With many of us adjusting our old habits to adhere to the new quarantine protocols, gone are the days of those quick and frequent grocery store runs. I heard a quote on the news recently that really stuck with me: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
We need to tailor our lives to win the marathon and keep our families healthy and safe! In regards to saving money on groceries plus thinking smart about planning, this new normal isn’t a bad thing. At my house it’s been a steep learning curve to find our footing and create our new normal amongst the constant influx of change.
One key area that I’ve had to change is our grocery store runs so that I can push them out as far apart as possible to avoid exposure to illness. The goal is about extending the life of items like fresh produce and using up everything to cut way back (or eliminate) waste. Economizing and zero waste are not new concepts, but the urgency of these goals is now crucial.
Here’s 7 tips that helped me pull it off:
- Store your leftovers and prepped food in glass jars. We used to have a bevy of mismatched Tupperware that made it darned near impossible to see what was stored inside without physically taking it out of the fridge and popping off the lid. Not a great system! While certain plastic containers or Tupperware may be alright for freezing food in, keeping our refrigerator food in only glass containers has made it so much easier to see what we have which in turn cuts way down on waste. You are more apt to grab that last slice of pot roast if you see it with your eyes than remember that it is there somewhere, days later, spoiling in a purple container in the back of your fridge. With just a glance you will be able to see what needs to be gobbled up first.
- Create a refrigerator leftover and ready-to-eat zone. This is the same principle as above – if you know it’s there and can see it, you’ll use it.
- Stale bread? Make croutons! How often have you accidentally left the bread bag open, or grabbed a slice of bread only to find it well on its way to Staleville? Too many times to count? Me too. That bread is not a goner though, it can easily and quickly be turned into yummy croutons rather than taking up space in your garbage can. This is a very efficient and budget friendly way of extending the usability of that loaf, and turning it into something tasty with minimal effort. I like this recipe.
- Repurpose those leftover veggies. Once you cook or roast up veggies, they are not so appetizing when reheated a second time. They can be soggy, or rubbery, and downright unappetizing. Rather than tossing the leftovers, use those veggies up by incorporating them into a frittata, fried rice, or, scramble them up with some eggs and black beans and roll them up in a four tortilla for a quick lunch. Dressing them up with other flavors will mask the lone taste of that reheated veggie and give you a second meal. Frugal eating and tasty rewards!
- Stock it up. I absolutely love homemade chicken and vegetable stock. One of the most rewarding economical and easiest things to do at home is to make your own stock. Whenever we buy a rotisserie chicken, we peel off the meat and save and freeze the carcass. There is a designated bag in our freezer that keeps these carcasses until we are ready to use, so nothing goes to waste, and we always ingredients for broth on hand. We do the same thing with our vegetable scraps. They all get added to a bag in the freezer for veggie broth, and once that bag fills up, it’s time to make stock and a new bag starts. So far, doing the broth batches using my instant pot has been the simplest way to get the job done, however, stove top stock is perfectly fine and will get the job done as well!
- Turn sad vegetables into happy vegetables. More often than I’d like to admit, I have a hard time incorporating vegetables into my diet. The intention is there, and I stock my fridge with vegetables I like, however, making it onto my plate can sometimes be a challenge. If I wait too long, those beautiful fresh once crunchy veggies tend to get sad and wilted, and then I don’t eat them. While trying to be mindful on using up what we have as much as possible, sad, wilted vegetables turn happy and appetizing again when made into soup. Sad kale, bendy carrots, wilted broccoli all make great additions to soup, so dust off your favorite soup recipes and have them on hand so nothing is thrown out.
- Store your herbs properly. Fresh herbs are notorious for spoiling quickly. When buying fresh herbs, give them a good wash under cold running water first, and dry them well. Spinning them dry in a salad spinner is a great tool to use for this. Too much moisture is the enemy and will spoil them faster, so make sure no moisture remains. Once dry, gather your softer more delicate herbs such as cilantro, parsley, mint, and dill, trim the ends, and put them upright in a small glass filled with water and place it in the fridge. This will greatly extend their usability by up to a week if you change the water every third day. Harder, woody herbs, such as sage, thyme, and rosemary are best kept loosely wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.
While I know navigating this new normal may seem daunting, it’s also a chance to learn new and more efficient ways of doing everyday tasks. I love a good hack, and am grateful for the many creative folks on the net that have shared their insights and help, so I hope these quick tips can help you. Weave them into your routines, stay safe, stay at home as much as possible, and be kind to yourself during these times of change and great adjustments!