Let me preface this post by telling you quite honestly that Mer and I were the biggest food wasters ever. It’s shameful really. We’d buy so much food unnecessarily because we were awful about eating leftovers, cooking our food wisely and being frugal. I cannot even tell you how many times I threw perfectly good food in the trash because I was too lazy to cook it and it expired. Like I said, we were just awful.
Then, when we decided to really focus on paying down our debt (post about that coming Wednesday so stay tuned) we gave ourselves a 75.00$ grocery budget each week. Beforehand, we’d spend at least 100$ weekly and then also spend over 100$ on take out because we were big food wasters and constantly felt we had nothing to eat. Absolutely ridiculous and so incredibly wasteful.
So back to the grocery budget thing. By lowering our grocery budget we had to become far more savvy about what we bought. Not only did we slash our grocery budget but we also cut out restaurant food so that 75 bucks had to feed us 3 meals a day – 7 days a week with NO exceptions.
What worked for us was meal planning every meal and snack we’d eat so we knew exactly what we needed to buy. We’d also look at our weekly grocery store flyers to see what was on sale before we sat down to discuss what we’d be eating that week because 75$ doesn’t get very far around here unless you buy things on sale (We live in a high COL area and food prices often reflect it). We never did without fresh produce, fresh meat or dairy. We simply bought those items on sale and made meals around them. We tried new vegetables because they were on sale and fell in love with things like Okra and Yuca which was something neither of us had ever eaten before. Moral of the story, it is possible to slash your grocery costs if you’re okay with experimenting with cooking and eating new and delicious foods.
Reducing our food waste happened by consequence. With less food in the house we had to get creative and not waste anything because wasting just wasn’t an option anymore. We were very much aware of how much individual items cost and we became far more vigilant about how we treated food. Respect all the food!
Here are a few techniques we use to keep our food waste to a minimum. The biggies in TTBH are bread and vegetables and these are a few things we came up with that prevent us from wasting and also provide us with extra meals at no cost. Win win situation.
Bagging up vegetable “scraps” to make soup stock and then make delicious soup
This is amazing because it makes a delicious and FREE soup stock from vegetable “scraps” you’d otherwise throw in the trash. I have a freezer bag in my fridge at all times and every time I have uncooked veggie scraps (peels, stems, tough outer leaves) I put them in the bag to make soup. On Sunday nights I put all my veggies in a large stock pot, cover them with water and let them boil for an hour or until tender. Strain out the veggies and you’re left with a delicious and healthy stock that you can use fresh or freeze.
This batch had garlic, onions, carrot ends, carrot peels, potato peels, broccoli rab stems and the other leaves of the broccoli rab that were too tough to cook.
I’ve also made stock with eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, green beans. Almost all veggies work really well.
The batch I made yesterday will be used to make a minestrone this week with minestrone veggies I harvested and froze from our garden over the summer, frozen garden beans and frozen tomatoes. The entire meal is FREE.
Using Stale Bread Two Ways
Bread is the second biggest potential form of food waste here in TTBH. We’ve always got chunks of hardened stale bread laying around. In the olden days (ha! only 7 years ago) I’d just put it in the trash without much thought – now, I use it up in two different ways.
Sliced bread and hard crust baguettes get stored in a zip lock in my freezer. Every Friday night I pop them out of the freezer and let them thaw, chop them into chunks and prepare an amazingly delicious French toast bake to eat on Saturday morning.
I follow this recipe, except I use old bread and I sometimes double the egg mixture depending on how much bread I have to use. Also, I always soak it over night to sort of rehydrate the bread. It never fails and it’s always really delicious and such a treat on Saturday mornings. Margs loves it too. You can also add dried fruits like raisons, plums or apricots.
With softer breads with less crust we make bread crumbs. Have you seen the price of bread crumbs or panko lately? Absolutely crazy considering you can make it yourself for free at home. The thing with breadcrumbs is that you need softer bread with less crust so loaves and Italian breads are perfect options. Leftover breads from dinners and such are stored on top of my fridge in a plastic tray where they dry out. Once the tray is full and the chunks are sufficiently dry I grind them up in my food processor and pass them through a colander to remove any larger pieces. I then store them in an air tight container in my pantry and season them as needed. (Salt, pepper, dried parsley & dried oregano are our go-to favorite seasonings).
After midnight on NYE as we were walking/sleding home from a friends house!
I suppose that continuing on with our efforts to reduce food waste is one of my new years resolutions. I know I said I wasn’t setting any mostly because when I set goals I tend to fail miserably but I think we’ve really found our groove with handling food in this house so I want to keep on keeping on.
I hope you had an amazing New Year and that you’re creating awesome plans to reach your goals, resolutions and intentions for 2017. (Thank you for sharing them with me by the way, I seriously enjoyed reading them). We were over at a friends place until far too late but we had an amazing time, were treated to a delicious meal and got to tow our kiddo in her sled because we opted to walk. Can I just tell you how peaceful the streets are at roughly 1am when you’re hauling a tiny kid in your sled? It was an exhausting but perfect night.
Now tell me, what hacks do you use to reduce your food waste?