Surviving Tough Times:

Wasting Food

by Leanne Ely


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Reducing Food Waste

Avoiding Freezer Burn

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Did you know the average family of four in America wastes $600 worth of groceries a year? That's $50 a month! That's a tank of gas, y'all!

Why is this? Especially considering the current economic climate, why is this happening? What's going to waste? More likely than not, it's the fresh stuff we buy in our effort to be healthy. It's wilted lettuce, moldy green beans and flaccid carrots being dumped. It's all that wonderful spinach and other greens being tossed well past their prime. We buy it because we know we need to get our nutritional game on. We end up dumping it because we have no plan to eat it! We call for pizza on Wednesday rather than grill the chicken we were going to make, along with the salad and green beans.

There are ways to cure that $600 overage that will pay off in health dividends too, as well as your financial bottom line:

  1. Have a plan. In other words, make your menu for the week. If there are only two or three of you in the house, avoid the big warehouse stores for things like fresh produce. Chances are good that it will go bad before it's all eaten.

  2. Shop from a list. If you have a list, you've most likely got a plan (menu) for the week. Don't be a perfectionist though. If you see Swiss chard on sale, swap it out for the kale that was on your list. It'll work just fine.

  3. Follow through. Just because you have good stuff in your produce drawer in your fridge, doesn't mean you've got dinner cinched. It still needs to be cooked! If you're a stay-at-home mom, then do your dinner in baby steps and chop the veggies after breakfast, make the salad after lunch, and don't wait for the 5 o'clock witching hour when your children are going bonkers to try and pull dinner together!

  4. What needs eating first? Carrots will last a lot longer than spinach. Melons last longer than fresh berries. Figure out which foods need using up first and plan accordingly.

  5. Work with what you have. If you have a box of risotto sitting on your pantry shelf, figure out how to use it even if you've never eaten it before. Using the food you have first and making a plan around that food will help you save a ton of money and become a lot less wasteful. Remember too, just because it's frozen, doesn't mean it has a shelf life from now until eternity. Frozen foods need to be eaten, not just stored, like every other food in your house.

Food prices, like gas prices, are going up. Instead of whining about it, let's get smarter and use what we buy! Stop thinking in terms of bulk shopping and think in terms of smart shopping. Bulk shopping is a great concept, but it doesn't necessarily translate into saving us money if we end up throwing it out!


Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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