Monday, March 7, 2011

Food Waster/Kitchen Inefficiency

O.k. O.k. so I'm obsessed with couponing to the point where I feel guilty if I end up at the grocery store without my little coupon folder and it has saved us a crazy amount of money since January 1st. In January and February alone coupon saved us close to $275 dollars on things like groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc...

So I am well on my way to contributing even more to the "family" bank account - however I'm awful at wasting the food I've just saved money on.

Every few months I have to clean out the freezer and throw away mystery meat or even meat that I have taken the time and effort to label with name and date, but then it gets stuck in the back and is like, 6 months old before we find it again...

I also tend to have about 5 pasta/salsa jars open in my fridge at any given time - none of which I remember when I opened them and all of which I am afraid to use or eat because I never really know how long they stay good for once they go in the fridge.

I do try to make a "meal plan" although these days it's more of like a shot in the dark than an actual plan - I buy ingredients that can make certain things and then sometimes don't make those things.... so I have to get better at sticking to the plan.

So..... Here is what I am going to attempt to do

  • Leave a sharpie in kitchen so I can label things going in the freezer and sauce jars (I had actually started doing this about 2 weeks ago and find it helps TREMEMDOUSLY)

  • Freeze more. I made a baked ziti the other day to freeze when the baby gets here and decided that I needed extra sauce, so I used 1.5 jars of sauce. I need to put that extra sauce in a freezer bag so that it doesn't get thrown out in 2 weeks and so we can use it when we eat the baked ziti cause I HATE dry baked ziti:)

  • Put a list on the fridge of the big stuff I bought and the MEAL PLAN. This way it will remind me at first glance what I bought and what I was intending to make so I don't end up eating cereal for dinner because I don't feel like digging out all the ingredients.

  • Start storing pantry ingredients together that make meals. I saw this on a blog and thought it made perfect sense... For instance - once I have all the canned stuff I need for chili - put them all together on the same shelf so I don't have to waste time looking for everything only to find out I'm missing something.... (I love organizing... can you tell???) If I had the space, I would even put them in little baskets all together and label them - but alas I have limited space, so grouping will have to do for now.
Those are the things I am going to try very hard to work on over the next few weeks so that they become habit and natural. I don't like buying and eating processed foods, so we cook A LOT - which is why I need so much organization. I don't mind spending more money on real food - but I do mind that I waste it.
My husband is AWESOME at taking leftovers for lunch and once I'm done incubating this child, I am sure I will be able to go back to eating leftovers - at the moment I'm more of a cereal for lunch kinda girl because leftovers don't appeal to me at all.

What things do you do to keep your kitchen organized and efficient? Share tips with how to make sure you don't let something sit in the fridge too long only to throw it out.

How do you tell how long something can safely be in the fridge before throwing it out?

For example, Pizza sauce... when I buy a jar - it says use within 7 days - I'm kind of a stickler for that kind of thing - but then the other day I bought pizza sauce in a squeeze bottle (not particularly air tight) and it said to use within a month - so what the hell is the difference?

Sour cream?
Pasta Sauce?
Apple Sauce?
Orange Juice?
Cream Cheese?
Ricotta Cheese? (3-5 days max)

All of these are things that I tend to not use/throw away after a week of sitting out opened. How long do you let these things sit in your fridge?

Do you have any tips for favorite meals to make to eat that day and then freeze a second batch for later? I already do that for ziti and lasagna and chili and even pot roast - but what other dishes freeze and defrost well? I remember the fog we were in when Katie was born and I want to make sure we have good options to take out and heat up versus ordering out or a bowl of Rice Krispies at 9 at night when we remember to eat!!!!

Looking forward to your tips.

Oh... and do you guys want more info on couponing? What types of things are you interested in? The last time I had a peapod delivery - I ended up having a coupon for half of the items I bought. I have gotten so used to having coupons for things that I almost don't want to buy anything until I have a coupon for it because I know I will get one and I hate the idea of paying more than I should.

I have also used the Rite Aid deals numerous times since my first posting to score free or almost free items between coupons/sales and their register reward money. It just takes a bit of effort and some time (especially in the beginning) - but it becomes habit and you get faster and it's SOOOOOOOO worth it!

Happy Monday!


  1. might sound silly - but I have found that by watching portions more closely we have cut down a lot on food waste. We also make sauce and freeze it (or Sharpie store sauce so we know the date). if there is no expiration date (or if it's leftover food) I give it a week and then toss it. We used to waste so much food because we would hardly eat the leftovers so the portions and freezing has really helped a lot. Also, meal planning was key.

  2. OK first thing is get a food saver- this helps keep those meats longer. We also have a list on the outside of the freezer with tally marks for each item that is in there so when I take a chicken breast out I just scribble out a tally and I always know what is in there. We also hvae a 2 week menu posted on our corkboard. This helps with several things- knowing what to buy at the store, what needs to be taken out in the morning or evening before to defrost and it always answers the question of what's for dinner tonight. Big meals are on Saturdays and Sundays, pasta is always our meal on Wednesday and left over day is every Thursday (this way I don't have food sitting for more than a week- big things like meat loaf Gene takes a few sandwiches during the week too).
    My favorite freezer meal is Turkey Stoup by Rachel Ray- I make it with chicken however cause who has turkey in their house besides at Thanksgiving.
    As for food in my fridge I tend to just go by the expiration date- I never knew there was something that told me to use it within a certain number of days...well at least I haven't killed my family yet on that one.

    YES more couponing tips. I tried using couponsense but got so fustrated with the fact that I needed to shop at 12 places just to get all the best deals. I guess my problem is that we tend to just buy the same things every week- varying little for simple things like salad dressing, cereal, cleaning products.

  3. I try to meal plan but like you said it sometimes gets difficult with adam's changing schedule. I Have found that I only food shop 3 times a month and then the last week or so at the end of each month I have to use whats left in my fridge, freezer or cabients. I try to make meals with what I have and then when I absolutly cant make a full meal I go food shopping. ( I go to the farmers market for fuits an veggies and milk that week). I see that it helps a lot we are forced to rotate our freezer stash. We have a giant freezer in the basement because we bought half a cow this year and this is really helping. ( Meat can be frozen for a year if properly stored).

  4. I, too, am all about a weekly menu and a leftover night. Pretty much if it doesn't smell bad or have mold on it, we'll use it! LOL I try to plan meals that go together, too. If I'm buying lettuce and tomato for tacos one night, I'll plan burgers or sanwiches the next night to use up the leftover veggies. And I freeze as much as I can, over ripe fruit for smoothies or baking... even milk! And I try to rotate my pantry every 4-6 months, so use all the canned goods/cereal/pasta, etc within the expiration dates.