Food is not getting cheaper. As fuel prices continue to rise, food prices will follow suit. I have watched this time and time again throughout my adult life. The kitchen is a great place to learn frugality, which is the equivalent of being eco-friendly. Here are some ways to do and be both.
1. Eat before you go to the grocery store
Never go to the store hungry, and don’t take your hungry children to the store, either. If you are hungry, everything will look good, your creative cooking mind will think of new meals you will never prepare, and you will end up buying things you never use. You will over-buy, and food will go bad before you have a chance to use it. You’ll also buy chips and sweets, your stomach somehow justifying it. Trust me on this one.
You’d be amazed how much food we waste when we don’t have a plan in place! I have been doing this for years, and, aside from leftovers, there is not much left over at the end of the week. You don’t buy food that sits in the pantry, fridge or freezer if there is a purpose for each item purchased.
3. Learn to read the real prices
I am teaching my 16-year-old daughter to read the price tags on the shelves in the store. Below the price in the small print is the price per ounce or price per item. Sometimes a sale item looks like a great deal, but if you read the price per ounce, frequently you will find that a different, and maybe larger, package is less expensive. Don’t be fooled by the 10/$10 promotions!
4. Stock up on sale items to fill the freezer and pantry
Again, check the price per ounce to see if it actually a ‘sale’ item. I buy frozen vegetables, canned beans, nut butters, tea, and other non-perishables we use all the time. When your freezer is full, it works better, using less electricity and saving money and natural resources. The same goes for your refrigerator – it uses less electricity when it’s full.
5. Cook food to freeze
I buy ground meat on sale, brown it, and freeze it in small batches. I take it out for chili, tacos, burritos and spaghetti sauce. When the garden is brimming, I make meals to freeze. I sometimes can or freeze vegetables, but more likely, I will make a pot of soup or a vegetable dish, and freeze it in one-meal quantities.
6. Grow your own food
If you like to cook, you will love growing your own food. You can buy plants and seeds for varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs that you cannot get at the supermarket. It rounds out the overall food experience by giving you unique flavors and dishes. Gardening, to me, is food for the soul. You save more than money by taking care of yourself with an earth-centered hobby like gardening.
If you live in an apartment or other small quarters, you can grow in containers. I always have lettuce and herbs growing inside in one-gallon pots. You can also plant in containers outside – tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and zucchini do well. Plants are now bred to be smaller and suited for container growing. If you have room outside, plant a small garden. It does not take much space to grow quite a bit of food.
Growing your own food is not only good for you, it also cuts down on the fuel needed to transport it from large farms to the store. If you worry about the water it takes to grow food, remember: Someone has to water it! It may as well be you.
7. Buy in bulk
This is always cheaper than buying smaller, separately packaged products. When wholesalers save money on packaging, those savings are passed on to the consumer. It is also environmentally friendly to reduce packaging as much as possible. Most supermarkets now have bulk bins for things like pasta, grains, beans, flour, nuts, seeds, herbs, tea and treats.
8. Stretch a chicken
I sometimes buy a cooked chicken. When we have eaten all we like for dinner and lunches, I make soup with the carcass, adding inexpensive vegetables and potatoes or rice.
Other times, I have the butcher cut up a whole chicken, and I bake all the parts. We eat the thighs and breasts, and the rest goes in a plastic zipper bag in the freezer. I add to the bag every time I do this, and after a couple of months, there are enough parts for soup. A chicken can go a long way!
9. Eating at home saves money
The money you save shopping and preparing your food will allow you to splurge on a meal out now and then. Dining out should be a treat, not a regular affair.
Paying attention to eating and shopping habits are part of an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can save money and natural resources, not just at home, but in the production and transport of your food. And always eat organic and Fair Trade as much as you can.