Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Good Steward: FOOD {part two}

On Tuesday, I shared my first set of tips regarding all things food management... cleaning out the fridge, meal planning, shopping carefully, and trying to avoid wasting food. Here are my second set of tips on how to be a good steward of food and stretch your food budget to the max!

Buy in bulk carefully. The result of shopping at Costco can be a like a girl who spends too much time in the weight room. While lifting weights is important, getting too bulky and losing all your feminine appeal is gross. Well, shopping at food warehouses can be the same way. Getting a good deal on items you use often is awesome. It's like toning your biceps. Buying everything in bulk and having your pantry look like a grocery version of hoarders -with giant boxes of cereal, cans of soups and papers towels exploding EVERY where is also gross. Micah and I have a Costco card, but I rarely ever use it except to buy gas. Wanna know why? We have no kids, so buying in bulk is a little ridiculous and we live in an apartment, so we don't have a lot of extra room to store goods and groceries. Costco is awesome for items you use constantly - chicken broth, toilet paper, Orbit gum. But it's not so awesome for most other products that you only use occasionally. Even though 50 ounces for $5.00 is a great deal, it's really not if you only need 8 ounces and you could get it at your neighborhood market for $1.00. Just spend the dollar and get the heck out of Costco!

Buy produce in moderation. If there is one thing I am passionate about, it's produce selection. I hate seeing people lop a ton of produce in their carts that I know is just going to go to waste. Because here is the thing about goes bad. Pretty quickly. Of course, if you have like five kids at home, then sure, buy your greens in bulk. But for the rest of us who only have two, three or four people to feed, go easy in the produce section and choose wisely. I know this seems counter-intuitive to the whole "5 a Day" campaign or the new food recommendations where half your plate is supposed to be made up of fruits and vegetables...but do you want your plate filled up with ROTTEN fruits and vegetables? Because that's what happens if you don't know what you are doing in the produce department... Feel free to stock up on produce with a good shelf life. It's fairly easy to keep apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, and carrots for more than a week. I try to keep some of these things on hand at all times. Just make sure you store them properly. But other fruits and veggies only last for a few days, so buy them in moderation. Only buy as many berries, bananas, and green leafy veggies as you can realistically eat in the next 3-5 days, and plan your meals around them. If you are buying ingredients for a fresh salad, that salad should probably be on tomorrow night's dinner menu. If you are planning to serve strawberry shortcake, that better be the dessert over the next two to three nights, otherwise your strawberries will get all squishy and gross.

Perfect fruit bowl for a week of healthy eating! ALL of this got consumed!!!

Bananas about bananas. And may I just stop right here and say one thing about banana selection, one of my greatest passions? {I am not joking about this - I get really passionate about bananas and sometimes I cry to Micah on the weekend if I don't have any in my fruit bowl for the week ahead... he thinks I'm nuts...and he's probably right.} Again, unless you have six hungry children at home or some kind of strange banana fetish, do NOT buy a huge bunch of bananas. I'll tell you why...because all the bananas on a single bunch will go bad on the same day. If you buy them when they are slightly green, the next day they will be mostly yellow with a tiny bit of green at the top {best day to eat them in my opinion!}, the next day they will be all yellow with one or two little brown speckles, then next day they will be completely freckled and a little overripe, and then next day they will be ROTTEN - AKA waiting to be tossed in the freezer for the next batch of banana bread. So if you buy a bunch of bananas, assume they will all be bad in five days or less. But please NEVER buy a bunch of bananas. Please buy a few from a REALLY green bunch {the greenest you can find}, and a few from a slightly green bunch, and one or two that will be perfect for the next day's breakfast. That way all your bananas will ripen at a different time during the week. You are NOT obligated to buy the whole bunch people! Do NOT feel pressured! Aannndd... banana rant DONE.

Split it. We all know that you can save the most money by eating at home, but let's be honest, restaurants are good. Not only do restaurants allow us to try new recipes and experience someone else's cooking and try bites from other people's entrees around the table, but someone ELSE does the dishes, and that's worth some money if you ask me. Micah and I try to eat at home as much as possible {usually every weekday evening} and we both try to pack our lunches so we don't have to go out for lunch. But when it comes to the weekend, we know that we will probably eat out at least once, if not twice. The biggest way to save your wallet and your waist in restaurants is to SPLIT a meal. Micah and I almost always share an entree when we go out to eat. Not only does this save us $10-30 pretty much every time, but it also saves us a ton of calories. Because restaurant portions are HUGE and we really don't need a whole entree to ourselves. So instead of going home feeling stuffed and sickly, Micah and I always split and go home feeling satisfied, knowing we had a great meal and didn't have to blow our budget to do so.

Birthday freebies. My birthday was just last week, and let me tell you, I have enjoyed some great food since then FOR FREE. You know those little cards at restaurants where they ask for your birthday, anniversary, and e-mail address? May I highly recommend that you fill them out? Because said restaurant will send you a gift on your birthday. I promise. It will be in the form of a certificate for free food and you will love your life. This week, Micah and I were able to get two Havana Lattes and a homemade English muffin at our favorite Phoenix joint, La Grande Orange, for absolutely nothing. They sent me at $10 gift certificate for my birthday. Two days later, I met a friend for happy hour at another restaurant. We split an appetizer and then split my free dessert - a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Yes, please, and thank you. On Sunday, Micah and I went out to lunch after church with his mom. After enjoying our salads, we also enjoyed my free birthday Tiramisu. Yum. One of my favorite restaurants in Fort Worth offers birthday girls and boys a free BRUNCH during their birthday month. I am tempted to fly to Texas next weekend and get mine! It's so worth it to join the restaurant mailing lists and get freebies on your birthday. And if you hate the idea of getting junk mail from restaurants {because they will send weekly or monthly publicity emails}, here is my suggestion. Set up a junk e-mail account {or use an old e-mail address that you never check anymore} for all mailings of this variety. Then the week before your birthday and anniversary each year, log in to your junk account and print off all your birthday goodies. Your birthday freebies will be near the top of your inbox, and you will never have to look at any of the other junk mail at all. Happy Birthday to you!

Mmm... LGO lattes, how I love you! But I love you the most when you are FREE!
I hope these tips help you manage your food and grocery budget more efficiently, so that you can give more to others in need! And please share any other ideas you have down below. I would love to hear from you!


Jessi said...

These are some really good tips!

We got a Sam's Club card recently just for meat. I make a meal plan at the beginning of every month, make a trip to Sam's for all the meat for the month and freeze everything. It's made life a billion times easier.

And good banana rant. It surprises me how many people don't get that you can take apart bananas at the grocery store (or that you can take grapes out of the bags to buy fewer :)

TasteChaser said...

Great banana advice! I usually do break off only three bananas but I never though to take three from one bunch and a few from another.

Erika said...

Great tips! I especially like the ones about the bananas. Thanks so much for linking this to thrifty thursday!