Use It, Don’t Waste It Challenge – End of Week 2

In case you missed it, you can read about the Use It, Don’t Waste It Challenge. Don’t forget the giveaway ends today, 4/16/12. For those of you starting the challenge late, just pledge to do the challenge for 30 days from the day you begin.

This last week when I sat down to make my weekly menu plan and started digging around in my freezer, I noticed I had a lot of food that needed to be used up. Rather than spending a lot of money on groceries, even to add to the stockpile, I just picked up some fresh produce and made our meals from what I had on hand. This is not only a great way to reduce food waste but it’s also a great way to save on your grocery budget! Every so often, it’s good to stop adding to our stockpiles and take a week or two to use up what we have.

We actually have so much in our freezers that I think I might do one more week of this. My goal is to hopefully use up the last of our “processed food” and start a “clean eating” lifestyle–give or take a few random unhealthy snacks every now and then. :)

Here are a few things I did to help reduce waste this week:

1) Went through my freezer and pantry to find items that are soon expiring and to turn them into meals. I did find a few expired items and those were disposed of. I’m working on a better system to make sure that never happens. But it does happen once in awhile.

2) We took the kids to the Zoo and rather than paying high prices for food there, we brought along a picnic, using up snacks and items that we had on hand. It turned out to be a fairly frugal outing, as we have a membership. (This is something we do yearly at Christmas. Great gift!)

3) When I cooked up meals, I made double and froze the extra for future meals. Cook once, eat twice. It’s a great plan and freezer cooking is so easy! You can check out one of my past freezer cooking series that explains how to get started, etc.

4) I bought in-season vegetables that were on sale and froze them for when prices will be higher later.

5) I used some containers I had been collecting for seed-starters. (I’ll be posting about this later this week.)

6) I planned our snacks and breakfast meals around the items that we had on hand that had just a little left, such as cereal, oatmeal, etc. This freed up some space in my pantry and I made sure not to have that last little bit of cereal go to waste.

7) I worked leftovers into our meal plan. Nothing went to waste this week.

8 ) I kept non-meat scraps, such as vegetable/fruit peelings, and added them to our compost pile. I’m always amazed at how much this can add up to in one week. Coffee grounds and such can also be composted.

9) I kept careful eye on how many leftovers were adding up and canceled a planned meal again this week so we could use them up. I now have another meal to use for this week.

10) I worked the hard-boiled eggs from Easter in our meals so they wouldn’t be wasted.

11) At the end of the week, I updated my meal plan sheet to what our actual meals were for that week. I’m keeping these sheets on file as they might help in future meal plans. I’m learning how to “roll meals” this way and keeping track of ideas for leftover options.

This challenge has really helped me learn an important thing and that’s that we really don’t need as much food as we think each week. I’ve been keeping meals simple and have been learning how to plan one meal around the leftovers of another. While I’ve always tried to do this, I’m putting a lot more focus on it and coming up with creative ways to work those leftovers into new meals. This is really going to help me keep my grocery budget lower in the future.

How did your week go? Were you able to find any new ways to help eliminate wasting food and other items?