What would you do with an extra $50 to $250 a month? Pay off credit card debt? Build an emergency savings fund? Take a much-needed vacation? There’s a good chance you are throwing away that much money month after month, and if you stop, you’ll be able to put it to better use.
You just need to stop wasting so much food.
Laura McElfresh from Aurora Colorado, has learned firsthand how the savings can add up. With seven children ages 3-21, the $800 to $900 the family used to spend each month on food didn’t seem unreasonable, but it was putting a strain on the family budget. McElfresh says she planned meals, used coupons and thought she was doing pretty well. She remembers reading that Americans throw away about 25% of their food, and thought “no way.”
But in 2012, after the holidays, she had an epiphany. “I remember the week after New Year’s going through the fridge and throwing away a kitchen-sized trash bag of food” she says. She realized that throwing away a quarter of her food that meant she was wasting $255 a month, or $2,700 a year. “My grandmother who survived the Depression with her family of six small children would have rolled over in her grave if she knew what I’d done,” she said.
She resolved to change.
First, she got creative. “Grandma rarely had a recipe,” she says. “She used what was fresh from the garden, what was already in the house, and her meals were sort of a smorgasbord of bits and pieces from what was in the fridge. The ham she cooked, half a jar of home canned peaches, bread from the morning, leftover green beans, whatever she had on hand. And no matter how many people there were at her table there was always enough.”
McElfresh says she realized that if she started serving more side dishes like her grandmother did, the main dish would go further, and there would be another bonus: It would encourage everyone to eat more veggies and sides.
A Recipe for Savings
McElresh has a “go to” meal she calls “Stuff in a Pan” that she says is a great way to use up whatever is on hand.
Start with meat — ham, chicken, sausage etc. (For her large family, she uses two pounds of meat.) Add potatoes or veggies such as zuchinni or spaghetti squash. Then throw in seasonings and condiments you find in your fridge such as onion, garlic, leftover corn or green beans, cheese, olives, “that carrot that needs to be used up in the back of the fridge” etc. One version she calls “Stuff Italiano” can be made with spaghetti sauce, or a Mexican version can be made with taco meat and salsa. ...continue reading