One of the things that has had the biggest impact on our food budget has been reducing food waste. I will do a separate post on the ways that I use items that I used to throw in the bin, but another major way I save on waste is that I have organised my storage. I have an inventory of what I have in my prepper pantry, and what I have in my freezers. I have also set up a system so that I know where things are, and can find them easily. Rotating my stock monthly also stops items going out of date, or buying things that I don’t need. Initially this took time to organise, but it has made life easier, and now saves me time, waste, and therefore money. Before I started my system I decluttered everything that was out of date, and used it if I could. Some things in my freezer I knew were totally out of date or had freezer burn, and so to get my system sorted, I had to throw them, which I found hard. However, by having a system, it has saved me having to throw anything since.
My fridge used to be a real mess. I used to tuck little things in everywhere and used to forget what was in there. This led to waste and things becoming spoiled or out of date. I hate having a full fridge now (as it was over Christmas). To help organise my fridge I have allocated shelves where I know I will find certain items, and have boxes and container in the fridge to keep things together. One box is for cheese, one for solid fats or margarines, one for meat I have bought or taken out of the freezer, one has all the bottles of sauce in, and I also have a large box with a lid that I put all the salad stuff in during the summer (with a piece of paper towelling to stop things going mushy).
My top shelf has savoury jars on one side (eg. home made cooking pastes, salsa or pickles) and sweet jars (eg rosehip syrup and jam) on the other. All home made chilli sauces are in the door, and everything has a place. An example is that I know if I make yoghurt and put it in glass jars, that it goes in the middle of the 2nd shelf down and that the box of fats goes on the left of the same shelf. The cheese box is on the right hand side of the second shelf (including cheese spread). This system saves me time when finding things and makes it easier to put things away. I can see at a glance what I have. Every week I try to more or less empty my fridge (except for the jars) and use up all the fridge gravel making soup or a main meal.
How I store things in the fridge to help them last longer
My fridge is the short term solution to storing food, I only usually put things in the fridge before I need them. An example of this is that if I get a lot of cheese at a good price I will grate it and freeze it. The only exception is if it is in wax. Most of my vegetables are stored in the freezer or elsewhere (eg potatoes in a cardboard box in a cool place). I also pick what I need in summer, or freeze. I take butter and meat out of the freezer the night before I need it to defrost, and anything else I might need, eg desserts. If I have picked berries to use in the summer I wash them in diluted vinegar and store them in glass jars. This helps to make them last longer without going mouldy or mushy and I use in porridge or with yoghurt for the week. The insides of cereal packets are also great for keeping cabbages, lettuces etc and stop them wilting as quickly. Broccoli lasts longer if stood in a jug of water. Some people put cut carrots and other vegetables in a jar of water to make them last longer (but I haven’t tried this).
The way I organise my cupboards is to have a small cupboard for tins and things that I use regularly. I then have a baking cupboard, and a large cupboard which is my prepper pantry. Every thing in my baking cupboard is grouped together in boxes or jars. All the flours are in air tight boxes to stop them getting weevils, the nuts and seeds are all together in bags in an open box (or frozen), the dried fruit also has it’s own box, sprinkles and candles etc have a box so that I do not lose those, etc. As I do not have enough cupboards, I have a tiered trolley that is full of glass jars with all my dried goods and pulses in, and with oils etc on top. This is kept in a dark corner in the kitchen and I can wheel it next to me when I am cooking. This helps me see at a glance what is running out.
All of my preserves are in my prepper pantry, including pasta sauces, jams and chutney. At least once a month I rotate my stock (checking dates) and put things into my small tin cupboard, or I fill empty jars on my trolley. I then make a weekly meal plan out of what needs eating up. If my prepper pantry is running low on an item, I will put it on my shopping list in order to look out for a good deal before it runs out. This saves me money as I have plenty of time to look and don’t have to buy at full price just because I need it soon. I rarely buy things the week that I will eat them, and shop from the cupboards, fridge and freezer.
I have an inventory of my freezer which I keep in a folder on top on my chest freezer. Everything in the chest freezer is stored in large Aldi bags for life as they are large and nice and strong. This saves me freezer diving head first. I can just take the bag out and place it on top and look in it standing up. I have a red one for meat and fish, a yellow one for bread and baking, a blue one for fruit, a green one for vegetables. This freezer is upstairs in a spare bedroom. My freezer in my kitchen has drawers and these are separated into fruit in the top drawer, vegetables in the middle drawer and meat and fish in the bottom draw. I also store left overs and an odd batched meal in the fruit drawer. The food in my kitchen freezer is the oldest and where I take my food from. I rotate food from my chest freezer into the kitchen freezer, and any new food goes into the chest freezer. Cakes and ice cream are kept in the chest freezer as it is less accessible and so I am less likely to binge on them! I try to remember to write the date and what something is on items when putting them in the freezer, though I do forget sometimes when in a rush.
Is your kitchen organised so that you can find what you need and save on waste? Please pass on any tips that you have.