Unless your mind won’t stop racing until you have at least 12 pounds of ketchup in your pantry and 60 tubes of toothpaste on the reserve shelving unit in your garage, ‘extreme couponing’ is a complete waste of time and money.
A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 40 percent of all food produced in the United States ends up in a landfill, instead of a person’s stomach. That’s 20 pounds of food per man, woman, and child per month. And somehow, more than one-third of us still manages to find enough food to become obese.
Regardless of how you shop for groceries, or what groceries you buy, the easiest way for you to reduce your food costs is to eat the food you buy. It’s that simple. Even if you’re crazy enough to pay $6 for a pound of sugar and corn in a brightly colored cardboard box, or $15 a pound for imitation bacon bits where the only ingredient made from an animal product is the artificial coloring, nothing will lower your monthly grocery bill more than actually eating the food you purchase.
Do You Eat the Food You Buy?
It sounds like a ridiculous question at first. But how much of the food you buy do you actually eat? How much of it ends up in the trash bin or tossed down the garbage disposal as table scraps? Ever throw out an old slightly limp carrot? A potato with a few too many eyes? Old seafood? A few expired eggs? Some brown-looking hamburger? Stale pretzels? Old cheese? How about animal bones? Chicken skin? Watermelon rind? Pineapple core? Bacon fat? Old bread? Broccoli stalks? Pan drippings? Cabbage cores?
Or more importantly, how many pounds of food do you have in your house? In your refrigerator and freezer? In your pantry? Your cupboards? Is it 100 pounds? 200 pounds? 1,000 pounds? Are you saving up for the apocalypse? Do a quick inventory, and then spend one week a month just cleaning out cupboards and getting creative with the food you already have in the house. Skip the grocery store all together. Chances are pretty good, there are more groceries in your house than you think.
Learn to Love Stock
Don’t toss meat bones or scraps. Even if someone in your family has picked off most of the meat, there is still plenty of goodness left for a second go around. Keep leftover scraps in the freezer until you have enough time to boil them till the connective tissues, fat, and gelatins form a beautiful velvety stock. Stock can be used to add flavor to just about any dish including soups, rice dishes, pastas, roasted potatoes, etc. Making your own stock is also a great way to clean out your vegetable drawer.
Leftover Meat Fat
If you cook meat, then chances are pretty good you’ll be left with a fair amount of material in the bottom of the pan when you’re done. You can make gravy or a sauce out of it, save it with your bones and scraps for stocks and soups, or you can strain out just the fat and use it for cooking and baking. Who doesn’t love bacon? Strain out all the crumbs and meat bits and store the congealed fat in an airtight container in your fridge. You can use it as you would butter–spread it on toast, saute vegetables in it, add it to bean dishes, or even get creative with an old cookie recipe.
How this ever ends up in the garbage is a crime against nature. Fry up chicken skin in a pan like you would bacon–though at a slightly lower temperature to make sure it crisps up. Use it in tacos, on salads, or in sandwiches. If you haven’t had a chicken skin, lettuce and tomato sandwich you are missing out on life. Or thread the skins onto long skewers, remove your grill’s cooking grate, and grill them yakitori style.
Broccoli Stems, Pineapple Cores, Cabbage Cores, Watermelon Rind, Winter Squash Seeds
Whoever started the rumor that these parts are inedible was a terrible person. Broccoli stems belong in stir fry. Or you can peel them, cut them into strips and add them to your vegetable tray. Or even julienne them and turn them into a slaw. When cutting up a pineapple, leave in the center. The fibrous and tart bits of core will quickly become your favorite part of the fruit. Steamed cabbage cores are a real treat dipped in soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili. Watermelon rind can be peeled and sauteed like you would squash, or pickled for a lip-smacking, tangy snack. Keep the seeds next time you cut up an acorn or butternut squash, and bake or fry them with a little olive oil and salt for a nice late-night snack.