How to save time and energy using meal planning

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I stood at the checkout, nervously watching as the total climbed, hoping it would match the tally in my head. I handed over the precious bills from a dog-eared envelope marked “Groceries”, the steadily reducing amount scrawled on the front read $140, $120, $100, $80. We were down to our last dollars. We’d been paid everything we were owed and there was no new work in the pipeline. We had a nine-month-old at home and a mortgage to pay. Times were stressful, very stressful.

The one relief was that, as I left the supermarket to take the groceries home, I knew I had enough to feed my family for the week. Come what may, I had that comfort. I had that comfort because I had a plan. I’d meticulously planned our meals for the week to match our diminished budget. From there, I’d made a list of exactly what we needed, no more, no less.

While I started meal planning out of financial necessity, five years later, with our cashflow woes long behind us, it continues to be a weekly ritual. Why do I still bother? These days, it’s less about peace of mind and more about taking a load off my mind.

Meal planning saves me time and money, but most of all it saves me from that dreaded task of trying to think up something to cook for dinner every night. If you are looking for an easy win to simplify your life, it’s meal planning. It’s not rocket science, but there are definitely some traps you want to avoid and some tricks to make it easier.

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Avoiding food waste traps – #FoodWasteFriday check in

I’m on a mission to reduce my food waste and I’ll be checking in regularly on how I’m doing as part of #FoodWasteFriday.

How to avoid food waste traps

I want to share with you this TED talk on How to Avoid Food Waste Traps by Selina Juul. Selina founded the Stop Wasting Food movement in Denmark (which is a leading nation when it comes to reducing food waste). Selina goes through common food waste traps and ways to avoid them. I particularly like her tip to take a photo of the inside of your fridge before you go shopping so you can remember what you’ve already got.

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A #foodwastefriday check – 24 Feb 17

I’m on a mission to reduce my foodwaste and I’ll be checking in regularly on how I’m doing as part of #FoodWasteFriday. Since I last checked in on 10 February 2017, here’s my progress:

Demerit: I wasted one peach and four cocktail sausages. We’ve been away on holiday, before we left I grabbed the fruit left in the fruit bowl for travel snacks. The peach didn’t survive the travel. While we were away I over-bought on the cocktail sausages. The boys did a valiant effort at eating them all up over a number days, but the last four were a stretch too far! Continue reading “A #foodwastefriday check – 24 Feb 17”

A frugal shopping challenge dishes up dividends

Confession time: I’m an over-buyer when it comes to food.

I treat grocery shopping like a guilt-free weekly shopping spree rather than gathering essentials. You always need food, right? Who am I fooling? With my weekly food bill creeping up, and my pantry and freezer full, an intervention was needed.

I took the $21 challenge – you choose an aspect of your weekly food shop (or the whole thing!) and put a $21 limit on it. The aim is to get creative with what you already have to meet most of your grocery needs. I chose to set myself a $21 limit for dinners for my family of three for a week.

What I bought and what we ate

I usually spend around $200 a week for my entire grocery shop. I spent $147.16, saving around $50.

$21 challenge, food waste, #foodwastefriday, frugal shopping, budgeting
I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinners for the week – this is what I brought.

I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinner for three people for seven days. From these ingredients, and what I already had in the house, I made the following meals:

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The downside of decluttering

Decluttering is not without its drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is that I’ve become desensitised to the volume of waste my lifestyle creates.

Haste to waste

When I first started decluttering 18 months ago, I agonised over the number of trash bags that I filled. Sadly, now it’s just par for the course. I give things away, donate them and recycle. Trash is my last resort, but there is still a lot of trash.

Concerns over the impact of my decluttering decisions had largely slipped from my mind, until I read The Use It Up Challenge and Our Nothing New Year on Our Next Life. Our Next Life confronts the issue of decluttering and waste from both an environmental and personal finance perspective. They argue that in a haste to declutter (this trendy thing that if you aren’t doing you think you probably should be) we are not considering waste.

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A social way to reduce food waste

Food waste, #foodwastefriday, social pantry, sharing economy

It’s Friday – Food Waste Friday. I need to report in and account for my food waste, but first I must share – well a new way to share!

Introducing Social Pantry

This week I tried out a new service linking up people with food to share with those in need of food. It is called Social Pantry and it’s a network of community food sharing Facebook pages. The pages connect people who have more than enough food, with people who know someone, or are themselves, in need of a little extra.

Food waste, #foodwastefriday, social pantry, sharing economy
My first Social Pantry post

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When sickness strikes….

It’s Food Waste Friday and I have some bad news to report.

For the last month our household has been plagued by illness. My son has recently started kindy (preschool) and has brought home all manner of winter bugs along with his very cute paintings. Needless to say our house is a bit of a disaster zone, as we limp through waiting for this to pass.

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Food wasted in the three weeks to 28 August 2015

The disaster extends to our food waste. Over the last three weeks I’ve thrown away:

  • 3/4 cup of leftover vindaloo (usually I’d say “yum, breakfast” but not with a tummy bug!)
  • a cup of tinned tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of quinoa
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 mandarins
  • 2 kiwifruit
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 egg

I am still suffering with a head cold, so I will keep it short for today.

I have one tip to pass along – don’t take the “best before” date on your egg carton as gospel. Often eggs are good for many days beyond this.

How do you know? The simple sink or float test. Put the egg into a glass of water – if it sinks it is good. If it floats to the top, it has gone bad. Sometimes the egg kind of hovers in the middle, bobbing like it wants to float, but with it’s nose still touching the bottom – it is still good, but not for long!

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Floating to the top of the glass – this egg has gone bad

I hope this finds you in good health!

Shopping more to waste less

It is Friday – Food Waste Friday – so time to check in about my food waste over the last fortnight.

Food waste, #foodwastefriday
My food waste – 7 August 2015

Not too bad, two mandarins and a lime. Why is there always one (or two) in a bag that goes bad?

I read an article in Slate this week suggesting that meal planning isn’t the answer to reducing food waste, but rather we should shop for food more frequently.

I definitely see the sense in this proposition – a lot can change in a week, whether it is a spontaneous meal out with friends (I wish) or, as was the case in our house this week, a sick child. We don’t write our meal plans with the aid of a crystal ball.

Back in my commuting days, I did more “little and often” shopping. I passed a supermarket twice a day at the train station or close by – it was easy to pop in and get what I needed as I needed it.  My patterns at home in the suburbs are different. I don’t pass a supermarket on foot on a daily basis. On the routes I do walk regularly, I sometimes pass a corner shop. Unfortunately, the local butcher has recently closed down. So instead, the supermarket is a weekly destination by car. I can’t see that changing in the near future.

How do you shop for food – little and often? In bulk every week or two? Or something different altogether?