Reducing Food Waste (& Your Grocery Bill)

Until recently, I was living at my parent’s home & commuting everyday into the city.  As trying as this time was (as any post-graduate living with their parents can attest to) it was also a good time to save money, something you don’t appreciate until you are paying an arm & a leg for a NYC apartment.

My only problem was having more money meant that I had more to spend on my weekly groceries.  Compounding this problem was that at the end of the week, I often found myself wasting food.

Although my new found budget constraints makes smart shopping a necessity rather than just a ‘nice to do’, weekly food planning is something that can help anyone who is looking to waste less, on a budget or not.

To make it easy, dedicate 20 – 30 minutes a week before you do your shopping to do the following:

  • Take inventory:  What’s in your fridge, freezer & pantry.  Check dates & see if there is anything you should use up soon.
  • Glance at your calendar:  Even though life can throw you a curve ball sometimes, loosely try to plan out your week.  Are you planning on working late Tuesday night?  Hopefully it’s more like drinks Wednesday with your girlfriends.  Whatever it is, make sure to have a few backup plans ready.
  • Pick & Choose: Don’t carve your weekly menu out in stone.  If your plan falls through it will only discourage you.  Instead, make a 4 column list – breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack.  Keeping in mind your inventory & schedule, start filling in each of the columns seeing where you can reuse leftovers or get double use out of purchases.  From here, decide what is absolutely needed from the store. Use this list as you go through the week, picking & choosing depending on what works for you as each day unfolds.

By doing this you should see a dip in your weekly food budget as well as the amount of food you waste each week.  To give an example, here is my list for the week…

Inventory (not everything but things I want to use up):

Swiss Chard (should be used Monday/Tuesday at the latest)
Spinach (should last until Friday)
Half of a grapefruit
Half of a cucumber
Plain yogurt
Peanut Butter (something I am rarely without)
Cheddar Cheese
Half cup cooked lentils
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Bone in Chicken Legs
Canadian Bacon
Black Bean Burgers
Diced Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Oatmeal (this is almost always in my pantry)
Black Olives
Ponzu Sauce (a sample from Kikkoman)

So here is my plan (items in red are things that I would need to get at a first glance):

So how did I do at the store with my list in hand? Not bad, although I did splurge on a few things.  They were totally worth it I might add!

  • Lemons (for Hummus)
  • Another red grapefruit
  • Pears
  • Eggs
  • Bread
  • Sweet Potato
  • 2 Limes
  • Milk (I make coffee at home every morning instead of buying at the deli)
  • Goat Cheese – it’s just been too long since I’ve bought this and since it is healthier than the cheddar, on sale & would be great on pizza & in my hummus sandwich – I splurged!
  • Cholula Hot Sauce:  I was all out & it was on sale – I consider that a win!
  • Dark Chocolate:  Kept in the freezer, a healthier sweet treat for dessert (gotta love those antioxidants!)

Unfortunately it was a mad house and they were out of bananas and onions while I was there so I may need to stop by the store on my way home tonight to pick these up.  Without those items, though my groceries came to just under $25 which was in the ballpark budget for that week!

Now that you know my game plan, I still hope you check back this week for recipes & any updates to the plan.  And If you are trying to cutback on how much food you waste or how much you spend each week, give this a try and tell me how it goes.  I promise it is less painful than it seems!

P.S.  No, I don’t make a fancy chart every week.  It’s usually just chicken scratch written on a napkin or piece of paper!


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