To save on grocery bills, shop at the farmers market if you can. It’s cheaper. Plain and simple. Plus, you’ll gain the extra few days of freshness that your vegetables would have spent on a truck headed to your local mega-store. In your grocery store, the item was picked a week ago and you pay for the gas to bring it to you, not to mention the spraying of wax or gassing of fruits that’s added to the cost.
When you shop at the farmers market, the item was picked within hours, if not a day or so. That’s money in your pocket. That’s an extra two days to come up with additional ways to cook your eggplant before it turns on you. Plus, it will taste much better when its local and cooked correctly.
Whether you choose the grocery store or the farmers market is up to you, either way, you want the best ingredients, closest to fresh, and don’t want them to go bad in a few days in your home. The majority of your food budget is wasted AFTER you get home from the grocery store.
Good for you, you clipped coupons all week, and got ten cents off a head of lettuce. But, when your investment goes bad a few days later because of your neglect, it’s now the most expensive head of lettuce you ever bought because the ten cents you saved is in the garbage along with the rest of the money you spent.
The most important way to save on grocery waste is to store items correctly once you get them home.
There are things you can do to keep the food you buy at a supermarket as fresh as possible. How long you can store an ingredient depends on several factors:
- The type of food
- The length of time the food sat on the store shelf
- The temperature of the food at the store
- The packaging
- How efficiently your refrigerator runs
You can’t control all these factors, but you can double the life of the food in your refrigerator by assuring that it is a constant 34-40F degrees or 2-4C degrees. Correct storage can protect your investment in food more than any other effort. For every increased 10F degrees, your food will spoil twice as fast!
- Use foil, plastic wrap, plastic bags or airtight containers designed for use with food for refrigerator storage. Moisture- and vapor-proof materials are best.
- Clean refrigerator regularly to reduce food odors. Remove spoiled foods immediately so decay cannot pass to other foods.
- Use foods quickly. Cook what you bought, buy only what you’ll cook.
- Freeze foods in containers or materials designed for freezer storage.
- Keep freezer clean and at 0F or lower.
The real way to save on food and keep from putting money into your garbage is to buy the freshest ingredients in the first place, those ingredients grown closest to your home. But even if they’re not, you want the one that is closest to being picked and there are a few consistencies in telling which is potentially the most fresh.
For tree fruit, tomatoes, and vegetables that have a stem attached to a central plant, always choose produce with the stem still attached. This gave the fruit or vegetable an extra day of moisture and nutrition, and may last longer in your home.
Lettuces and leafy vegetables can be suffocated by plastic bags, they need air circulation. Place a paper towel on the bottom of your veggie crisper drawer to absorb and evaporate moisture, but don’t choke your lettuce!
Root vegetables like potatoes and beets will turn their starches into sugar if left in the refrigerator. These items should be kept at room temperature in a dark place.
With the continually rising costs of groceries, you can save on food by concentrating on what happens AFTER you get the food home, and not before. Coupon clipping and deal searching are methods of marketers, not farmers. Choose your fresh ingredients as close to the source as possible and store them in a manner that is in keeping with the great value you’ve just paid for them.
Even more of my 7 best tips to save on food are in a FREE full-length video.
Chef Todd Mohr is a classically trained chef, educator and food-scrutinizer. He has made it a personal mission to help you save on food with a FREE full-length video that reveals his 7 best ways to cut your food budget and save up to $2275 this year!