Cooking for a family takes a lot of time and planning. Add to that, it can be expensive to plan and buy food for the whole family. These tips will help you save money and waste less food in the kitchen.
1. Freeze extra herbs. Whether cooking for yourself or a big family you may find that you often end up with leftover herbs. I love a little fresh basil when I am making spaghetti sauce, but you can’t just buy a few leaves at a time. Several years ago I started chopping up the leftovers and freezing them in spare ice cube trays. Just a hint, though, you may never want to use these trays for ice again. Sometimes the flavors from the herbs stick around even after multiple washings.
2. Always use your fresh fruits and vegetables. I love buying fresh fruits and vegetables, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned and they go bad before I get a chance to use them. This always feels like such a huge waste of money. Now I pay very close attention to the fresh items in my house. First, I always put several fruit on display in the house. They are more likely to be seen and eaten if in a basket on the counter or table. Second, I move fruit that isn’t being eaten into the refrigerator. If we still don’t use it there are a couple options. Cut up and freeze for a smoothie, blend up and dry for fruit leather, chop up and freeze for use in muffins, pancakes, or waffles.
3. Homemade freezer waffles. Instead of buying frozen waffles make a bunch at once and freeze leftovers. Reheat in the toaster when ready to use. This can also be done with pancakes. It is a great way to deal with leftovers, and it is less expensive and healthier than buying the pre-made waffles.
4. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Fruits and vegetables usually go on sale when they are in season. During the beginning of summer strawberries will be on sale, but the rest of the year they will likely cost 4 to 5 times the sale price. This is the same with peaches, mangos, and more. Not only does this impact price, but it impacts flavor. Green beans always look and taste the best when they are in season. Your family may be more likely to eat the sweet cherries during the summer, then the bitter ones offered during the off season. Bananas and apples are great fillers as they are usually a very good price all year round.
5. Find creative ways to use leftovers. During a recent move we ended up eating pizza every day for a week and still had a lot of leftovers. None of us wanted another bite of pizza, but I didn’t want to waste it. I found a fun recipe online for pizza lasagna. I made it up and stuck it in the freezer for a busy day meal.
6. Freeze leftovers. When there are too many leftovers around and you are worried some may go bad, portion into little meals and freeze on a paper plate with a plastic bag around it. It makes a great freezer meal later when needed. In small portions it is easy to reheat in the microwave.
7. Plan ahead. Make sure you know what you have at home before heading to the store. This is particularly important for perishable items. Do a quick inventory check and make sure to buy what you need. For pantry items that don’t go bad as quickly try to buy when on sale, and buy extra. The next time you shop you can skip that item, and try to buy it again next time it is on sale. This saves money and also saves time. If you do this regularly you will find that you are buying larger quantities of fewer foods. This saves a lot of time as it is easier to pick up 5 cans of soup then to pick up 5 different items.
8. Leftovers on the plate. If you frequently have a lot of leftovers on your kids plate try serving up smaller portions. It is easy enough to give them more when they ask, but a lot harder to take away extra after their sticky hands have mashed half the food up. Don’t ever go so far as to not offer foods they don’t like. It is always beneficial to offer at least a little.
9. Freezer meals. Making meals ahead of time and freezing is a great way to prepare for life. Homemade freezer meals cost less and give you control over ingredients. It is great to have them around the house on really busy days.
I love to spend time in the kitchen, but I like to make sure that I am staying on a budget. I am careful with the food around the house to make sure things don’t go to waste. I try to make sure to use everything we buy.