Wasted Food Equals Wasted Money

Throwing away leftover meat here and a bad loaf of bread there doesn't seem like much. When you're tired of looking at the half-eaten bag of grapes in the fridge, it's time to get them out of sight, right? 

Well, not according to the USDA, or your wallet. This year, the cost of food is expected to rise. If you didn't have a problem with tossing food that you're no longer in the mood for, you might now. In 2010, 33 million TONS of food was thrown away, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is obvious that waste adds up, and it's time to start caring.

Sitting down and figuring out a budget, let alone planning weekly meals is difficult. Figuring out how to make your grocery budget go farther can be even more challenging, but it is no feat that you can't tackle. 

When I go to the grocery store, I want to make healthy choices. I don't want to settle for the unhealthy foods because they are "less expensive." Why should I compromise my health for the sake of saving money? 

My strategy involves going to the store, and figuring out how I can get the most use of the foods I am buying. If I want chicken, I will buy chicken! I will just have to find a way to use it all. If I want a fresh salad, I will get the ingredients, and make sure that I can use the vegetables to make a salad one day, and a stir fry the next. 

Having a grocery budget doesn't mean you have to live off of highly processed pre-made meals. (That stuff is usually no good for your health, anyway.) There are cheap, and healthy options out there! 

Tweet This!!! Your budget doesn't prevent you from eating healthy, it helps you make the most of healthy foods. @YoungFreeME http://bit.ly/1Bpbsrn

Eating healthy also doesn't mean sacrificing your budget. It might mean that you have to put more thought and consideration into your purchases. Think about freezing, canning, or making leftovers. Can you freeze some of the meat you are buying? Use a vacuum sealer to freeze foods, it's a good way to avoid waste! 

You can also cook the entire pack of chicken (or other meat) and have the rest as leftovers tomorrow. If you get creative, you can make some really great meals with leftover food. Soup is an AWESOME leftover idea. If you roast a chicken one day, use the leftovers in your chicken stew! At the same time, make use of vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or celery. There is plenty of room to get creative with soups and stews! 

It turns out meat isn't the only food you can freeze. Freezing is a way to prolong the shelf life of lots of different foods. A block of cheese, a loaf of bread, muffins, or other baked goods will last much longer if you keep them in the freezer. I do this with bread because at the local bread store, I can buy a loaf for .99 cents instead of $2.99. When I make a trip, I stock up on a few loaves, and put a couple in the freezer until I'm ready to use them.

Are you lacking creative inspiration? 

Get creative with your recipes and your food! It should never be boring! Google your ingredients (like red potatoes) + recipe, and watch the ideas appear before your eyes! If you know your potatoes are going to go bad soon, or your vegetables are soon to turn useless, go to Google! 

Lastly, I try to be careful with buying in bulk. Especially if it's fresh produce, I will probably pass. I know that I can't eat a huge bag of oranges before they all go bad. Before you buy something in bulk, make sure it's something that will last, or something you will eat before it turns bad. If you want to buy in bulk, go for the canned foods:  beans, rice, and pasta. They'll last! 

Now that spring is rolling around (almost!), you can start thinking about what types of vegetables you can grow on your own. Tomatoes are really easy to grow, and will save a few dollars here and there on the grocery bill. If you like fresh herbs and spices, try growing a few by your window. They don't take up a lot of space, and are usually easy to grow.

Happy shopping!