Penny Wise: Save Money with Some Organization

I am a very busy mama of three little girls. I am also a full time student and I’m about to begin my two years in nursing school. With that said, we are relying on one income to support our family of five, so every little penny counts.

Before my third baby came along, I used to spend hours out of every week clipping and sorting coupons. After Evelyn was born I just didn’t have time for all the clipping, and I began to realize that I was wasting time and money printing and clipping coupons that I just didn’t use.

Also, my husband and I made the choice to try and cut out as much processed foods out of our diets, which really cuts down on the amount of usable coupons. Instead I have figured out several tricks and tips to save a lot of money.

Tip #1 Organize your food!

Did you know that the average American throws away around 20 pounds of food a month? According to the NRDC that is an average of $28-$43 a month! Money that you are literally just throwing into the trash! I found that out during some good organization of my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

Refrigerator

  • Start with a good clean out. This means checking the dates on everything including condiments and dressings. Cleaning the fridge is a chore that I dread, so by following these tips I have been able to avoid throwing a bunch of “science experiments” away. Now all I have to do is wipe down the walls and wash the drawers.
  • Group like items together in baskets. I have two large baskets, one for dressings and one for sauces and condiments. These baskets make finding items quickly when I need to, but also help me keep tabs on what I need to get and what I already have. I try and keep things that we use frequently like ketchup and ranch dressing at the front for easy access.

  • Have a system for your leftovers. (I will talk more about this later)
  • Wash, cut and distribute produce soon after you get home from the store. I especially like to wash fruit like grapes and blueberries and put them in snack bags. Doing this makes it convenient to grab and go, and cuts way down on our waste.


Freezer

  • Again, start with a good cleaning.
  • Keep like items together. I used to have several baskets in my freezer but the one we have now doesn’t have room for baskets so I just use the ones provided, plus I use Ziploc bags to group items like chicken breasts and lunch items.

  • Separate and bag meats before freezing. One to two large chicken breasts feed our family, but buying the family pack of meats is so much cheaper that I’ll buy the big packs and then separate them into quart-sized freezer bags before I put them in the freezer.

  • Keep a freezer log of meals. There’s nothing like making a delicious meal and totally forgetting about it until months later and having to throw it out.

Pantry (I use pantry as a general term) I have a very small pantry so we use two large cupboards for pantry items as well.

  • The Dollar Tree can be your best friend (all but one of my containers are from the Dollar Tree). Putting dry goods in well labeled containers not only looks pretty, but allows you to see at a glance if you are running low on staple products like sugar and rice.

  • I prefer to keep cereal in plastic containers as well because I like the way it looks and it stays fresh for so long.
  • Once again, organizing like items together and putting small items (i.e. spices, spreads) together in baskets so you don’t have to go searching to the back of your cabinets for them.
  • Rotate! Do you like to keep stuff like tuna and peanut butter stocked? Don’t forget to rotate things so you do not end up having to throw expired stuff out.

Tip #2: Leftovers

My husband is not a huge fan of leftovers for dinner, however he has no problem taking them for lunch. There is a catch though, if food has been made more than three days prior he will not eat it. After much trial and error (and frustration from running out of Tupperware and having to clean out a fridge full of leftovers), I have come up with a few questions that save a lot of our food.

  • Is it freezer worthy? I first like to ask myself if a meal will freeze well. If it does (soups, chili, and Mexican dishes all freeze very well), then I will make the recommended amount and freeze the leftovers. The bonus: I have another meal ready to go for a day that I don’t have the time (or desire) to cook. I like to freeze in smaller quantities so that I don’t have a leftover issue after we thaw that meal for dinner. Items like chicken enchiladas or burritos are great for lunches and freeze great in individual bags for lunches.
  • Will we want leftovers? Let’s face it, some things just aren’t great as leftovers. For these meals I will cut the recipe in half, or at least into smaller proportions so we don’t have any leftovers.
  • What else can I make from this? Do you have leftover grilled chicken and veggies? Make chicken fried rice! Maybe there are certain things that you can make into a salad or wrap in a pita. This can be fun, and you may even come up with another quick meal. One of our favorites is leftover grilled chicken with caramelized onions for chicken tacos (in fact, sometimes we even make these items after making our grilled dinner for the night to save on charcoal).
  • How much will I eat for lunch? I love the two cup round Ziploc containers that you can buy at the grocery store. They are perfect for soups and chili. When I do put leftovers in the fridge I will portion them down to something that will be eaten in one sitting and label it. My labels normally say what it is, who it is for, and when it was made.

Stay tuned for my next Penny Wise article… preparing for a shop.

What kind of organizing do you do in the kitchen that saves you money?

4 Responses to Penny Wise: Save Money with Some Organization

  1. Wow – what great ideas! I try to keep bags of crockpot meals in the freezer ready to go for quick dinners. I also portion out fruit, yogurt, chia seeds and spinach in bags for smoothies. I let them thaw for an hour, then add milk or juice and blend them.

  2. These are wonderful ideas. I need to go through and clean out my freezer and pantry and reorganize. I’m sure there are some surprises hiding in both places! The only organization I can keep track of is my fridge.

  3. i am terrible at organizing my cabinets. Freezer and refrigerator I do pretty good. I always buy in bulk so you would think I would organize better. I will try these tips to do better.

  4. Pingback: Penny Wise: Before You Shop Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

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