Food & Fitness After 50: Want to save money on food?

I hope that got your attention! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to save money on food. While there are many strategies to save money, such as buying in season, checking the weekly specials, and using discount shopping cards, did you ever consider wasted food as throwing away money?

At a recent conference, one of the sponsors was General Mills, discussing sustainability. A featured speaker was Lindsay Boswell, the CEO of FairShare in the UK, whose mission is to fight the twin challenges of hunger and food waste. (As part of their sustainability platform, General Mills is major supporter of organizations, like FairShare.)

I learned some startling facts about food waste:

• 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted.
• The average American throws away 50% more food today than we did about 50 years ago.
• Today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of food each year.
• While there is food waste along the whole food chain, consumers lead the way on food waste; throwing away 15-25% of all food purchased.
• For more details on of food waste, here’s a good article.

That got me thinking, what could I do to reduce food waste and save money at the same time. So, I started my spring cleaning a little early by taking inventory of everything in my pantry and kitchen shelves to uncover what was hiding in the cabinets. As I did, I made a list on my tablet of everything I had on hand.

Next, I tackled the freezer; that place where many leftovers go to die. After my inventory, I realized that I had enough food in my house for meals for the next month! The only thing I will need to pick up at the grocery store is milk, yogurt, and some fresh veggies and fruit.

Some of the meals on my menu will include:

• Quinoa and chicken skillet (thanks to my niece, Sena, who gave me a jar of black quinoa).
• Grilled quail and roasted red potatoes with frozen green beans (thanks to my brother-in-law, Steve, who brought quail from a hunting trip in South Georgia).
• Spaghetti and turkey meatballs (left over meatballs from New Year’s Eve appetizer).
• Honey-ginger pork with carrots and apples (I remember when that pork loin was on sale, but forgot it was in the freezer!)
• Sweet and sour chicken bowl (this uses pouches of ready rice, which I had several of in that corner cabinet that is hard to reach)
• Peanut butter noodles with spicy orange shrimp (frozen shrimp, of course, and who doesn’t have peanut butter?)
• Pesto over hot noodles (I bought a jar of pesto at gourmet shop in Anderson, SC and never opened it).
• Peri-Peri turkey tenderloin (spice brought back from trip to South Africa last fall).

And, I’m ready for Super Bowl snacks with black bean and corn salsa with toasted pita bread wedges and Bush’s “hummus made easy” roasted red pepper pouch, blended with can of garbanzo beans.

So, you get the idea; it was worth the couple of hours to inventory and get creative with meal planning. One other thing I did was check the dates…this can get confusing, so here is quick primer:

• The “use by date,” “best by,” or “best before” dates are found on pantry staples, like canned foods and condiments and refer to the best quality of the food. If unopened, these foods are still safe to eat.
• The “sell by” date is the day your grocery store must sell the product. But, it is still safe to drink the milk or eat the cheese for several days after the sell by date, if you’ve stored it correctly (that is, did you keep in the fridge?)
I must confess I had to toss a can of mandarin orange slices that was wedged in the back of a shelf with a “use by date” of October 2015, but I blame that on my dumb cabinet design, well, that plus my forgetting to make that chicken-mandarin orange salad I had once upon a time planned.

So, whether your goal is to save money, help the environment, or help reduce hunger (or hopefully, all three), start at home to reduce food waste. I would love to hear your creative ideas or ask a question about food waste here, on my website.

And, for information on reducing food waste and saving money check out let’s talk trash.

Chris Rosenbloom is the author of Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author Bob Murray. For more information on the book see our webpage.