Plan Meals.  We’ve all been there. It’s dinnertime!  What to make tonight? I’m certain that question has stumped many of us at one time or another. If you know what you will be having, you know what you’ll need when you buy it, hence less waste. Planning a week’s worth of menus is ideal. Two is even better. The less trips to the store, the more money saved is my experience.  Tip: Plan to use fresh produce at the beginning of the meal plan and resort to the frozen at the end.

Shop from the Pantry. Do you even have to venture out to the store at all? What food do you already have that you may have forgotten about? What’s at the back of or at the bottom of the freezer or shoved deep into the cupboard or pantry closet? Find what you have, get creative, and make a meal. You may even discover a new favorite. Plan to keep a well-organized pantry. Check expiration dates and move close to expire items to the front so they are not forgotten again. When you come home from the grocery store and put away your bounty, stock as the supermarket stockers do and put the new items in the back, keeping the oldest items in front where they can be easily seen and used.

Use Leftovers. When you are doing your meal planning keep in mind when you might make the best use of leftovers too.  If you will be making a recipe that you know will make more than can be eaten that evening try not to make it on the day before a planned outing or before another kind of event where you know the leftovers will not be eaten.  If it is enough for another complete meal – freeze it. {More advance meal prep ideas and cooking for the freezer info to come later.} If there is only a few spoonful’s of let’s say some veggies, then start a “soup container” in the freezer. Save the veg and add them to soup once a month or add some to a casserole.  This also works for pasta and grains, meat, etc. Get creative.

Package and store your food correctly. If you buy a new sofa would you let it sit out in the rain? Of course not, so why put meat into the harsh environment of the freezer without wrapping it properly, place grains in the pantry in a torn bag, or put soaking wet greens from the spray thing-a-ma-jigs at the supermarket  in your frig. We buy meat in bulk or at least more at one time than is needed for just one meal. Take it out of its original packaging and put it in freezer bags or even one of those sealing systems that take out all of the air. You can make your own sealing system by slowing pulling all of the air out of your freezer bag with a straw before sealing the bag. With meats, always be careful about cross contamination. Store grains in airtight containers. Original packaging should be fine if intact and you plan to use the item fairly quickly. Put a paper towel in with your greens to help absorb some of the moisture so they do not rot prematurely. Store apples by themselves. The gas they emit can ripen other fruits and vegetables prematurely. Flour and nuts are better off in the freezer for long-term storage as they could become rancid, especially in warm weather.

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