It’s nearly the end of the month. Budgeted money for groceries has long since been spent. Can you relate? But I’m not stressed about it. Between tips Mom gave me and things learned in classes here and there, I’m excited. It’s the end of the month when you look at what’s left in the refrigerator and figure out how to turn it into something appealing. Why do this? Besides loving having money for weekly dates, and not having debt, you mean? A wise woman in a class I took long ago suggested I examine what’s in my trash. Take a look, she said, because that’s where your extra money is getting put.
I realized we don’t often have a ton of choice regarding how much we’ll pay for rent/mortgage, and we CAN get our utility bills down by wearing the right amount of clothes, turning off lights and water, etc., and those things do help, but the biggest savings I can exercise my own decision-making over is in the area of food, groceries and/or eating out. My trash doesn’t have fastfood bags in it very often. Trash like that doesn’t satisfy like good cooking of healthy foods and I’ve learned to be a pretty fast cook most of the time. It also doesn’t have food waste in it. If you have a roof over your head, a little food in the refrigerator and some change on a dresser somewhere, you are wealthier than 90% of the world’s peoples. So I guess we figure we can waste 14% (on average) of our food purchases? That’s the national total: 41 billion pounds of food waste annually. What’s 14% of YOUR food budget? For me that’s over $40 a month, or a really nice meal eaten out. So here I go, evaluating the ‘back of the refrigerator’… time to cook and clean.
Cranberries, unbelievably still fresh, half a bag. One apple a little ‘squishy’ but not rotted, and half a jar of plum syrup from our backyard tree. I pureed it in the food processor, add the 1/4c cream of coconut (stuff has way too much sugar. I meant to buy coconut milk, this was on sale….I won’t throw it out, but that sugar is NOT going into our body in any large form…), and cook on the stovetop until it resumes a ‘translucent’ appearance, then into jars in the refrigerator and we now have a yummy jam. My husband is a huge peanut butter and jelly fan, and now his jam has more fiber and less sugar and three ‘wouldn’t get used’ ingredients are now something delicious. What else? Thinly sliced sale sweet potatoes I hadn’t touched combine with thinly sliced butternut squash in a pan and over the top I used up an old 1/2 c parmesan cheese, a pureed cauliflower single serving size vegetable left-over, a partial tube of basil that was near the end of its shelf-life, some outdated milk, and some melted butter… voila! A yummy sweet-potato gratin that cleared out quite a few ‘hm, am I ever going to use this?’ ingredients. Dinner served, once we added a salad.
So, what’s ‘in the back of your refrigerator’? Get creative. Try things. You might be surprised. The best chili I’ve ever made actually had a partial jar of watermelon sweet cinnamon pickles that I was worried wouldn’t get eaten. What could you do with 14% more of your grocery budget that you weren’t putting into the garbage can?