Thanks to the great folks at Kimberly-Clark for sponsoring this post. As always, my comments, opinions, and love for marinara sauce are my own.
Today, I wanted to share some ideas on how to save both time and money on buying, preparing and eating food. The topic is interesting because it’s quite possible to save a lot without changing much.
And there are reasons to do it beyond saving time and money. Depending on who you listen to, Americans throw out anywhere from a USDA estimated 27% of our food to a National Resource Defense Council estimate of about half. Half!! If you take a number somewhere in between those two estimates, you land somewhere around 40%, which, in a country like ours, is a whole lot of wasted food no matter how you slice it!
So here are a few tips on how to save time, money, natural resources, and, apparently, landfill space when buying, preparing and consuming food.
Think Before You Toss
1. One of the shockers for me when I moved here from Mexico was how much perfectly edible food gets thrown away. I still remember diving toward the garbage bin once to stop someone from throwing the remaining bits of a chicken away. I wrote a post about it here and explained how in Mexico, there are still two good meals left in that chicken—chicken tacos, by removing the small bits of meat attached to the bones all over, and chicken soup, by using the remainder to create a delicious chicken stock with a few vegetables, herbs, and spices thrown in.
2. A lot of vegetables spoil in our fridges. And most all of us traditionally cut off certain bits of veggies and toss them out without thinking about it when we’re preparing food. The two, no three, no four, no five that come to mind just while I sit here are the bottom of the celery, the onion skin, the top of the celery, the corn cob, and the broccoli stalk. The bottom of the celery and onion skin work great for making vegetable stock (just discard both to the compost bucket before serving); the tops of the celery can be chopped very finely and added to salsa; the corn cob can be placed in water and cooked up into a great soup stock, too (again remove before serving); and the broccoli stems can be chopped up lengthwise into very thin slices like a slaw and made into a salad with vinegar, chilis, water and onion.
3. Herbs are another item I see wasted a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I do it, too. Here’s a typical scenario. There’s a recipe we want to make, so we buy cilantro, or basil, or parsley in a bunch. We use a handful in the recipe and the rest goes back into the fridge to be forgotten until we smell something awful one day.
Here’s one thing to do: take your washed and finely chopped cilantro, place it in a blender with generous amounts of olive oil, and blend it into a very oily paste. Take that mixture and pour it into ice cube trays to freeze. Remove from trays when frozen and seal in a freezer bag, or better yet, seal with a “Seal A Meal.” These yummy cubes are very convenient for quick meals and will keep you from wasting all your herbs. You can do this with basil pesto sauce, too, it works great and keeps you from wasting money on extra basil you have around that you would just end up throwing out.
The Freezer is Your Friend
Heat and air are generally enemies to perishable foods. That’s why I love using my buddy’s “Seal A Meal” machine to package and freeze my favorite sauces. I use it for sauces because my best sauces take time to make.
Here’s how this saves both time and money. First, it allows me to buy the ingredients of my favorite sauces in bulk, that’s the money part. The time is saved in creating one big beautiful batch of marinara sauce all at once on a Saturday morning, then vacuum packaging with the “Seal a Meal” in single meal, family-sizes for freezing. Anytime I want a delicious homemade pasta dish, I just take one of the frozen sauces out of the freezer and heat it up in no time while boiling pasta in a different pot.
One of these frozen meals takes about 15 minutes to make. That’s fast for homemade. You might ask why I don’t just cook up the pasta at the same time with the sauce to make it even faster. You certainly can and I have done. But I prefer doing it this way because the added bulk of the pasta in the freezer takes up too much space and I don’t think the pasta specifically reheats that well. I prefer to cook up a fresh batch in 10 minutes. But the main thing is bulky pasta takes up too much precious space in the freezer.
There you have it, some easy ways to save both time and money on your food. If you’d like more tips from other real parents like you and me, be sure to check out the Pick Up the Values Facebook page, and get valuable coupons on many of the products you need at the Pick Up the Values website.