Recent research by the Australian government has shown we are spending around $7.8 billion dollars a year on food that doesn’t get eaten. That’s over $1,000 each year for the average Aussie household spent making garbage! Not only is this is a tragic end to all that painstakingly harvested produce, but it is a total and utter waste of money. Stop throwing your paycheck out in the trash and start food buying sensibly!
I plan my meals. Yes, every single one, including snacks. It might sound a little OCD, but I actually quite enjoy it and it eradicates that 5pm “uh oh, what am I going to have for dinner??” panic. One night a week, I sit down with all my recipe books and foodie magazines and I make a list of what to cook for the following week. It’s fun looking at all the delicious foods on offer, just selecting meals from a gigantic, global menu!
Taking stock of what’s already in the freezer prior to the planning is going to help you avoid doubling up and really helps to keep costs down. Too often, our freezers become culinary oubliettes, where meals and leftovers, stored with the best intentions, are lost forever in the depths of ice and time. Write a list of what you already have and look for recipes containing these ingredients. I recently found a container of Mexican pulled pork I had totally forgotten about, hiding under the peas and soup bones. Now Thursday is taco night and I barely have to lift a finger. Winning.
When making meal plans, it’s tempting to get excited and plan exotic meals every night. While it’s fantastic to get excited about food (I really do), we don’t want barely touched jars of jalapenos and juniper berries lurking in the pantry, growing mould. If this is you, try planning your week’s menu around one nationality’s cuisine, like Italian or Thai. You’ll find most of the recipes use the same or similar ingredients and you can power through the big bags of bean shoots, no worries.
Grow your own
While the modern costs of gardening don’t always make home-grown a cheaper option, I do highly recommend you try your hand at an herb garden. How many times have you bought a bunch of mint only to use a sprig, the remainder becoming a foul green sludge in the bottom of your vegetable drawer before you think to use it again?
Having your own herb patch means you can pick just the amount you need and the rest stays fresh. It’s also very satisfying.
It’s no secret that family-sized packs are often better value, but if half of it sits in the cupboard until it goes stale, you haven’t saved a cent. If you’re buying in bulk, why not cook it in bulk? By cooking up a huge pot of stew and freezing it in portions, you make sure none of those lovely fresh ingredients go to waste and by having a ready meal in the freezer, you’ll also avoid the temptations of fast food. Just don’t forget you’ve got them…
Cook like Grandma… sort of
A few generations ago, people were really good at cooking. These days, most of us have kitchen skills that would make Margaret Fulton cry. Sure, we know how to pan fry the perfect steak, but do you have any idea how to make your own chicken stock?
So many of us will buy chicken breasts for $7 when for $12 you could buy the whole chook! You can learn how to joint a chicken on Youtube (it only took me 2 attempts to feel confident!) and there are plenty of recipes for making your own stock from the scraps. Short of time? Invest in a pressure cooker. No scraps and bones wasted again. It’s more respectful to the animal, better for your wallet and infinitely better tasting than the junk on the supermarket shelf.
One night a week, it’s a good idea to plan an invention challenge. You will undoubtedly still have some leftovers in the fridge (unless you are a food planning genius, in which case- I want your tips!). See what you can throw together with the odds and ends in your pantry. Try typing ingredient lists into Google for inspiration or just get creative. And remember, no dish is a failure, just a learning experience.
Extend Your Grocery Week
Saturday mornings and Thursday nights used to be the only time most people could get to the shops, so it became a weekly ritual of convenience. You’d do your shop, come home, put your broccoli in the crisper and simultaneously toss the limp broccoli from last week. Hellooo, wastefulness!
Trading hours have changed a lot since the dark-ages of shopping and with online grocery shopping available too, there’s simply no need to do your shop on the same day every week.
Why not try extending your shopping week by 1 day? The next week, maybe 2? Fifty years ago if things ran out, you’d just have to make do and believe it or not, people didn’t drop dead from lack of parmesan. Have a go at living the old fashioned way and shop when you actually need it, not just when you feel like it.
With a little forethought and organisation, you can be eating well and only buying what you actually consume which means more money to spend on things you want… Like buying land, not landfill.