Frugality, Polls

I Just Threw Away $25 Worth Of Food – How Do I Keep Food Fresh?

I hate when I open the refrigerator and find spoiled food. A week or so ago, I purchased a couple of cantaloupes, an extra gallon of milk, and some chicken breasts. This morning, while getting ready to go to the grocery store, I opened the refrigerator, to see what we needed, and as I was going through the various drawers and bins, I quickly realized that the cantaloupes had gone soft, the milk was out of date, and that the chicken breasts had been put into the refrigerator – instead of going into the freezer, where they belong.

I need to work on a better system for organizing the fresh foods and vegetables that we eat. In the past, we consumed large quantities of ‘junk food’ – and ‘junk food’ lasts and lasts. But, now our goal is to eat healthier foods. So, we need to pay more attention to the amounts we buy and how we store those amounts.

Any suggestions for keeping food fresh, longer?

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22 thoughts on “I Just Threw Away $25 Worth Of Food – How Do I Keep Food Fresh?

  1. A menu. By planning a menu based on your shopping list – or actually, plan the menu first THEN go shopping — this way you’ll know what you have and when you’re going to consume it.

    If you know you’re having the melon for breakfast on Tuesday and as a snack on Thursday, then you know it will be used up.

    I hate throwing out food too – very frustrating.

  2. I’m not the biggest expert in this area, but I do have a couple of suggestions.

    Buy the freshest produce you can find. For us that means stopping at the local produce stand. I’ve found that produce from the grocery store goes bad more quickly than the local stuff I buy.

    To keep vegetables fresh, was them and then store them in a ziplock bag with a paper towel. The paper towel will wick the moisture away from the vegetables. (Thank you Rachael Ray for that tip).

  3. Yep, I agree about the use a menu suggestion. Plan the menu and then go shopping. (look at the sale circular before you go, to plan something with that week’s loss leader) Think of a menu as a budget for your food.

    The milk getting spoiled was a shocker for me. We go through several gallons in a week. Between cereal, milk for the kids at every meal, coffee and just getting used in cooking, it’s gone in a flash. Our problem with milk is running out before the next shopping trip. If by any chance I do have some sour milk, I use it in pancakes.

    Also, check the expiration date on that gallon of milk before you buy it. And if your family just doesn’t consume that much milk, buy smaller containers.

  4. Yeah, we hit that point, too. With us, it turned out to be that grocery shopping the way we usually did it– without a clear plan on what we were going to use in the week– was making us buy on hope and ambition, instead of practicality. We’d have ingredients for too many meals, so some stuff didn’t get eaten, and then… voila, the nasty crisper drawer strikes again!

    There’s a certain amount of control that can be gained with repackaging, freezing, etc., but first make sure that you’re not underplanning and overbuying in the first place– because that kind of habit will keep creating a nasty crisper drawer even if you’re doing all the other things right.

  5. There are a couple things that we do: 1) For produce it often needs to be stored dry. For example lettuce should be washed when you’re ready to use it and then when you put it back in the fridge take a paper towel, fold it up into quarters, and place it in the bag or salad container. This wicks away moisture (it may need to be replaced if your salad hangs out for two or three days).

    The Cantaloupe should be cut up immediately so that when it comes time to eat a snack you don’t have the prep work hassle that will probably prevent you from eating it. If you want to leave it in the rind (skin) you may consider moving it around so that it isn’t sitting in place and that may give you a day or two. Just rotate it a few inches each day.

  6. It was the chicken breasts in refrigerator that immediately made me say “Menu Planning” – and I definitely agree with that suggestion. In my experience, it’s THE best way to keep your grocery expenses as low as possible.

    Another option is to keep a white board on your fridge door and write down what’s inside and the date it needs to be consumed by.

    You could also organize the contents of your fridge better so you can tell what’s in there at a glance (this can be difficult, though, especially because it needs the cooperation of everyone in the family).

    Finally, since I’ve given up on menu planning for a while (for various reasons that I won’t bore you with), I just buy a little less meat and produce than I think I will need during the week. This was a bit of a mental adjustment for me, but it’s worked surprisingly well. I do keep some meat and frozen vegetables in the freezer so that I have the option of cooking if I’m so inclined.

  7. Yeah, I’m also not an expert in this department but I have been going through the same thing! We now shop at Whole Foods, also known as Whole Check because you can easily spend $100.00 in there.
    For instance I noticed how we wasted alot of apples. Now I think i brough about 10 or so apples at $2.99 a pound. What ever the case, that ish came to $15.00. This was about two weeks ago and we still have like 7 left…
    So, I would say buy only what you need. Sometimes it’s hard and we all have great intentions-sales and bulk but if you are not going to use it, don’t buy it.
    You can also freeze your items. I’m not a fan of that but many people do that.
    Also, if you find that you made too much for dinner just take it with you to work the next day. Also make sure your fridge is set to cold and use containers instead of a plate and aluminum foil…
    thinking out loud here.

  8. Frugality! Reduce the amount of food you have in your fridge and / or cabinets! When you buy without a clear plan you tend to have too much food laying around. Don’t be afraid to eat down the excess and get things looking pretty bare.

    Two things happen then.

    You waste less food cause you can see what you have and you force yourself to get creative. When you get down to some seemingly odd ball ingredients… is when you can surprise yourself and come up with some really good meals by putting some thought into it.

  9. My mom often told me to freeze meat if I wasn’t positive that I’d use it before it expired. I had a sad experience with chicken that expired because I put off using it for a coupel days and didn’t think to check the date. Now I make sure I’m actually going to do it or I just freeze it. (So if it’s not made in the next 2 days, generally.)

    But we all learn the hard way. Still $25, ouch.

  10. I will often shop for produce twice a week, then I buy only the things I should eat for the next couple of days. It will not work for everyone because it is not cost efficent, but it is waste efficent, which overall saves me money.

  11. Such an important post! Wasting food makes me totally insane. I was raised by a hippie, so wasting food was a cardinal sin.

    Before I was a married woman with a family, I was a real pro at purchasing & cooking as to never waste. Two and a half years into motherhood and I still can’t get the hang of purchasing or cooking the right amount.

    I can’t pull off the menu planning; it’s just not my personality (although, I do rough out a menu for the week, just not super detailed). So, I made the choice to buy a little less. I saw my options as between two evils: more frequent stops at the grocery store or having food go bad. Once a week I will have a major grocery purchase. And, about 3 or 4 days later I’ll have a mini trip that restocks any produce needs or other frequent spoilers. I’ve decided I’d rather live with this hassle than have anything go bad (which may not be reasonable if the grocer is far from home).

    That doesn’t really seem like much of a tip, but it’s made a difference in our compost pile.

  12. Such an important post! Wasting food makes me totally insane. I was raised by a hippie, so wasting food was a cardinal sin.

    Before I was a married woman with a family, I was a real pro at purchasing & cooking as to never waste. Two and a half years into motherhood and I still can’t get the hang of purchasing or cooking the right amount.

    I can’t pull off the menu planning; it’s just not my personality (although, I do rough out a menu for the week, just not super detailed). So, I made the choice to buy a little less. I saw my options as between two evils: more frequent stops at the grocery store or having food go bad. Once a week I will have a major grocery purchase. And, about 3 or 4 days later I’ll have a mini trip that restocks any produce needs or other frequent spoilers. I’ve decided I’d rather live with this hassle than have anything go bad (which may not be reasonable if the grocer is far from home).

    That doesn’t really seem like much of a tip, but it’s made a difference in our compost pile.

  13. I agree with the other commentors who addressed freezing and menu planning. But here are a few more ideas.

    I’ve found that milk is freshest at Aldi’s or Save a Lot near me. I frequently buy it with the sell by date almost 2 weeks away. And remember-sell by means just that, they are supposed to sell it by that date. The milk is still good for several days after that.

    Milk can be frozen. Obviously buying gallons is cheaper, but if you won’t go through it, think about putting half of it in another container and freezing it. When frozen it will look yellow (this is normal). I know a full gallon takes about 2 days to defrost in the fridge. It may look slightly separated, just shake it and it goes right back to normal.

    I have a foodsaver with the canning jar attachment. These aren’t cheap, but I have used mine so much that I think it has probably amortized itself by now. The bags are expensive and I only use them for things I’m freezing long term. For leftovers etc, I pop them into a wide mouth quart canning jar, then seal on the lid with the attachment, and pop it in the fridge. Because the air has been sucked out food last about 2 to 3X as long-and both the jars and the lids are reusable (unlike those darn bags)

  14. I always cut up the melons right when I get home – otherwise when I feel like snacking, it’s ready and I don’t reach for chips or something. I wash all the fruit with Trader Joe’s wash to get all the chemicals off so the kids can just grab them when they’re hungry. Reinvent the leftovers – pasta with the chicken – cream sauce with the milk. Think outside the box. I hate wasting food.

  15. I just thought of this very thing as I was reorganizing my fridge after a big trip to the grocery store. I found a few things that I’d forgotten about and that needed to be thrown out. Then it dawned on me: it expired because I could see it, and if I couldn’t see it, I wouldn’t eat it before it spoiled.

    So I reorganized my fridge by making the most perishable foods the most visible. First, I put the oldest (but still edible) containers of leftovers on the top shelf, along with any refrigerated meat and some opened jars of home-made preserves and other things I didn’t want growing fuzz. Second, I put the skim milk (which doesn’t spoil as fast as milk with fat in it, I think), yogurt, cheeses, eggs, arugula, and other “slow” perishables in the middle. It’s good to have adjustable racks if you’re putting a gallon milk jug on the middle section. Finally, I put the sealed bread and tortillas on the bottom shelf.

    Now the stuff that will spoil the fastest is immediately visible when I open the fridge, and thus will be first on my mind when I consider what to eat. Furthermore, now that I’ve got a system for putting stuff in the fridge by expected shelf-life, I have a better idea of where everything is, which can only add to the overall order of the kitchen universe.

  16. I keep one of these in my fridge. I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for my in-laws, who gave it to me, but I LOVE IT. It extends the life of our produce considerably.

    http://www.ewater.com/index.php?option=com_tuulshop&parent=shop.browse&page=shop.product_details&product_id=60&category_id=4&Itemid=127

    Okay, I know this sounds crazy, but it’s amazing. I had pre-cut, mixed greens in a container for 4 weeks before they went bad. My sister wouldn’t believe it had been a month, she assumed we’d bought them in the last week or so.

    Also–milk can go “off” due to chemical changes caused by the lights in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. So find one out of the light, and in the back–and it usually has a later exp. date, too. And it tastes better.

  17. Also, if you only go shopping once a week, you can buy 2 1/2 gallons of milk instead of a whole gallon, for instance, and it won’t go bad as quickly

  18. We’ve gotten better at gauging how much we get of perishables. I make it a habit of asking my wife on my way home from work if we need anything, and I’ll stop at the grocery store on the way home. That way we don’t have too much lying around, and we’re also not really going that far out of our way to the store.

  19. That’s really a hot topic for our family, especially because my granny taught me throwing away food is a sin. I’ve invented some ways out, though… I use dry bread or sour milk for bakery, freeze leftovers that can be freezed and cooked later… Thank you all for the tips, as my fridge used to be either empty or full of spoilt food. That was a very useful post!

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