of 17 Old 02-15-2006, 12:35 PM
 
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Yes, getting into the fridge more often will help you see what you are really eating nad how fast. That will help you know what needs restocking. I designate a shelf in the fridge for "Use NOW!" This helps me not forget and cuts loss of produce. It is just too expensive to waste.

Another thing I did was cut junk. My kids went from homeschooling to private and public schools and what they ate cahnged dramatically. Over a few months, once loved veggies and fruits were totally resisted. I tried differnt methods and then had success: I stopped buying fresh fruits and saldad fixings and started packing junk food in their lunches (no lunch program at school). They wanted junk, I gave it to them!

The ystarted daydreaming at dinner of crispy salads and juicy fruits - to a deaf ear. I let them suffer until the third week - and then I bought a modest amout of fruit. Now I can't keep enough in the house. They let me know when it's time to buy more - and I let it come to that point. They've leearned a good lesson.
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#12 of 17 Old 02-15-2006, 01:49 PM
 
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PPs have made some great suggestions. Another thing you might want to try is putting leftovers away on a plate or bowl covered in saran wrap/gladware. This way, when family members are looking in the fridg for something to eat, they will see right a way that bowl of lasagna from the other night already dished up and ready for the microwave. This is what has really helped us use up our leftovers.

Another thing I do is to do all of the prep work when it comes to fresh fruit/veggies. For example, when I bring home a watermelon I cut it up into bite size pieces and put it away in a large, clear gladware bin. Clear is a key here b/c if DH can't see it, he won't eat it. (tee hee...a good way to hide a piece a cheese cake for me to eat later in the week is to put it in a solid colored tupperware container ). Otherwise, that watermelon will just rot in my refrigerator.

In my never ending quest to get my DH to eat more fruit I realized (after about a year of married life) that DH is lazy. Hungry, but lazy. He can find an apple in the fridge but that is about it. Anything that remotely involves work, he doesn't eat.

Last week I almost fell out of my chair when DH went into the kitchen for something to eat and he returned with a salad! And the only reason why he got a salad was b/c I had already done all the prep work:
-Cleaned, wedged iceburg lettuce in one large Gladware bin with 2 pieces of paper toweling on the bottom.
-cleaned leaf lettuce in another large Gladware bin with paper toweling
-cleaned, sliced cucumbers, onions, radishes, celery, peppers, etc., each in seperate, smaller gladware containers.
This way, if something goes bad quick (like the cucumbers) you just pitch the cucumbers, not an entire salad.

Hope this helps cheers
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#13 of 17 Old 02-15-2006, 02:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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great ideas mamas! So how long will something last in the freezer? (meaning cut up veggies b4 they get burnt) This is another problem area of mine. Every blue moon when i go through the freezer, I find and throw out all the meat that has got freezer burn So this is what I have done about 4 times or so. Go to the freezer, through our all that is burnt, vow to not do it again, go to Costco and spend $100 on meat to restock, and then 6 months later, throw it away again, and the cycle starts again! I'm going to try the meal planning and food prepping, and try hard to stick to the plans. I've done this in the past, and it works (meal plans) but then after 3 days or so, we end up going out to eat, (which happens about 3 times a week or so) and now I have all this food again, that is 3 days older. Wel llike someone said, baby steps. thanks again mamas!
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#14 of 17 Old 02-17-2006, 01:46 AM
 
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We get a box of organic produce every other week delievered to our house. I don't specify exactly what we need each time, so we usually get what is local and seasonal. When I get my box I throw everything that needs to be wshed in the sink with a veggie rinse I get from the health food store and clean and chop everything I can that night so I'm more likely to make use of it when I'm rushing to get a dinner going. This seems to help me use up our fruits and veggies faster and makes it easier for me to incorporate them into our weekly meals. I also do try to have two or three dishes I know that I want us to eat that week using what we get from our box.

We still throw out food sometimes, but we're also grabbing clean and cut fruits and veggies for snacks more often too, because they are available.

Good luck!
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#15 of 17 Old 02-17-2006, 01:27 PM
 
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Double post

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#16 of 17 Old 02-17-2006, 01:29 PM
 
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We don't have leftovers but if we do DH takes them for lunch the next day. With fruit I just buy what I know I will feed my kids. I give them fruit with lunch and supper everyday so it works out.

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#17 of 17 Old 02-17-2006, 02:44 PM
 
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One great use for unused and soon-to-be-past-their-prime veggies and fruit is to toss them into the blender with some yogurt and make a yummy smoothie. Some veggies might need to be steamed for a minute or two before they'll blend well, but I've used just about everything I buy in this way (except for obvious stuff like onions and potatoes) and it's always been tasty.

Today, we had yogurt smoothies with strawberries, some really mushy guava, grated carrot, and a big handful of spinach. The fruit is tasty and sweet enough to disguise the taste of the greens, so that even my picky toddler will drink it down with no problem. We get all the goodness of the veggies, nothing is wasted, and these smoothies are hearty enough to be lunch all by themselves.

It was MDC mamas who suggested hiding veggies in smoothies, with the original purpose of getting DD to eat them, but I must say it's also a solution to wasted produce.

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It helps, too, that I have a bottomless pit for a DH, and he'll eat anything, even stuff you or I would have thrown away.

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