Let’s face it. Humans eat often and a lot. So frugal living makes sense – when we reduce food wastage, we get to pocket more savings and help the environment too. So, are you in?
There’s a greater risk of wasting food because well, there’s simply lots of food around.
First, some sobering information for you to digest.
According to Newsweek, US households are throwing out 150,000 tons of food each day! That’s about a pound of food per person. Most of these foods are greens – vegetables and fruits.
When we throw away food, it’s not frugal living at all – we waste precious food. We also waste precious resources that are used to produce these foods, including:
-7% of all U.S. cropland
-4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water
-1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer
Well, you get the idea.
A co-worker once told me that she threw away the food she had prepared, as she didn’t like how they tasted. She was just “trying out a new recipe”.
Don’t worry if you’ve wasted food before. Who hasn’t?
These strategies will soon sort out the common food-wasting habits that you might not be aware of. Give these frugal living ideas a try and see which ones work best for you.
1. Be frugal – buy one less meal than what you usually budget for.
This saves you money on your groceries. It trains you to work with what you have left in the kitchen and makes you look for any leftovers in the fridge that needs to be eaten before they spoil. There had been times in the past when we had nasty encounters with well-established mold colonies and other exotic lifeforms in the family fridge!
Use creativity to cook with what’s left in the kitchen.
Mr MMT (MoreMoneyTips) had a sudden craving for fried rice. The only problem was he was short of ingredients. So he made do with some garlic, a leftover sausage, 4 eggs, bits of frozen beans that had actually been forgotten in the freezer, a small onion, and some frozen shrimps.
Guess what? That turned out to be one of the best dishes our family had eaten for years! My son is not keen on Chinese food, but he loves this dish.
So, give your creative side a chance. You never know what inspired dish you can whip up with what you have in the kitchen. Innovation is inspired by desperation!
2. Frugal meal planning is crucial.
Plan your meals so that you know what to buy, waste less, and save money.
I used to think that the best way is to google ‘fast easy budget recipes’, but many of these recipes don’t deliver on their promises. Neither are they fast or cheap. I wasted my time as a result.
(This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small compensation if you purchase through these links. You do not pay extra. Please read my disclosure policy. I recommend only products that I trust, would love to use and have received positive reviews).
Then I came across $5 Meal Plan, a meal plan service where all the hard work has been done for you.
How does this work?
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But how do I know if it suits me?
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-You save TIME. You get to spend more quality time with your family.
-You save MONEY. Every meal only costs around $2 per person.
-You save on UNCERTAINTY. The recipes are healthy and tasty.
3. Be frugal – buy more non-perishables, especially those on specials, to save more money.
Stock up your pantry with cans, grains and pasta. As long as you keep them cool and dry in the pantry, they last pretty long.
4. Do a frugal shopping list and stick to it.
Know your family’s likes and dislikes. I love eating and trying out new foods, for example beetroot chutney. I’m the only one who’s adventurous!
Well, after I tried it, I found out that it wasn’t on my favorite list either. That jar of chutney ended up sitting for more than a year now in our fridge, and no one wanted to touch it.
Related post : 7 Frugal Ways That Saved Us $1,300 Recently
You may also like to read more about the Healthiest Foods For a Tight Budget.
5. Buy smaller amounts.
If you use less tomato sauce, it’s false economy to buy a bigger size bottle, even though it may work out to be cheaper per unit. This is because you’re not going to use it very much, creating the risk of spoilage. So, save money by buying smaller amounts if you don’t need much.
6. Never shop on an empty stomach.
Buying food when hungry usually leads to overspending on larger quantities. My strategy to counter this risk?
If you’re hungry, grab a banana like a monkey and have it outside. Just joking, pay for it first. Then return to the store with the banana in your tummy and calmly buy those items on your list.
That’s what I do to save money.
7. Choose your fresh produce wisely.
Some types of produce will last much longer than others. Pumpkins, squash, carrots, cabbage, garlic, potatoes, onions, and oranges last longer when they’re properly stored. So you can buy more if they’re on specials and if your family members love them.
Strawberries, lettuce, stone fruit, and grapes go off fast, so buy in moderate quantities unless you love gorging on them.
To be frugal, minimize wastage and save money, avoid buying produce that don’t keep that well, if you’re not good at planning meals.
8. Frugal rule – ensure that the produce you buy is in good condition.
Check produce such as sweet potatoes, apples, and oranges to make sure that they are fresh and firm when you buy. Also watch out for bruises, especially on bananas.
Mr MMT wasn’t frugal/careful enough in the past. He didn’t ensure this and our potatoes turned green and sprouted shoots soon after purchase! Some of our oranges were pretty soon colonized by mold, and therefore wasted. But we’ve learnt our lesson well. We now carefully check what we buy and keep tabs on the produce we have. This avoids wastage and reduces our grocery bills.
9. Frugal tip – store perishable produce correctly.
You mustn’t keep produce such as onions and garlic in the fridge, as they’ll become moldy sooner. Keep certain produce apart to reduce spoilage. For instance, bananas, tomatoes and avocados give off ethylene gas that will soon spoil nearby produce like apples, carrots and potatoes.
Separate large bunches of bananas to slow down the ripening process, so that they can keep longer.
Another tip is to avoid storing potatoes and onions together. Both need to be stored in cool and dark places. But not together or they’ll sprout much sooner.
As you can see, storing produce properly makes them last longer. Combined with keeping an eye on the produce you have, you’ll waste nothing and save lots of money 🙂
10. Check the food in your fridge or freezer regularly.
There may be some leftovers hiding at the deeper end of your fridge or freezer.
This has been an on-going problem for my family. The reason is Mr MMT believes that fridge doors should be shut as soon as possible to conserve power. As I could only take a super quick glance every time I open the fridge door, I sometimes miss some leftovers.
One solution: stick notes on the fridge door and when an item has been consumed, cross the item out. You’ll be glad you did this.
11. Organize the food in your fridge well.
Always place newly-bought food in the back of the fridge. Ensure that older foods are in the front of the fridge, so that they don’t get forgotten and become rotten.
Foods with earlier expiry dates need to be more visible, to reduce the risk of food poisoning or spoilage.
12. Know how to store your dry foods properly.
Keep grains, and biscuits in airtight jars to keep them fresher, and they’ll last longer. No wastage, more savings 🙂
13. Organize the food in your pantry well.
To reduce food wastage after grocery shopping, put the new items in the back of the pantry and move the older items to the front. Seeing the older items tends to remind you to use them. It’s good not to overstock your pantry, as this makes it harder to minimize wastage.
14. Cook bulk meals and freeze the extra portions for later.
We use our huge crockpot to cook 3 meals at one go. We usually eat one meal and reserve the other two in the freezer for future eating.
Cooking in bulk saves us time and effort too. If you’re thinking of getting a crockpot , I’ve included a link here to save you time. This crockpot is economical and has received positive reviews.
15. Take care not to store raw or cooked foods in the freezer for too long.
Over time, frozen foods lose their texture and flavor, meaning you may not feel like eating tasteless food later. This may also put children off, resulting in the food being thrown away.
When my child was a few years old, he was given food that had been frozen for too long. Despite the food being marinated in sauces and cooked in a pressure cooker, both the taste and texture were not good, and he spat everything out. We were actually dinner guests of an extremely frugal friend! Oh dear!
So, stick notes on your freezer that remind you about your frozen foods and their dates. Refer to your notes and update them. This way you’ll avoid having Ice Age items (eek!!) in the depths of your freezer.
16. Remember to use leftovers soon.
At my workplace, it’s common to see co-workers bringing their leftover dinners for lunch. This saves you money as you won’t need to buy your lunches. You also make sure that leftovers in your fridge are not forgotten and get spoiled.
Mr MMT saves little portions of leftover dinners, veges and a piece of chicken today, a piece of fish the next day . . . and freezes them for his workday lunches. The result? His lunches are varied, delicious and yet very economical 🙂
17. Improvise and use up your food scraps.
If you have odds and ends of vegetables like cauliflower leaves, throw them into a pot and make a soup. You can add some beans and tomato sauce to the soup to make it tasty.
Rinse and save up pumpkin and butternut squash seeds. Bake them in an oven. Then open them up and eat the tasty and nutritious seeds inside. They’re high in magnesium for cardio health.
18. Train your children to be frugal and not waste food.
Train your children to finish the food on their plates. I’m very glad that my child has been trained to adopt this habit.
This tip was from a younger relative who, despite being married to a multi-millionaire, is frugal. When her sons were younger, they had to show her that their watermelon had been eaten clean, with no red bits showing, before the skins were allowed to be discarded.
19. Frugal eating – Limit portion sizes.
Keep portion sizes moderate. Avoid dishing out large servings if you know that family members are medium or small eaters. This will reduce the amount of food that gets binned regularly. You’ll save big on your grocery bill too!
Another possible outcome of served larger portions daily, is some family members developing the habit of overeating, with very harmful health consequences like obesity and diabetes. The Guardian reports that Americans “are consuming ever bigger portions on ever larger dinner plates”.
20. Keep track of food expiry and use by dates.
It’s smart and frugal to take note of expiry and use by dates of the food items in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
I usually rotate my cartons of soy milk – cartons with nearer expiry dates are placed in the front of my pantry.
What’s the difference between use by date and best before dates?
Perishables such as fish and dairy must have a use by date. Do not eat after the use by date, to remain safe from possible food poisoning.
It may not be unsafe to eat foods that have exceeded their best before dates, but they may lose some of their quality, nutritional level and taste. Often when we examine and smell the food, we can tell if they are alright, of dubious freshness or bad.
As you have read above, these frugal practical tips are easy to apply, and kind to the environment too. Just by putting in some effort and care, you’ll be able to stop wasting food unnecessarily.
The big bonus is that you get to be frugal and save more money in the process.
These frugal living tips should spur you on to become more creative in coming up with more ways to reduce food wastage.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you’ll waste no time in using these tips, so that they’ll help you reach your saving goals sooner.