Wasted food is probably the biggest budget buster in our house. We waste an obscene amount of money in many areas, but I think food is the largest percentage. To that end, I keep trying to make changes that solve the problem, but they’re only band-aids. I need sutures and possible cauterization. The wound is gushing dollars and cents into our garbage cans. I’d like to staunch that flow. Kind of a revolting metaphor when you’re talking about meals. Oh, well, I’m too lazy to find a less gruesome one. If it causes indigestion, well, it should! When people are starving in all parts of the world, you can’t help but think that kind of consistent waste should make you a little ill–revolted.
Some things I’ve been doing to help are simple basic things that most good home managers do, but I’m going to mention it anyway because frankly, I used to forget consistently.
Rotisserie Chicken- One of my favorite “quick meals” is a simple solution. Dash over to Stater Brothers and buy a pre-cooked (hot and tasty) rotisserie chicken and serve with veggies. Fast, easy, and much cheaper and healthier than fast food. Tastier too. however, we don’t pick the bones clean. So, there’s a lot of meat left, but it gets put in the fridge and promptly forgotten. One day I opened the fridge after a night of “rosemary herb rotisserie chicken” and saw the little plastic containers (with 10-11 people here, we buy two). I sighed. I could see another meal sitting there and knew it wouldn’t happen. Then I got mad. When I get mad it isn’t always a pretty sight, but sometimes good things come from it. Like really good soup. Yep, I took those chickens, popped them in the Dutch oven, barely covered them with water, and started boiling. I let them suckers simmer on low for hours. Then I drained the broth into a container, picked the bones out of the strainer, dumped the meat into the container, and popped it in the fridge. Two days later, we had the best chicken soup I’ve ever made. Yum. Two meals for the cost of one and a tenth (had to add a bit of veggies and dumplings on top!)
Browned Ground Beef- It’s terrible, but I’ve actually had this go bad. Why? Because it gets browned by someone else and I don’t remember it’s in there. Sure, the easiest solution is to brown it all myself and then there’s no hassle, but the problem is I am too lazy. I prefer the help. There are several solutions to it. The easiest solution is to make Sloppy Joes at lunchtime, but you have to have the buns, the mix (no I don’t make my own. I LIKE the canned stuff)… Enchiladas are a good option, but you have to have the ingredients in there first. I finally realized that there are two things we ALWAYS have the right ingredients for– Chili and Hamburger soup. So, I really am trying to make those meals a priority during those times.
Chicken Chests- Whenever we make something like Lemon Pepper Chicken, Almond Chicken, or our other chicken recipes, we open a 3-5 lb. package of meat, use about half, and then boil the rest. Generally, those chests become chicken soup. However, let’s face it, you can only eat so much chicken soup before you get sick of it. So, I look for other ideas. I do plan to use chicken pockets soon, and you can do chicken and broccoli (which my husband tolerates on rare occasions), but after a recent idea of my son’s, we’ll be adding BBQ chicken sandwiches to that list. It was fast, inexpensive, easy, and yummy. I have a couple of children who don’t care for barbeque so I won’t do it so often as to exasperate them, but the rest of us do so they’ll have to suck it up sometimes.
Leftover Roast- We always have roast left over when we make it, and I tend to forget about it. The dog loves that, but still… he has food. We need to keep on target! Obviously BBQ sandwiches would be another option, it could be shredded for enchiladas, soup is always an idea, but I could use other ideas for that. What do you do with your leftover roast meat?
Vegetables- I love vegetables. I love to make zucchini and tomatoes, saute crookneck squash, Braelyn bakes amazing asparagus, and if I didn’t know it’d get forgotten, I’d buy turnips to eat with onions. However, almost every time I buy these foods and others (eggplant, artichoke, cucumber, tomato, etc.) I forget about them. Then they become a liquefied soup in the bottom of my crisper drawer. I can buy onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper and I almost NEVER toss those. Once in a while, a piece of fruit flies under the radar and becomes compost fodder for the landfill, but otherwise those foods get consistently eaten. I want to enjoy these foods, but I need SOME kind of reminder to retrain me to think about those foods. It’s time to get with the program. I LOVE good food. I need to eat more. I just simply forget to eat, forget to make food. I need that change, but I have no idea how to do that.
So… how do you ensure you don’t waste food? I’m all ears.