Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tips on Saving Money on Groceries - Part 2

Here is the link to Part 1.

Here is your money saving tip - Clean your kitchen!

Recently, I've done some cleaning and reorganizing kitchen areas of friends and family members (who shall remain nameless for protection). We found expired bottles, multiple packages of cheese or oatmeal. The story with the oatmeal is a good one because they don't even eat oatmeal. They had bought it for visiting parents, who left months ago.

What happened to our poor victims happens to all of us - overwhelmed by clutter. When you organize everything, you know where to find things. For these tragic cases, had their space been organized, they may not have bought additional Parmesan cheese or salsa. They would've known there were 3 open already in the fridge.

I'm guilty of overbuying - "Didn't you say we needed ketchup?" and it's more due to confusion or miscommunication.

Growing up, I always cleaned the fridge while my mom went to buy groceries. If you don't have an underage housekeeper of your own, you will have to take that responsibility yourself.

1. Organize the space 
Everything has a purpose and a place. For example, we have 6 rows in our pantry. Starting at the bottom:
1. Potatoes, onions, extra bottles and cans (need to bend a little, but it's ok)
2. Canned food and juices and bottles (these are likely to be used so need to see them easily)
3. Chips, cookies, snacks (these are used daily and right at eye level for us)
4. cake mixes, pastas, spices (just right above eye level)
5. Indian spices, thai curries, coconut milk, packets of surprises (these I need to get the stool for)
6. Extra cereal boxes, boxes of chocolate (man, I need to really climb up on that stool!)

Each row should have a purpose. If you stick your salsa bottles behind cereal boxes and you're going to miss them. And keep buying more bottles, even though you have them.

It is through this exercise that one learns priorities.

2. Clean the fridge before you shop.
  • Leftovers need to be tossed or frozen. If you have a substantial quantity, go ahead and freeze it. Just get some masking tap for a quick label. However, do remember to clean your freezer occasionally. We freeze a lot of food and it's like a nice surprise not to cook on those days that exhaust you (e.g., coming home from a trip)
  • If you don't think you would serve something today (e.g., a piece of 2" square of Gouda from your last party), then throw it out. 
  • If you find you have food items that you bought for someone else, but don't need - Give it away! 
    • I've brought snacks to work (after my picky kid rejected them) or extra fruit that I won't be using, but it was such a good deal.
    • Look for the food banks. By the way, food banks do not just need canned soup. Donate extra boxes of cake mix and Jello.Contribute all those special items too!

Now that you've seen what you've thrown out and what you have kept, you can go shopping with a purpose.

3. Store food  properly
  • Downsize containers and packages. Actually fruit is supposed to be kept in airtight containers, so transfer from the plastic ones from the market. Don't let one serving of pasta in the serving dish take up valuable real estate in the fridge.
  • Don't leave food in tin cans or open bottles - transfer to a proper container with lid. 
  • If you're wrapping up with foil or clear wrap, do it right. Leaving gaps is the same as leaving it opened.
  • Speaking of wasted real estate space, throw out those bottles of expired condiments that line the refrigerator door! Don't confuse yourself into thinking you have dressing, when it's from 2005.

4. Keep a running shopping list. 
We write down whatever we need on a list on the fridge. It sounds mundane, but it really helps. The minute I'm looking for something and realize we don't have it, I scribble it down. I take it one step further and write down the store (e.g., Indian store, Grocery, Costco, etc) so it's ready whenever someone is out.

Disclaimer: our pantry and fridge is not 100% perfect. This is why I'm not attaching photos of our kitchen to this blog. We have our 3 open bags of  chips and crackers that no one seems to eat. However, I wanted to say that it's a constant process, not a one time event.

There is no Refrigerator Fairy. If there were, she would be replacing the moldy salad mix  in the drawer with fresh batch of brownies! Since that ain't happening, I have to clean it up. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing my fridge the other day. You are my fridge fairy. Oh, that reminds me, the next time you are visiting, you need to get rid of that humus you guys brought over two months ago

But in defense of the packaged food manufacturers, the contents of those bottles expiring in 2005 were still perfectly sterile and fit for human consumption. - R