6 Ways To Eliminate Food Waste

Eliminating food waste is a big way to save money.  Every piece of food you throw in the garbage can or down the disposal cost you money and is a waste.  Figuring out ways to reduce waste can be key in reducing your grocery bill.

There are a few tips you can use to reduce your food waste:

  1. Make a list of what you’re throwing out – If you start seeing a pattern in that you’re pouring half a gallon of milk down the drain, then it’s time to start buying smaller quantities.  Seeing patterns will help you eliminate them.
  2. FIFO – This stands for ‘first in, first out’.  Whether it be with fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt containers, or even canned goods, make sure you move the oldest stuff to the front so that you are increasing the chance of buying before the expiration date
  3. Keep fridge items in clear container – What you can’t see you will often forget about.  Put leftovers, cut up fruit, and similar items in clear containers so that you will increase your likelihood of seeing them when you’re in the fridge.
  4. Keep items in the same place – This works for your pantry and fridge.  Keep your fruit in one drawer, veggies in the other.  Keep all your dressings and condiments together.  Put milk and juice on the same shelf every time.  Leftovers all go in one area.  When things get spread around, they get forgotten about or lost in the shuffle.
  5. Clean out your freezer regularly – Our freezer is the spot where we find things going to waste more often.  It’s easier than anywhere else to push something to the back and forget about it, only to find it a frostbitten mess months later.  Re-organize your freezer every few months to keep space clear (avoiding future cluttering and cramming) and to bring things to the front that might have gotten lost in the shuffle but maybe can be saved.
  6.  Buy good containers…and burp them – A good food storage container will keep something fresh for much longer than keeping it uncovered or in a poorly designed container.  A good container should allow you to slightly raise the lid while subsequently pressing down to ‘burp’ the air out of them, slowing the process that causes many foods to break down.

By and large, we don’t throw out too much food.  We’ll find the very occasional ‘ewww, gross’ item or stuff that’s been pushed to the back of the freezer to die a slow death, but I think we do much better than we used to.


How much food do you find yourself throwing away?  Do you have any other tips and tricks to eliminate waste?  Please leave a comment and let me know what works (and what doesn’t) in your household.

The Perfect Baked Bean Recipe

I’m not one for baked beans.  In fact, normally I avoid them.  I don’t know why that is.  I like beans.  I like baked things.  But, for the most part, baked beans don’t do it for me.

My wife found a recipe that so far has been a big hit.  Everyone we’ve served it to who does like baked beans loves this recipe.  And even me, who doesn’t like baked beans….loves it!

Courtesy of the Food Network:

Note: The original recipe is posted below.  My wife doesn’t like bacon so we make it without.  My mom actually made this as well and cut the molasses down to somewhere between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup and it was awesome.  Lessons learned: Tweak to your liking!

Ingredients

  • 4 (16-ounce) cans baked beans
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 (6-ounce) can french-fried onions, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large bowl, mix together beans, pineapple, molasses, BBQ sauce, mustard, 1/4 of the bacon, and 1/4 of the onions. Add some salt and pepper, to taste. Pour beans in 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and sprinkle remaining crushed onions and bacon on top. Cook in oven for 1 hour or until beans brown and bubble. Serve warm.

Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe

I live in the Metro Detroit area, so Bargains to Bounty has become one of my favorite websites.  They provide coupon links, information about grocery stores, and a variety of money saving ideas that are often (but not always) specific to saving money around town.

Hopefully each of you is lucky enough to have a site like that which can save you some bucks.

If not, it’s time to move to Detroit!

Anyways, one of the latest things that they posted was a recipe for homemade Shamrock Shakes, originally posted at Saving Dollars and Sense  I think I had one a while back, though it’s been a few years.  Everybody raves about them, though, so they must be good.

If you want to treat your family and save some money, check out the recipe at the link above.  I’d be interested to know how they turn out!

Restaurants and Debit Cards

Maybe someone with experience or knowledge of the restaurant industry can help me understand a minor point on how debit cards are handled.

This arises from a situation on New Year’s Eve.  My wife and I went out to a restaurant to eat.  We’ve been there a time or two in the past, but not for a long time.

The meal was wonderful, and as we usually do when we eat out, we paid using my debit card.  As is also usual, I signed for the tip to be added on.

What I’ve noticed happens at most restaurants when I do this is that for the first day or two, the transaction shows up in my register as a pre-authorization and is usually for only the amount of the check.  This makes sense as I’m guessing that the restaurant swipes the card before bringing it back to the table where tip can be handled.  Typically, when the transaction clears after a day or two and appears as a Posted Transaction, the full amount including tip shows up.

Now, with our New Years eve experience, the pre-authorization amount included an additional 20%.  I didn’t tip 20% exactly, but I was able to calculate the difference by looking at the check and the total on my transaction register.

Is this a new thing where restaurants want to make sure you can afford to tip when you get back to the table?

Even though, once the transaction posted a couple of days later, everything was updated to what I had actually tipped, for some reason this bothered me.  What if I tipped less than 20%?  Is the restaurant assuming that I’m cheap for doing so?  What if I had chosen to leave the tip in cash instead, therefore any amount over my check amount was unjustified, and could have caused problems had I not been one to leave a cushion in my bank account?

Any thoughts on whether this is standard practice or what the basis is for a restaurant choosing to operate this way?  It’s not going to stop us from going back, but I’m curious as to whether it would be out of line to comment on this next time we pay.

Thanks in advance if you have any insight.

An Awesome Change By Restaurant.Com

We’ve used Restaurant.com for years.  The way it works is that you buy a coupon that gives you a dollar amount off the meal, and the price you pay for the coupon is way less than the face value.  Typically, you can get a $25 certificate for $10 or a $10 certificate for $4.  Towards the end of the month, they’ll often run 70% or 80% off specials (all you have to do is enter the promo code that they distribute to their e-mail members) so you can get them much cheaper.

We’ve run into very few problems over the years.  One time we had a restaurant refuse to honor the certificate, saying that they had opted out of the program but that Restaurant.com had not removed them from the site, but they later sent us a gift card as an apology.

They recently made a change that I think is awesome.  In the past, you had one year to use a certificate after purchasing it, otherwise it expired.  Now, they have removed that restriction, so as long as the restaurant is open and still participating, you can use the certificates.  From what I understand, any previously expired certificates are now valid as well.  There are two certificates that we never got around to using that I had written off (I think they were $10 certificates that we’d paid $0.80 each for) but I’m now going to go back and attempt to print them, as I know both restaurants are still open and both participate.

So, if your eyes were bigger than your stomach and you never got around to using some of your certificates, go back and check, because you may be in for a pleasant surprise!

Thanks to my dad for passing this tidbit along!

The Great Ranch Dressing Conspiracy

I love ranch dressing.  When I have a side salad, it’s automatically ranch dressing for me.

Your house dressing is great today?  No thanks.  Got an out of this world balsamic vinaigrette?  Good to hear, now please pass the ranch.

mb-201003dressingThe good thing about my love of ranch dressing is that I don’t use a lot.  I always ask for my dressing on the side, and I usually only use a couple of tablespoons worth, and it’s always much less than what the restaurants would normally add to a salad.

Still, there’s one mystery that often leaves me totally puzzled, and that is “Why does the ranch dressing taste so much better at restaurants?”

It does!  I’m not lying.

At first, I thought, it’s because I used light ranch dressing at home.  We generally try to eat with reduced fat varieties of things that are normally rich in fat.  In most cases, we adapt and feel better that we’re avoiding some of the negative.

So, I thought that must be it, and opened up a bottle of regular dressing.

Better?  Yes.  Good as a restaurant?  Not even close.

It never fails.  I go to a restaurant, eat a salad, and marvel at the ranch.  I eat one at home and I’m left wishing that I could get my hands on whatever it is that restaurants are serving.  They must have some secret stash of dressing that they’re working from that is not allowed to make it’s way into any home.

Maybe the secret ranch is the foundation of the entire restaurant industry.  Without the great ranch, sales would plummet and restaurants far and wide would close down.

It’s got to be some conspiracy, right/

Or is it just as simple as maybe things just taste better at a restaurant?  I don’t know, but while you’re coming up with your answer….

Could you please pass the ranch?