In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly crucial, adopting frugal kitchen practices is a simple yet impactful way to do your part.
Food is one of the highest expenses most households have. Unfortunately, a lot of it still goes to waste. It is such a huge waste of money and a blow to sustainability whenever food finds its way to bins and finally to landfills.
The USDA estimates that approximately 30-40% of the food supply in the U.S. goes to waste. Another study published by the Guardian revealed that the average family could save $17 per week if they froze their food more often and if they reused leftovers.
Looking to lower your food expenses? The first step you should take is reducing food wastage.
Here are some tips that can get you started.
1. Meal Planning
According to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, about 70% of American households engage in some form of meal planning to reduce food waste and save money.
Meal planning isn’t just for the organization; it’s a game-changer in minimizing food waste. By thoughtfully organizing your meals for the week, you save time and ensure that every ingredient serves a purpose.
Consider planning meals around ingredients close to expiration and create a shopping list based on what you need, reducing unnecessary purchases.
2. Batch Cooking
If there’s one trick that’ll save you both time and reduce food waste, it’s the magic of batch cooking. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon preparing larger quantities of your favorite recipes. Then, portion them into meal-sized containers, and voila! You have ready-made meals for those days when cooking seems like a chore. On top of minimizing food spoilage, this strategy helps you make weekday dinners seamlessly.
Just be sure to store food in quantities you can consume without wastage. Also, ensure you freeze the batches to avoid spoilage.
Batch cooking is especially great if you have perishables that are on the verge of going bad.
3. Inventory Check
Regularly conducting an inventory check of your kitchen is a simple yet effective way to prevent food waste. Knowing what you have on hand helps you plan meals and use ingredients before they expire.
Take note of expiration dates and prioritize using items closer to their limit. This practice not only ensures that you’re using what you have but also helps prevent purchasing duplicate items. This not only helps save money but also reduces unnecessary clutter in your kitchen.
4. First In, First Out (FIFO)
Adopt the “First In, First Out” method when stocking groceries; it will help you save so much money.
Place new purchases behind existing items to ensure that older ones are used first. Do this for your fridge and pantry. For your freezer, ensure what went in first is eaten first. This rotation system prevents food from getting forgotten and expiring before use.
This strategy is especially important for anything perishable but also applicable for non-perishables.
5. Proper Storage
Proper storage can make or break the shelf life of your food items. Invest in good-quality storage containers and ensure your pantry and fridge are organized.
Keep perishable items visible so you’re more likely to use them before spoiling.
Also, storing fruits and vegetables appropriately, such as in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer, can extend their freshness.
Additionally, sealing opened packages and storing them in airtight containers can prevent ingredients such as grains and cereals from going stale prematurely.
6. Freeze Excess
Freezing perishable items is a smart strategy to extend their shelf life and prevent waste. Items such as meat, bread, and certain fruits and vegetables can be frozen for later. Do not just leave them in the fridge if you do not plan to eat them in the next few days.
Divide larger portions into smaller, meal-sized portions before freezing. This will help make thawing easier while ensuring you get out just enough for your consumption.
Labeling and dating items in the freezer ensures you can track what needs to be used first. This frugal kitchen hack saves you money by preventing spoilage and provides the convenience of readily available pre-prepared ingredients.
7. Create Smoothie Packs
Are you looking for a creative way to use up fruits that are slightly overripe? Instead of letting them go to waste, chop and portion fruits into freezer bags, ready to be blended into nutritious smoothies later.
This ensures that you use fruits before they go bad. You can customize these packs with various fruits and add greens for an extra nutritional boost.
Having these smoothie packs on hand makes you less likely to discard fruits on the verge of spoiling, contributing to a more frugal and waste-conscious kitchen.
8. Make Homemade Broth
Making your broth is a frugal and sustainable way to utilize vegetable scraps and meat bones that might otherwise end up in the trash. Collect leftover carrot ends, onion peels, and celery leaves in a container in the freezer. When you have enough, simmer these scraps with leftover meat bones to create a flavorful and nutrient-rich homemade broth.
This reduces food waste and provides a versatile base for soups and stews. In addition, it eliminates the need for store-bought broth and saves you money in the long run.
9. Be Creative With Leftovers
Frugal individuals often take steps to reduce food waste by using leftovers creatively.
Instead of reheating the same meal, think of how you can make it more interesting. Transforming leftovers into new and exciting dishes is a crucial strategy that can ensure you actually eat the leftovers.
For example, last night’s roasted vegetables can become a filling for a savory pie or a topping for a pizza. Leftover rice can be turned into a fried dish with fresh vegetables and protein.
By thinking outside the box and reinventing leftovers, you reduce food waste and save money by avoiding additional grocery purchases.
10. Understand Expiration Dates
Familiarize yourself with the difference between “best by,” “sell by,” and “use by” dates. While grocery shopping, you want to avoid perishables whose “sell-by” date is in one or two days unless you plan to use it that very same day.
Often, food is still safe after the “best by” date, reducing the likelihood of unnecessarily discarding items.
Trusting your senses, such as smell and taste, can also help determine whether a product is still good. This knowledge ensures that you use items before they truly expire, preventing unnecessary waste.
11. Portion Control
Practicing portion control is not only beneficial for your health but also plays a significant role in reducing food waste.
Serve appropriate portions to avoid leftovers that may go uneaten and eventually get discarded. Consider using smaller plates and bowls to help control portion sizes. While at it, always make the first serving small, and you can take up more if needed.
Ensure that any excess portions are refrigerated for later consumption.
12. Stale Bread Solutions
Stale bread doesn’t mean it’s destined for the trash. Get creative by turning it into croutons, breadcrumbs, or even a delicious bread pudding.
Simply toast or bake the bread to give it a new life and use it in various recipes. You can also make a flavorful panzanella salad by combining stale bread with fresh vegetables. Finding innovative ways to repurpose stale bread is good for your wallet.
13. Use Overripe Bananas
Overripe bananas are some of the most common items that end up in kitchen waste.
The next time you have overripe bananas, think of how you can turn them into delicious treats. Mash them up and use them in baking for moist and naturally sweet banana bread or muffins. You can also make smoothies and healthy ice cream and freeze them for later.
By embracing the versatility of overripe bananas, you not only avoid wasting a tasty fruit but also create tasty snacks without additional ingredients, saving you money in the process.
14. Cook With Scraps
Don’t discard vegetable and herb scraps too quickly—they can add flavor and nutrients to your meals. Onion skins, carrot tops, and herb stems can be collected to create a homemade vegetable broth or infused oil. Additionally, citrus peels can be dried and used for zest or added to teas. Besides minimizing waste, incorporating these scraps into your cooking enhances the flavor profile of your dishes, eliminating the need for extra seasonings that might be costly to buy.
15. Use the Whole Vegetable
To minimize food waste, make a conscious effort to use vegetables in their entirety. For example, broccoli stems can be sliced and cooked with the florets, and beet greens can be sautéed or added to salads. Carrot tops can be used to make a pesto sauce or garnish.
This mindful approach promotes sustainability and efficiency in the kitchen, aligning with a frugal and waste-conscious lifestyle.