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8 Things you can do to Reduce your Food Budget

If I told you I could save you 20% on your monthly grocery bill, you’d sit up and take notice right?

The easiest way to save doesn’t involve coupon clipping or buying in bulk, it is as simple as this: stop throwing away your food!

Approximately 40% of food produced in Canada goes to waste, and 47% of that waste happens at home. In your home. In my home. Ugh, that’s hard to admit.

Our packed fridges hide moulding fruits and veg and our overflowing cupboards hoard half-empty boxes of stale crackers. And this sad, ignored food is the very same food you were so excited to put in your grocery cart, a few short weeks ago.

But don’t despair! Here are 8 EASY things you can do to keep your money in your wallet and your fridge organized.

1. Plan ahead – before you head to the grocery store, have a good plan for what you need to buy, and stick to it. Impulse buys often lead to too much food to consume before our next trip to the store. But do plan for snacks and goodies on your list, planning doesn’t mean you can’t eat what you want, it just helps you buy only what you need.

2. Buy less – bringing home smaller amounts of items that may easily go bad or stale means that you can actually finish them off. How often are we tossing the last peach or dumping out 1/2 of the cream because we bought the larger version, as it was a ‘better deal’? And buy fewer options. Stick to 1 box of crackers instead of 3, that way you will get to the end of the box, rather than eating 60% of all 3 boxes.

3. Clean your fridge – commit to cleaning out the fridge before you go to the store so you will know that you already have chickpeas and olives for the salad you are making. Move older items to the front and put your fresh groceries in the back, so that you have no excuse not to use up last week’s broccoli first.

4. Eat first bin – if your family is notorious for eating the new apples instead of last week’s grapes, designate an ‘eat first’ bin so that they know to leave the other options until the eat first bin is empty. This will lead to great lifetime habits and maybe inspire you to put something new into tonight’s stirfry.

5. Ignore labels – did you know that in Canada, only a very small number of foods are required to have an expiration date? Things like baby formula and meal replacements but very little else!
(Visit http://www.inspection.gc.ca for a full list) With most other foods, companies put ‘best before’ dates on their products to show just that, it is BEST before, but that doesn’t mean it is bad or off because it is 2 days or even 2 months later. Use your discretion, but stop thinking you can’t eat perfectly good hummus because the label says so. Don’t be tricked into spending more money than you need to by re-buying a perfectly usable product.

6. Leftover night – designate 1 or 2 meals a week where you have a fun, weird dinner consisting of all the leftovers and foods that need to be eaten up. It can seem a little strange to eat Chinese food and tomato soup, but you can feel good knowing that you are saving money and saving good food from filling the landfill or your compost.

7. What can I make with _________? Fill in the blank! Rather than thinking you have no need for the last half of the cranberries you bought for Thanksgiving, get creative and look for a new way to use them. There are so many delicious recipes available online (and in this magazine!) so get out your phone and start searching. If you have a few products to use up, put them all in the search box and see what you can make. You may find a new favourite, or you may never want to eat that dish again, but hey, at least you are full and you didn’t throw good food away.

8. I’m all about the curry! In our house, we love us a good curry. Red, yellow, coconut, yum, yum, yum! So an easy way to use up the last of our veggies and leftover turkey is to throw it all into a pan and make a curry. What is your favourite ‘kitchen sink’ meal? Salad, rice bowl, casserole, soup?

Food waste in Canada is becoming an increasing concern as, even with our abundant food production, we still struggle to feed all Canadians. So let’s do our part where we can, and maybe, as we start saving part of our grocery budget by using everything that we buy, we will have more money to donate to our local food banks, or to put towards programs that help feed our school children.

Happy leftovers everyone!

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