Did you know that organizing can slash your grocery bill? It’s true and we are going to show you how!
Recent reports have divulged an ugly secret. The average American household throws out $640 of food each year, or about 16 percent of its total grocery bill. That’s a lot of waste, much of which can be prevented with better organization, planning and food storage smarts. Read on to find out how organizing your food storage can protect your grocery bill from getting trashed.
Organize Your Pantry
A well-organized food storage area helps to keep you from buying food you already have. Plus, it makes it easy to see what you need when it’s time to go shopping.
- Store like with like. Designate specific shelves or sections of your pantry for various categories of food, such as baking supplies, cereals and breakfast items, canned fruits and vegetables, canned soups and snack foods. This will reduce the chance of things getting buried and forgotten.
- Keep things visible. Stack cans and boxes with their labels facing out. Consider investing in freestanding shelves or stepped organizers to maximize vertical space. Clear plastic stackable pantry containers are great for storing dry goods that you buy in bulk, such as rice or beans.
- Rotate stock. Put newer items behind older items to ensure that the older items get used first.
Declutter Your Refrigerator
It’s hard to know what’s in your refrigerator, let alone find something quickly, when it’s packed to the gills. Too much stuff also makes it easy to forget about items at the back until it’s too late. Plus, air needs to circulate freely to maintain the optimal temperature for perishables. Try these tips for an organized fridge:
- Set up zones. Store like items together in categories or zones. Assign shelves or sections of shelves for dairy, meat and leftovers. Do the same in your freezer for frozen fruit and veggies, meats, poultry, seafood, ready-made items and leftovers.
- Use built-in features. The crisper drawers, for example, are specially designed to provide the ideal humidity for storing fruits and vegetables. The meat drawer is positioned in the coldest spot in your fridge to help maintain freshness.
- Add storage as needed. Consider adding a lidded, clear plastic bin for storing snack items and label it as such. A lazy Susan or two will provide easier access to containers of leftovers and other items that often get forgotten.
- Use door storage wisely. Because the door of your refrigerator is frequently opened, anything stored there is regularly exposed to warmer air, which can hasten its demise. The door is fine for condiments or soda, but don’t store milk or eggs there. Keep eggs in their original carton to help them stay fresh.
The biggest contributor to food waste is over-buying. Better planning will result in less food waste, so plan your meals before you go shopping. For example, if you plan to make an entrée that requires fresh cilantro, look for one or two more recipes that you can also make with cilantro.
- Eat what you have. Start a list of meals you can make this week using items in your refrigerator and freezer. Use the No-Food Waste Menu Planner to plan your menu with what you have on hand.
- Shop with a list. Keep a running list of items you’re running low on or have used up. Smartphone apps like Out of Milk make it easy to create and maintain a grocery list that’s at your fingertips when you need it.
- Avoid impulse buys. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. By the same token, don’t buy perishable foods that you think you should be eating. Only buy what you know you will consume.
- Buy in smaller quantities. If you always buy the 2-pound bag of carrots and regularly trash a few, start buying the smaller bag.
Fresh Is Best, But…
Many people throw out food because it’s past its peak of freshness. While it may not look as nice, much of that food is still edible.
- Use expiration dates as guidelines. Expiration dates are not as hard and fast as you think. Best by, use by and sell by dates are suggestions for ensuring peak quality at consumption. If you’re a day or two past the “best by” date, chances are the food is still perfectly fine to eat. Use your eyes and nose to make the final determination before tossing something.
- Limit exposure to air. Air is the biggest threat to freshness. When storing food in re-sealable bags, squeeze as much air as possible from the bag before sealing.
- Extend the life of fruits and veggies. Store fruits and veggies whole and unwashed. Extend their life by placing them in special produce storage bags, and refrigerate them when ripe to avoid over-ripening—the one exception being potatoes, which should never be stored in the refrigerator. Don’t store potatoes with onions, either, because it can cause the potatoes to rot.
- Salvage what you can. When lemons and limes start to dry out, squeeze them and freeze the juice. Revive wilted herbs, asparagus, celery and cut carrots by placing them in a glass of ice water. Lettuce gone brown and soft? Peel off the outer layers and use the inside leaves. Cheese moldy? Cut off the mold.
- Freeze to prolong freshness. Freeze leftovers if you can’t eat them up in a few days. You can also freeze fresh spinach and overripe bananas to use in smoothies or other recipes.
Organizing can not only slash your grocery bill, but also decrease the amount of waste you send to landfills as well as the waste of resources that go into producing and packaging food. And that’s something you can feel good about, too!
Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media and has appeared in Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman’s Day. A variety of refrigerators can be found online at Home Depot.