Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Good Steward: FOOD {part one}

As I mentioned earlier, I think God is trying to teach me about stewardship right now. Learning how to use and enjoy what He has given me, instead of always wanting more, more, more. A few weeks ago, I talked about being a good steward of my closet. This week I want to talk about being a good steward of my FOOD.

Mmm... I love food. I love trying new recipes for dinner. I love eating my cereal with a banana on top every day for breakfast. I love drinking my homemade white chocolate mocha every morning while I read my Bible. I love eating ice cream for dessert. I love trying new restaurants or sharing a meal at home with friends. I love drinking a giant Diet Coke with splash of Dr. Pepper on top {"The Mix!"}. I love food.

But the truth is...people around the world are STARVING. Literally, dying of malnutrition. Sick and dying for lack of water and food. Sure the old "clean your plate" method isn't going to help a starving child in Africa {and has lead to gross amounts of overeating in our country}, but I do think we should be good stewards of the food God has given to us.... How can we stretch our grocery money and use the food that we already have at home to feed our families? How can we make wise decisions at restaurants?  How can we learn not to waste and to raise up children who see their food as the blessing that it is? Because honestly, if we made smarter decisions about the way we spend our money on food and if were more conscious consumers, we really would have more resources to help those around the world who will go without dinner tonight.

Here are my tips on how to be a good steward of food, and PLEASE feel free to add your own ideas below. I am always looking for ways to stretch my grocery budget!

Empty it out. The refrigerator and pantry that is. Micah and I, like many people I'm sure, try to deplete our food supply before we go on vacation. This summer we went to California for a week and then headed to Washington for two and a half weeks, so before we began these ventures we tried to use up all the food in the house. Our goal was to leave with an empty fridge and freezer, and apart from some condiments and salad dressings, we pretty much succeeded. But when we returned from these fun vacations, we thought "Why do we need to fill up our fridge again?" So ever since this past June, we have kept only enough food on hand for the week ahead. This doesn't mean we have NOTHING. Like if we got trapped in our house for a week or something, we would completely survive off cans of soup and rice and pasta {and ice cream!}. But we are trying not to be the Americans with the overflowing refrigerator, where food is lost and rotting at the back of the shelves. We fill our fridge at the beginning of every week with fresh meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables to last us for the next seven-ish days, we eat everything we have, and then buy fresh the following week. I try to keep one or two quickie meals in the freezer (pizza, precooked potstickers, etc.) for those last minute dinners and that is that. Just say NO to rotting food and try to empty your fridge every week.

This was our fridge the week before Labor Day. It was the most full it had been since the beginning of summer because Micah's brother and girlfriend were staying with us all week. I was feeding four and cooking a little bit more than I normally do and this was what it looked like. Notice there is still empty space near the back.

This was our fridge at the end of the week. Almost nothing inside!!! The Tupperware container is leftovers for Micah's lunch the next day and all other leftovers had been moved to freezer for future lunches and dinners. Hoorah!

Use what you have. Even when you are very conscious about only buying for the week ahead, food staples still tend to build up after awhile. Like that one night you planned to make spaghetti and then friends invited you over for pizza and now that spaghetti sauce is still sitting in your pantry... That sort of thing. So once every few months I try to take a week off from grocery shopping {meaning I still buy fresh fruits and milk, but pretty much nothing else} and use only what I already have in my own home to make meals. This might mean we eat some really great stuff like pancakes and bacon for breakfast {or dinner - yum!} or it might mean we eat really boring food like rice and a tiny bit of grilled chicken or it might mean we eat really weird meals like Mac and Cheese with tater tots and freezer green beans. The great thing is you can save almost your whole grocery budget for the entire week and really clear off your shelves.

Be a realistic chef. Whether you love to cook or hate to cook, be realistic when it comes to meal planning. I enjoy cooking dinner and trying new recipes, but I also know I don't have a lot of time to cook during the school year. Usually I plan out about three dinners a week and assume that leftovers, eating out, or going over to a friend's house will take care of the other nights. If we need dinner and I've already made my three meals for the week, we always have one or two emergency meals in the freezer. I very intentionally do not buy any extra ingredients other than what I need for these three dinners, which are planned out before I head to the grocery store. If you hate to cook, perhaps you can set a similar goal for yourself - like trying two new dinner recipes a week. They don't have to be fancy {helloooo crockpot!}. Shop only for the meals you plan out in advance and limit yourself to a realistic number of meals for the week so you don't over-shop.

Meal plan with the weekly ads. You probably know all about this trick, but maybe you don't do it because it takes some work. Well, it's worth it; I promise! Plan out your meals based on what's for sale that week at the store{s} you shop at. Pork tenderloin is on sale? Mmmm... that sounds nice. Ground beef is on sale....let's make burgers this week...and tacos... and spaghetti. You get the idea. The only time I break this rule is when I am cooking something specific for guests. I don't always worry about whether or not the ingredients are on sale in that scenario, and it's always SO much more expensive for those meals. Sometimes I spend almost double at the store when I don't shop by the ads. That's just proof to me that meal planning based on sales is way more cost effective!

Cut carefully. Aren't coupons just all the rage these days? I feel like there are extreme couponing challenges EVERY where. On TV. On blogs. People are even posting about their savings on Facebook. Coupons are soooo in. And for good reason. Coupons are awesome. There is nothing like going through checkout, handing the cashier your handful of coupons at the end and seeing $40 drop off your grocery bill. I am a big fan of coupons and fully believe it's worth the time to cut them out. However, I also offer a warning. ONLY clip coupons for products you actually need, otherwise you might find that coupons cost you more than they save. I try to be very picky when I peruse the coupons. If it's a coupon for a staple we use often in our home or a necessary household product then I clip with glee. But I try to say NO to coupons that look good, but whose product is not one I would regularly buy. For example, $1.00 off a big bag of Pretzel M&Ms is a great deal, but my butt does not need a giant bag of M&Ms, nor do I need to spend that $2 on candy. Don't let coupons convince you to buy things you don't really need! Master the coupon; don't let the coupon master you!

I'll be back later this week with a few more food stewardship tips!!! And, again, please feel free to leave your own suggestions below!

Linking up to Amanda's Family Friendly Food week and Jami's We Encourage!


Iz Originals said...

This is all such good advice! I really need to get better at using what we have. thanks for the added push!

hannah singer said...

this is great! we do this, but not really "planned". i totally depend on couponing and meal planning. it has saved so much money and wasted food!

thanks for the encouragement to be a good steward of our food! xo

ms.composure said...

yes!!! i started doing this as well!!! but i try to go every 2 weeks (because it works better with my work schedule...) and i also give my self a monthly grocery budget and monthly "out to eat" Budget. I stopped going to fast food places (started 2 years ago) and i set the budget for times that i go out to eat with my gals or if i am in a real rush and want to grab some sushi after a workout. glad to see that someone else does this too!!

Jamie said...

This post definitely convicted me. It's actually something that's been in the back of my mind for awhile now, and something that I have been slowly starting to try to change. Thanks for the good advice and encouragement! I needed this.

alanna rose said...

I hate wasting food! And I love a clean fridge :) thanks for the good tips...especially the pantry reminder, I always forget about that one bottle of spaghetti sauce...If we ate from our pantry for one week a month I'd really be able to stay on top of it better.
Did you know that your fridge runs more efficiently when it is full? Not proposing we stock extra food in the fridge, but if you add a few milk jugs of water to fill in the empty space, you'll cut down on the energy needed to run the fridge. Same thing in the freezer. :)

Jami said...

jen! this is fantastic! one of my favorite posts! I've been doing some work in this area too. We have a family of 6 so trying to work out buying in bulk while not wasting. better meal planning. thanks for linking up, this really blessed me!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Great post! I also stay away from clipping coupons for stuff I know we won't ever use or eat...seems kind of silly. Unless maybe it is something that could be donated for a good cause. Thank you so much for joining my Family Friendly Food Week link-up. :)