October 13, 2012

Are you wasting food?

It seems like my grocery bills are higher and higher lately. With all of the family-size packaging, buy-one-get-one sales and better deals for bigger quantities, food shopping can be particularly challenging for those of us who live alone or with one other person often end up buying and cooking more than necessary. As a result, we either throw food away or get tired of eating leftovers for three days in a row.

I had to figure a way to manage my grocery purchases so I don’t buy more than I need. I found a dozen ways to downsize my food shopping—and stop wasting food.

I’ve learned to take the time each week to create a meal plan and jot down the ingredients for my recipes each week. When you’re cooking for one or even two, it’s helpful to think of smart ways to reuse key ingredients. For example, tonight’s grilled chicken dinner could easily become tomorrow night’s chicken salad. What’s more, having a menu plan will keep you from overbuying while you shop.  It really helps!

I found that cooking from scratch is a big savings, perhaps not a time saver but nonetheless helpful. Frozen, and prepared foods from the grocery store most always serve four people or more. So, if you’re a household of one or two, you end up paying for twice the food you need. You can easily scale down most recipes to serve one or two people (and shop accordingly). Plus, who wants all the preservatives and added salt in packaged foods.

Be careful with the coupons. We’re all about saving money on groceries, but coupons typically entice us to purchase more than we need—or, to purchase items we wouldn't normally buy. If you’re going to use coupons for food items, stick to pantry staples that won't go bad. I no longer buy something just because I have a store coupon these days. It just turned out to be a waste of money for me.

Larger package sizes are obviously a better deal. You’ll spend more per ounce or per unit by buying smaller quantities. However, consider the alternative: purchasing more than you need and throwing away food you tire of or don’t use. I look for half-quantities or smaller package sizes: You can choose six eggs instead of a dozen, half loaves of bread, half-gallons of milk, and pints of ice cream instead of gallons (probably a good idea anyway).

I no longer keep all of the above mentioned in my fridge anymore but thought it would be a good idea for those of you who still use those products. As a modified Vegan, we don’t eat dairy or meat, only fish occasionally. But, I have recently added a steak every two weeks to my diet, as my new doctor said I was not getting enough protein and vitamin B12 and the only natural way is from lean red meat. I thought I would be thrilled and anxious to have a steak again but after I had it, it was no big deal!!!!! LOL

I shop the bulk food section. Many larger grocery stores and most specialty stores have aisles stocked with bulk bins of items like grains, beans and nuts. The bulk food aisle is the single-shopper’s best friend, because you can scoop out and purchase only what you need.

In the produce aisle, I remove two bananas from a larger bunch, pull two tomatoes off the stem, or ask a grocery employee to split that large bag of grapes in half. Obviously, this is only advisable for items that are sold by the pound and not by the package.

I prepare my beans ahead of time and freeze. I buy a package of dry white navy beans or pinto beans is my favorite, and prepare the entire package. Beans store well in the freezer, and since they have to be soaked in water for the entire night before and the following day cook it slowly for about 2-3 hours, you’ll be ahead of the game next time you make soup or stir fry. I love my escarole and beans or rice and beans and who doesn't love pasta fazool?  I always have a pre-cooked container of beans in my freezer at all times for soups, etc.

Have you ever tried a scoop of leftover mashed potatoes in the middle of a bowl of soup?  Delish!  I always keep a soup starter in the freezer. If you only use a portion of a canned product like tomatoes or vegetables, or have leftover cooked veggies of any kind, use large freezer bags and store these in the freezer. Place the container in a handy spot in the freezer so you can easily pull it out and pour in any unused veggies or cooking liquid—just keep adding to it, and mix it all up! Use it within six months as a base for homemade vegetable soup.

And, of course, whenever I make my gravy and meatballs, (which is not that often these days) that huge pot simmering for hours makes many more dinners when I fill several containers and freeze them for another day when I’m craving pasta.

Shopping and cooking for one or two will always be a challenge, however, with a little creativity, you can stretch your dollars and still eat a variety of healthy foods each week.

Happy shopping and saving!

P.S.  Time for my Vegan lunch!


  1. What a strange thing you posted about this today. Right now I have a whole chicken cooking. It will make several meals for me this week and I may put some in the freezer if I don't feel I'll eat it all. Next weekend, I'll make roast beef and that will turn into several different meals for me too. I always like leftovers and find I try to fix things so that I will have them. Freezing them into meal size portions is a good idea too. I still waste money as I seem to always be trashing things but I'm trying. Food is way too expensive.Thanks for all the tips today!

  2. I just noticed the August picture, Good one! Looking good!
    Good advice all, but I like the beans best. Great ideas.'okay, I had to look up Pasta Fazool' sounds good. I only know it because Dean martin had it in one of his songs. hahaha!

    Love from up here, when we should be in Florida!!!

  3. Left overs are not much of a problem for us, I take them to lunch at work.

  4. we make our beans up from scratch in the crock pot, and then cook in bulk in the crock pots, and then freeze what we dont eat in seal-a-meal bags, which can be boiled or nuked to make a quick entree. we eat vegetarian or have soup/sandwiches a couple of times a week too. another big money saver is aldi- they only pretty much have staples, we go to a local produce market for fruit and only buy meat in bulk. it all adds up, i figure we spend less than 45$ a week for two on food.


  5. Great post! Wonderful tips. I have really been extra careful lately about my grocery shopping and cooking. Every little bit helps, and we have always been ones to eat up our leftover. Nothing goes to waste here, I can assure you! lol