The next time you take the rubbish bag out, imagine that it is filled with money. The money spent on the rubbish that’s now in it. A glimpse into someone’s rubbish bag of money would give a good indication of the person’s eating habits. Maybe you’ll see four chocolate wrappers from the shelf just before the till, a number of take-away boxes or mouldy food that went to waste. About a third of our food in SA ends up at the dump each year, which equates to a loss of about R61.5 billion. That’s a scary amount of waste. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just our waste, we still spend a hefty portion of our incomes on buying that food in the first place.
Finding ways to save money in the kitchen doesn’t require you to “throw the kitchen sink” at it. There are simple ways to spend and eat less.
1. Draw up a meal budget
We aren’t just trying to sneak the word “budget” in a blog post about food, I promise! A meal budget is an intentional plan for food which helps you avoid all those, “Oh no, what’s for dinner?” moments. Most of these moments result in expensive trips to the drive-thru and convenience stores. They also happen at night which is after you’ve had a long day at work and can’t deal with another thing to think of.
It’s not a detailed eating plan. You just need a rough idea of your breakfast, lunch an supper meals for the week. Have your staples on it, like milk, eggs and bread then add a few other ingredients and foods you’ll need over the week. One shop and you’ll have everything. Then, just like a financial budget telling your money what to do, a meal budget tells your food what to do. As you eat, tick items on the budget off. Now you’ll also know what to buy and won’t forget food in the fridge. It might be tricky at the start, but you’ll develop a meal budget that’s right for you in no time. As well as putting your money to better use, you’ll also be more in control of what you’re putting into your body and into the rubbish dumps.
2. Make a grocery list
A grocery list keeps you from spending money on something you don’t need or already have. It’s sometimes tedious to make one because it requires you to go through the pantry and the fridge.
The meal budget and grocery list work together. Once you’ve got them speaking to each other, shopping for groceries becomes a breeze. You’ll know what you want, when you want it and how much of it you need – sounds like stress free shopping! You’ll also spend less time at the shops deciding what to buy, giving you more time to relax.
If you’d rather stay away from the shops right now, try ordering your groceries online. These days it’s become incredibly easy to do . You can track the total cost as you shop, and if you’re over budget, you can delete items from your virtual cart before you check out. You’ll be less tempted to buy yourself a treat when you can’t have it immediately to satisfy the craving.
3. Buy in bulk
This sounds counterintuitive; buy more to stop wasting and spending more. But it’s what you buy in bulk that counts! Items that last or can be stored make for perfect bulk buys. These items are usually cheaper, on a unit level, to buy in bulk. You will also go to the shops less, reducing the chance of adding tempting sweets and chocolates to the trolley – we can’t be diligent all the time. Additionally, it means less petrol spent on trips and less money used on paying for parking – it all adds up.
4. Eat your leftovers
Letting food go to waste is, well, a waste. Eating leftovers for lunch or supper the next day saves you from needing to plan for an additional meal and minimises waste. All this requires is a container and a fridge. It tastes just as good the next day, sometimes even better, and it means you avoid making rash food decisions, like getting take-out.
By spending more smartly on food and eating less, we could help the environment, improve our health and save money.