The following is a guest post from Pauline Paquin, a French girl who has recently started to blog over at Reach Financial Independence. Born and raised in Paris, Pauline blogs about how she has been traveling the world for the past 10 years, while trying to build wealth and achieve financial independence, and how you can follow your dreams and reach your goals too. You can follow Pauline on Twitter @RFIndependence.
While Daisy has recently started a grocery budget challenge tracking all her food spending for a month, my challenge has been with food waste.
I hate wasting food. To me, it is simply like throwing money out of the window. I have to go shopping some 30 miles away, the car uses $20 worth of gas for the round trip, plus my time, and the money spent on food that will just go bad and be disposed of? No way. That is why one of my goals for November has been trying to waste zero food. Zilch. Nothing. A challenge because I just moved into a house in Guatemala with no electricity, meaning no fridge or freezer to lengthen the life of my food.
I am thrilled to report that so far, only half an onion and half a can of pureed beans has gone bad. The onion was because my BF put it somewhere I didn’t see, and the beans, well I bought a big can, we have them for breakfast (typical in Guatemala) and it is too big for two so it went bad, but the smaller can wasn’t much cheaper so it is not a complete waste, at least of money.
It is an important cause for me, and here are a few tips I have used during the month to avoid food wastage.
Make a list
For the first two weeks we went once a week to the supermarket, because we had no fridge and we needed the trip to buy construction materials for the house anyway. I had a list with what I needed for my meals, and bought a lot of dry foods, rice, pasta, sauces, canned beans and tuna… that would not go bad without refrigeration. Making a list will prevent you from getting things you don’t need, and probably will end up throwing away. There are some great apps out there, that would keep your standard grocery items from one shopping trip to the other, and you just have to add whatever you ran out of in between trips.
Make a meal plan
With a meal plan, you know what you will eat, and what you will need to buy. I am not very organized on that one, because I tend to turn something that could go bad into a meal with whatever ingredient is at hand, instead of following a plan. In the future I will try to plan the meals together with the shopping list.
Buy what you like
If you don’t know a product and feel like trying it out, buy a small quantity. Research how to use that new vegetable, or make a plan to eat that new thing shortly after you are back from the supermarket. We are animals of habits and it is easy to forget about something we are not used to eating. And throw it. And buy it again, to try it.
Our handyman brought a hen one day. I made hen soup with vegetables. We ate the soup for two meals, then there was only one piece of meat left so my BF had the meat and I made some pasta on the side to eat the vegetables and soup with. The rest of my pasta was reused into a pasta salad the next day. The rest of the salad was a side for a steak dinner. And so on.
It is annoying for some people to eat the same thing five meals in a row. But reusing the steak from lunch to make tacos the next day doesn’t feel like eating leftovers.
What goes bad goes first
Now that I have a deep freezer, I have chopped all the vegetables that were about to go bad with some garlic and thyme into a big pot. It was a side for a meal, and a crepe stuffing for another one. The rest was blended into a soup and frozen in one-person portions for a lazy, no-cooking day.
Two more days and I would have had a garbage bin full of veggies, instead of three meals. You can have a shelf in your fridge where you put everything that is already prepared, like leftovers, or half a tomato from another recipe, and will go bad quickly. When you open the fridge, check that place first for something to eat.
Buy in bulk and prepare
I just got 20 huge grapefruits that grow on my BF’s ranch. Before they go bad, I peeled them and froze the flesh in little bags. I can then thaw one bag for a fruit salad, or blend some in the morning to have a glass of juice.
We also slaughtered a lamb that is stored in the freezer. Those were free, but considerable amounts of one product. If you buy in bulk to save money, and end up getting rid of half the food, you are not saving anything. Prepare your products as soon as you come home.
Make tomato sauce, pickles, preserves with fruits and crops. Bake a pie, cook some stew, or just organize a big cooking party with your friends and let everyone go home with a dozen portions of a home made meal.
Know your basics
Virtually anything that can go bad can be turned into something basic, like pasta sauce or an ingredient for fried rice. I often prepare a salad called ”anything”, where I put anything that only has a couple of days left in my fridge: tomatoes, opened cans of tuna, olives, eggs… together with fresher ingredients. I chop my old carrots into a stir fry, and so on. By knowing a few versatile basic recipes, you will be able to use any food easily and avoid waste.
Freeze extra portions
I freeze my pizza dough, vegetables that are already cooked, meat in one meal portions… all of this is easy to find in the freezer and put in a sandwich bag because unfreezing just one steak from a 5lb bulk of meat is impossible.
By freezing my leftovers in convenient small portions, I not only can have a variety of food ready to eat, but also thaw exactly what I will eat.
Unfreeze at the last minute
Plans can change. If I know I will be home for lunch, I take a meal portion out of the freezer. It can be yesterday’s leftovers, but if I decide to eat out instead, my meal stays frozen, while in the fridge the leftovers would go bad.
Keep your food alive
We have a few hens at home now. We can chose to kill them on the same day we will eat them. I am not telling you to start a homestead just now, but if you are growing some tomatoes on your balcony, or cultivating a little garden to save money, your food will start going bad from the moment you harvest it. Keeping your tomatoes on the vine for another week instead of cutting them all on the same day will help you spread your consumption and avoid waste.
What other tips do you use to make sure you do not waste food at home?