I was once a young wife and mother to a toddler. Hard at work learning to be a good wife and mommy. I got to stay at home which meant I made meals 3x a day for my family. I was a house wife. I had a food budget and yet I found myself calling my husband once or twice a week to pick up meals.
When I went to my Mommy & Baby group I found that several families with double the amount of kids had grocery bills less than mine! How could this be?
Frankly, I was confused. I didn’t know where I was going wrong. I had been raised in a variety of settings due to my parent’s divorce and remarriages. We always seemed to be learning to live somewhere new. I was never taught how to actually run a home.
It took time to admit it to myself but I was a food waster. I realized that I was making critical mistakes with our food starting with: what to feed my family: what to buy at the grocery store: how to cook at home: and very importantly how to put away our food.
What I did wrong-
1- I was wasting our food money. I am a cookbook hound. I love looking at the yummy recipes in those glossy books and trying to recreate them. That is nice but most call for food that is WAY outside the budget of a college student’s family. Instead of using that money more wisely and stretching it over the full month I was buying high priced items that cut days off how far our food budget would go.
2- I bought ONLY name brand items. This was a hang over from my upbringing when we could not afford name brand. Deep inside I saw being able to buy name brand as showing the world (or myself) that we had stepped up in the world. Again I was wasting our food money.
3- Cooking low-quality food. I had these lovely highlights of dinners that were great. But in order to get those highlights I had to skimp in other areas. That meant that Monday through Thursday meals was just scrapped together or Hamburger Helper type meals. Not healthy and not yummy. Made it that much easier to call for take-out when faced with day 2 of not so good food.
TIP- When you were growing up, did your mom ever tell you to make sure the things on your dinner plate were all different colors? There is a reason for that. Learn about the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods.
4- Cooking too much food for our size family. At the time I had no extra freezer and we really were 2 adults eating with a toddler just nibbling. I tended to cook for a much larger crowd. That meant we tended to overeat, not healthy. Also, there was a lot of food leftover. That food would generally go into the fridge and a meal of left overs might come from it but in general, it was shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten until it crawled out and pleaded to be put out of its misery.
5- Chaos is not a good form of organization. As you can tell from the food lost in the fridge my kitchen was in a state of chaos. There was no organization. I had no idea if cans were old or spices were out of date. You just pawed through the shelf in question until you found what you were looking for, or gave up and went out and bought it again. Yup, back to that wasting the food budget.
TIP- We’ve all heard the recommendation to create a one week meal plan and have a routine for your meals, but eating the same thing every single week sounds beyond boring. The solution to the boring aspect is simple: check out how to make a two week (or longer) rotation.
6- Using food to its greatest extent! I never thought to use the turkey bones and pieces leftover from Thanksgiving to make a broth. I didn’t use the ham bone to flavor a pot full of beans. When I was done with the meal immediately in front of me I threw out the rest and cleaned up for the night.
TIP- Learn the nutritional benefits of homemade bone broth.
7- The worst food wasting sin I committed was sheer laziness. There were times when I woke up the next morning and found that I had set last night’s leftovers aside but never put them away.
Acknowledging that I had these blind spots was the first step in correcting them. There is no shame in not having been told how to cook, maintain a home, raise a family, or homestead. Many of us have holes in our skills base. Consider how to run your kitchen, food budget, and food storage as another skill that needs to be worked on. Find a mentor. Search out a great blog or book. You can change from a food waster to a thrifty foodie mom!
Guest post by Heather who blogs at Prudent Pantry.