I was at a breakfast with other moms earlier this year and someone mentioned that she never wrapped up the little bites of leftovers. Nobody was going to eat them, so she didn’t want to waste her time or space saving them. Several moms agreed. This would never happen in my house.
Several years of my childhood were spent with my dad in medical school. My mom stayed home with 4 kids (and two more to be born shortly after) so the budget was tight. My parents did a great job of handling it and one of the things my mom did was never waste a bite of food. I guess this carried over into my adult life. Besides helping the budget, this also helps us not be wasteful and be good stewards of God’s creation. I try to reuse containers, jars, and scrap paper as often as I can. I turn shampoo bottles, soap dispensers, and ketchup bottles upside down to get the last drops. Whatever I can’t reuse I recycle when possible. But that is a blog post for another time. Right now I’m dealing with leftovers.
So yes, I do save those little bites of food that may only be enough for one person. They make great lunches for someone the next day. Occasionally enough bites are saved throughout the week for a full meal. I will put numbers in a hat and each child gets to draw a number. Whoever choose the smallest number gets to pick first from the leftovers. The kids like choosing numbers and it keeps everything fair. Once in a while someone who gets a higher number is not happy with what food is left to choose from, but they know in the future they may get a smaller number.
Last Sunday was our baby’s baptism. We had a large number of family and friends over to celebrate. To save myself the embarrassment of running out of food, as usual I had too much. But that’s okay since I like leftovers. We served lunch items, so we had a lot of sliced roast beef and turkey left. We also had an almost completely uneaten raw vegetable tray. So for the first two days after the party this week we had sandwiches. Since my immediate family is not too fond of raw vegetables but loves them cooked, I just cooked things from the vegetable tray. Monday I cooked the yellow squash as a side dish with our sandwiches, and Tuesday we had steamed carrots.
Since I was tired of sandwiches after two days but we still had meat, yesterday I made creamed turkey, using this recipe except I added some peas to it. I chopped up the celery sticks from the vegetable tray. I steamed cauliflower and broccoli as the side dish. Today I’m making turkey chili but instead of using canned tomatoes I cut up the cherry tomatoes from the vegetable tray. Later I hope to make this stew with the leftover roast beef. By the time the week is done I think we will have not wasted a bite.
In addition to that we had a large fruit tray leftover from the party. My kids have been eating a lot of the fruit plain, but I also have been making fruit smoothies for them as a snack. From the fruit tray I’ve taken the pineapple chunks (that nobody wants plain) and strawberries. I added some bananas that were going brown, some plain yogurt and ice cubes and blended it all up. The kids think it’s a great treat! On a side note bananas that are going brown can be frozen whole and whenever you have enough, you can take them out to make banana bread.
I enjoy going to the grocery store, probably because I love cooking and love food in general! Usually I bring all the kids to the store with me, so these days shopping needs to be done quickly and simply. I’ve found a method that works great for me as I shop and it helps me stick to buying only what’s on my list with little impulse shopping, which is good for the budget. Initially this system took a while to set up since it’s very detailed, but now that it’s established, shopping is fast.
I began with a trip to the store by myself with a pen and paper. As I worked my way through my usual route in the store, I wrote down what was in each aisle. First produce, then bacon, ham and cheese, the bakery, condiments in aisle 2A, pasta in aisle 3A, etc.
Next is the tedious part. I created a spread sheet with many pages. One is a copy of my pen and paper list – grocery items by aisle. Another page, the one I reference the most, is an alphabetical list of any grocery item I have bought more than once. I don’t list specialty items that I may only use once for a new recipe, but anything I buy more than once a year goes on the list. The first column of this page is the item, for example sugar, the second column is the brand I prefer, Imperial. The third column is the aisle where it is located, the fourth column is the weight or quantity of the item, the fifth is the cost of the item, and the last is the cost per ounce or cost per count. I keep the price and cost per ounce on there to serve as a basis of comparison. If I don’t have a preferred brand, perhaps I can compare prices and go for the less expensive one. Sometimes I can find that same item but in a different size at Costco, so I’ll keep cost per ounce handy to see where the product is less expensive. Not every time, but occasionally I will go through my receipt and update the prices on this page.
Another page on my spreadsheet is a list of items I purchase every week from the store like eggs or bread. The final page of the spreadsheet is the current week’s grocery list. As I make the list for the current week I begin by copying over the items purchased every week. Then I fill in the other items on the list, making sure everything is listed in the order that I would see it in the store.
So while initially it’s a lot of work, each week the shopping is super easy. I print out my list and as I go through the store I just follow the order. I often can skip many aisles since I can see easily which aisles I need to go down, thus preventing the impulse buys, and I rarely have to backtrack because I forgot something.
Now least one thinks I miss out on good deals because I avoid unnecessary aisles, I do review the weekly ads before making the shopping list. Then I am able to purchase a good deal and stock up on something that I might not need this week, but will definitely use in the future.