I come from a family where my parents’ fridge is so packed with food, that most of it goes bad. When the morning sickness was at high tide, I couldn’t open the fridge without getting sick, even though other people couldn’t smell the thousands of contributing micro-odors, dozens of foods aging at a time. Between the weird things they buy, and the difficulty in seeing what is in the fridge, we always felt like we “had no food.” I don’t know if that is accurate or not, but I do know that it is not helpful to have six open jars of pickles blocking the now-gone-bad $4 box of berries. My parents spend an obscene amount of money on food and take-out, and waste most of it. My in-laws are actually about the same.
I became interested in frugality after my now-sister-in-law gave me a copy of The Tightwad Gazette I and II, and I ended up buying the complete one and reading it four times. It’s only about a thousand pages… Many of the tips in the book saved me a lot of money and helped me understand how easily I could fritter it away on junk. Many of the food tips made me aware of how much processed food tacks onto the food bill, while not actually helping one’s health. I am grateful for all of that.
However, a few recent tips have made me reconsider part of my shopping strategy. I used to do big trips every 2-4 weeks, with only the occasional stop for something that we had run out of. This worked really well for Amy Dacycyzn, who lived 30 minutes from her stores. I am surrounded by grocery options, farmer’s markets, and CSAs.
I am going to continue to buy grains in bulk and freeze them, make foods from scratch, including homemade bread and recipes that use dried beans. But when it comes to produce, I am going to start buying just a few day’s worth of food at a time, and actually label the price of the food with a post-it if I am still letting things go bad. These changes come about from things read here and here.
Today’s grocery run was less than $14. I bought fresh mozzarella (I blame you Frances Mayes, stop talking about cheese!), two red peppers, a bunch of bananas, five vine-ripe tomatoes, five nectarines, two avocados, a head of lettuce, two cans of beans (um, those dried beans are coming along this summer. See here, for the reason why.) Tonight I made soup and spice bread (using frozen pumpkin puree that I have a hard time expending). Tomorrow I will make egg salad and wheat bread, and wash the lettuce. If we have a way of quickly making salad, soup, or sandwiches, we never eat out or make mac ‘n cheese. On the other hand, sometimes having a whole refrigerator of food makes me too overwhelmed to figure out what should be used for what. So here’s to less food waste, and hopefully more money to spend at the farmer’s market.