R is for Refrigerator
When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator and freezer?
If it's been months or possibly years, you should take the time to pick up each item in there and check the expiration date. If you have the extra time, you can wipe out any spills or debris.
While I've found that My Person and I consistently use up the milk we buy, we're not so efficient with our use of condiments and other less frequented jars.
At one point this past winter, I realized that we had a jar of Alfredo sauce from Trader Joe's sitting at the back of the bottom shelf...for months. We just forgot it was there and other items piled in front of it.
Items to target in your expiration expedition:
- jellies and jams
- salad dressings
- sour cream
- frost-covered freezer foods
My rule of thumb is that if I can't remember when I opened a jar of sauce or prepared a plastic container of leftovers, then I should toss it. One of my big wastes is usually wine. I'll open a bottle, have a glass, and then forget I opened the bottle.
But once you clear out the expired and questionable items, you'll be thrilled to be able to see the containers you can use for meals.
Tips to avoid wasting money on refrigerated food:
1. Think about giving up some condiments at home.
We stopped using some condiments like mayonnaise and pickles. I may eat a pickle with a sandwich at a deli, but I don't need to spend money on a huge jar of them unless I'm really craving that taste.
2. Buy in quantities you know you'll use before the expiration date.
I'll use this trick for many milk products and fruits and veggies. I am a lunatic about checking the expiration dates on yogurts. I completely understand that for the grocer, yogurt must be the bane of their existence. Think about how many yogurts populate those lines of shelves.
I've bought expired yogurts before because I was in a hurry. I try to shop when I can be more fastidious. I also think about the next week or two of scheduling for me and My Person to determine how many yogurts I think we might each realistically eat
3. Buy the smaller size container.
This trick took me forever to learn. I cannot tell you how much jelly and jam I have thrown out in my adult years because I would buy the on sale family size. Well, I'm not really saving money on the massive amount of food I'm wasting and throwing out.
By buying the smaller jar, I may spend a bit more up front, but I'll actually use what's in the jar. And finish it.
This process even allows me to add variety. I used up one jar of jam, so I can purchase another small one from a different brand or in another flavor.
4. Don't open containers until you're going to use them.
A good number of items don't need to be stored in the refrigerator until they are opened. Regardless of where you choose to store items, don't crack the lid until you intend to use the product.
I wish I could make this technique work with wine, but I have no solution for the opened bottle that I forget about, except to drink more or less wine. Not sure which would be the truly better solution there.
5. Freeze items you can.
Butter, cheese, pesto, bread, tortillas, leftover tomato sauce or paste.
It's actually kind of amazing what you can freeze. Whenever I get the cooking bug and want to try something new, I'll check out Pinterest for recipes. I'll also search for food I can freeze and I'm always surprised by the results.
I've had a few items not turn out so well. I tired freezing avocados. While they did last, they weren't great for slicing onto salads. Later, I read that freezing avocados is a technique best used for making guacamole.
Even though that little experiment cost me a little bit of money, by learning more about what foods I can freeze, I know I'm saving money in the long run.