Always buying organic produce
Buying organic produce definitely has health benefits in the long-term. Pesticides, fertilizer made with synthetic ingredients or bio-engineered foods can negatively impact our bodies over time. However, organic produce can be expensive and in some instances you can avoid needing to buy organic, minimize exposure to pesticides and other harmful ingredients, and save some money. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for policies that protect individuals and global health releases an annual Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce Consumer Guide. The 2017 guide is based on ongoing pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies. The guide accounts for how produce is grown (pesticide contamination), cleaned (washed, peeled) and prepared. The guide revealed 15 fruits and vegetables (The Clean 15) that had the lowest pesticide levels for conventionally grown (non-organic) crops. This means that regardless of whether you buy these produce organic or not, your exposure to pesticide contamination is minimal, in which case it may be ideal to not buy organic for these items and save yourself some money. Examples of fruits and vegetables in the Clean 15 group included: avocados, pineapple, papayas, mangos, asparagus, sweat peas, kiwis and more. The guide also has produce you want to always buy organic because high pesticide contamination when grown the conventional way. Some of these include: strawberries, spinach, apples, cherries, pears, grapes, tomatoes, bell peppers and more.
Always buying fresh and not frozen meats at the grocery store
Unless you are getting your meats straight from the butcher, you may be overspending at the grocery store if you opt to always buy fresh over frozen meat. This is because grocery stores purchase their meats in bulk and to ensure a longer shelf life, most meats labelled ‘fresh’ actually have carbon monoxide added to them to keep them from spoiling. A typical grocery store will keep 2-4 weeks’ worth of meat in stock to meet customer demand. 70% of meats in most grocery stores are treated with carbon monoxide to keep the meats looking fresh, fleshy and red for a longer period of time. If you have ever gone grocery shopping overseas at local food markets/kiosks where independent sellers don’t use these products, you may have noticed the difference. Rarely would you find meats perfectly red without discoloration that comes from the natural aging of the untreated meat. Buying fresh meats in grocery stores does not guarantee the meat has not been treated to increase shelf life. In some instances, you may want to buy frozen and save yourself some money.
Not taking advantage of deeply discounted meats about to expire.
Grocery stores will usually offer deep discounts on meats that are about to expire. In many instances discounts can be 30%-50% off. Some people decide to avoid buying these meats as they worry the meat may spoil. Of course, meat doesn’t stay fresh forever, and at some point it will go bad. However, if you plan on cooking the meat within a week, and keep it in your freezer in the meantime, you can still enjoy your meat at a significantly reduced price. Also, the carbon monoxide used to preserve the meat wears out in potency over time, not overnight.
Paying for plastic bags at the grocery store
Paying for plastic bags is not only a waste of money, but promotes the deterioration of our environment. The average family will use 1,500 plastic bags a year. At 5 cents a bag, that is $75 dollars to purchase plastic bags each year. Recyclable bags are not only better for the environment, but can save you money year after year.
Buying more than you need
Families waste $1,300-$2,200 of food that they buy but never consumed each year. This accounts for 20% of the groceries purchased in the home. Just think about that for a second. Imagine for every 5 bags of groceries you buy at the grocery store, you toss out one bag in the garbage bin before you drive home with your 4 remaining bags. That sounds absurd when you put it that way, but that’s what a majority of families do each year. Families aren’t the only ones who waste food, so do groceries stores, restaurants and even the untimely transportation of food can cause spoilage. However, consumers account for 47% of the food waste with restaurants accounting for only 9% (Source).
So when it comes to families, how can we reduce the amount of food wasted and save some money, here is are a few suggestions:
Never shop when you are hungry
When we are hungry, we are more likely to buy food items we don’t need. Everything looks delicious and everything looks appetizing. But in reality, much of the food will spoil because we realize we can’t consume it all.
Always shop with a grocery list
A list provides a constant reminder of what you need to buy and what you planned in advance for your household. Even if you deviate slightly from the list, the list helps you keep what is important in the forefront of your money and hopefully minimize the purchase of unnecessary items that will eventually spoil and need to be thrown out.
Grocery shop with meals in mind
You don’t have to follow a strict meal plan (although meal plans are awesome and save you time and money), but you should always have an idea of the dishes you want to make for the week when you are making your grocery list and shopping. Having meals in mind allows you to envision when and how the food will be consumed, minimizing the opportunity for spoilage.
Grocery shop once a week
Grocery shopping for more than a week in advance may cause you to buy items that will spoil, makes it difficult to plan meals with precision and can often lead to overbuying to account for longer days between shopping. Grocery shopping once a week ensures you consume what you need when you need it.