Wasting money and food – meal planning to the rescue

When I was growing up there was always food in the fridge even on grocery days the fridge was pretty full. A lot of that food that was sitting in the fridge was on the verge of going bad or bits of leftovers that no one was going to eat. I still remember being asked by my mom to clean out the crispers of the fridge on the weekend when my parents were out of town so that my dad wouldn’t see and complain about the wasted food.

It was never really bad but there was almost always something going bad in the fridge and I’d love to tell you I learnt my lesson as a teenager seeing the wasted food. But if I had then I wouldn’t be writing this article from experience, it would be a theoretical piece.

Naturally with a small family of my own now we have to buy food regularly to keep ourselves fed and this involves the weekly trips to the grocery store to get food. And for a couple years the exact same thing started to happen as when I was growing up – once a month or so I would open up the fridge and think: “What is that in the crisper? It has to be bad by now” and inevitably it would be. The offending item and a bunch of other newly found items in need of a trip to the landfill would be taken out and disposed of.

I was always conscious of this on a few fronts:

  1. Why are we wasting food?
  2. There is so much money being wasted here
  3. Why did we buy this in the first place?

Now it is inevitable that some things will go bad in the fridge before they’re eaten. We’re not perfect so this will happen, but when our weekly grocery bills were approaching $200 per week and there was always something being wasted it was starting to grate on me.

Enter meal planning!

At the new house we got a nice new fridge as part of the kitchen renos – perfect a blank slate. I was going to keep moldy food out of this one once and for all which meant we couldn’t let food just waste away in the fridge. This is where some basic meal planning came in and saved us a small fortune in money.

Now before we go to the grocery store we don’t start with a shopping list but with a list of meals we want for the week. Its not planned out to every tiny detail but at least we’ve got an idea what 6 or so dinners we’re going to have during the week. Then we check if we have some of the components no point getting a bag of potatoes when we’ve got a mostly full one in the pantry.

We’re still not perfect but definitely getting a lot better. I think I’ve thrown out some leftovers that no one was going to eat but it’s a lot less than before. Both my wife and I are now more conscious of what we have in the fridge and cupboards and get what we need rather than something that catches our eye while we’re in the store.

My best guess is that not wasting food is saving us about $50 per week. I could be a bit off but if this is really the case then we’ve just saved $2,600 per year on our groceries and its making ends meet a lot easier as this is a variable cost.

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