The Frugal Kitchen: How To Avoid Food Waste and Save Money

“Being frugal doesn’t mean slashing your spending or depriving yourself of things that you enjoy. It means knowing the value of money and making every effort to spend it wisely.”

A simple table setting with fresh cucumber water

Today I wanted to share how I’ve created a Frugal Kitchen. By frugal I don’t mean we don’t eat wonderful meals and we certainly don’t skimp on ingredients. I’ve just implemented changes to how I manage the kitchen; things like changing grocery stores (to a cheaper one), keeping a 3 month supply of food in the pantry, cooking in batches for freezing and creating menus that first use any food that may go bad in the fridge.

With talks of food shortages, some European countries already rationing food supplies and the chaos of empty shelves when Covid first hit, I made it a point then to rework how I shopped and cooked so that we spend less and extend our food supply in the case of a real emergency.

The pantry off the kitchen is stocked with non perishable foods for back up

For years, I’ve created a set menu of meals we will eat for the next 1-2 weeks. This way I know exactly what I’m shopping for and stick to that list. I’ve found it cheaper to shop like this than to go with a loose idea of what I need and come home with things we may not eat and worse, will expire; what a waste of money!

Once I have my set menu and groceries bought, I work with what I have and extend my shop by having leftovers , freezing 1/2 of a meal for another time and creating new recipes with anything left over that needs to be used.

This is an example of how I might plan a week worth of food:

Monday:  Tuna Empanada – For this recipe, I opened a jar of tomato sauce and now have 1/3 jar left in the fridge. Instead of letting it mould, I use it right away.

Tuesday:  Pasta with the sauce that was opened yesterday. I’ll add ground beef and fresh veg to the sauce. Leftover pasta sauce is frozen for another time. 1 portion is packed for my work lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday:  Leftover Pasta for my packed lunch for work

Dinner is a Roast Chicken with stuffing (made with 1/2 loaf of bread that was sitting on the counter going stale) and roasted vegetables.

ThursdayChicken Salad on toasted bread made with the leftover chicken breast from last night with a large salad.  With the chicken carcass I make chicken stock in the slow cooker which I freeze in small batches in jars to be used later in rice dishes, stir-fries and homemade chicken noodle soup. Better than bullion cubes that sometimes have high MSG.

Friday – A large double batch meal. Something like Lentil Dahl (I keep a large amount of lentils in the pantry) which I’ll freeze half for another day or we’ll enjoy as leftovers the next day.

A simple summer meal: BBQ steak, fries, haricot verts and salad

Ways I preserve the life of fresh food:

Always use veggies that will go bad first. Root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots, beets and radishes are very forgiving (if stored properly) but I always make sure lettuce, spinach and tomatoes are used quickly. Make stock or vegetable soup with any leftover produce.

Store berries in glass jars . They’ll last up to a month without going bad or moulding. Wash only when you’re ready to eat them.

Raspberries and Blueberries are stored in glass jars to extend shelf life

Freeze Fresh Herbs – When a recipe calls for fresh thyme and I only use a few sprigs, I put the rest in a ziplock baggie and freeze it. I can then use as needed in soups or anytime I need fresh thyme. This can be done with Rosemary, chives and green onions too.

Fresh Thyme is stored in the freezer then used as needed.

Freeze 1/2 a loaf of bread until you finish the 1st half. Bread defrosts just as soft and fluffy as fresh bought. Preserving is the key.

Foods you can freeze:

  • Cooked pasta.
  • Cooked rice.
  • Nuts (many people don’t realize nuts can go rancid due to the high levels of fat they contain)
  • Flour – you can use it directly from the freezer.
  • Butter.
  • Grated cheese.
  • Bananas, peeled.
  • Bread, in slices, as loaves or breadcrumbs.

Keep a rotating pantry. I keep dry goods like Pasta, Rice, Quinoa, Lentils, Flour, Sugar and Seeds at all times. I also keep canned beans, snacks and soups and make sure they’re used before their expiration dates. Every time I use something from the pantry, I put it on the grocery list for the following week so it’s always replenished. When we go camping, I usually have enough in the pantry to take for all of our meals which saves on a big shopping bill. With a good stocked pantry and rotation schedule, you can keep a supply of food for years.

pasta, lentils, rice, homemade breadcrumbs, split peas and sugar are stored in airtight jars

Quick Money Saving Idea:

Buy things in bulk that are on sale (and that you know your family will eat). I keep large jugs of vinegar because I use it in many things like salad dressings, pickling and natural health remedies (for my Fire Cider Recipe HERE). Same goes for canned pet foods, Annie’s Organic Mac ‘n’ Cheese , dishwashing soap, pizza sauce and spices.

Last Summer we picked blackberries in a field close to home which I in turned made into jam and canned (free!). Canning, freezing, dehydrating and fermenting are great ways to prolong the harvest. A family member gifted us way too many cherries last year, I turned them into canned pie filling, jam and bourbon cherries. We still have these foods in the pantry.

If you have a garden or a way to trade produce and fruit with friends or family, this is a great way to get things for free to preserve. Home canned food can be stored for up to 2 years.

If you’re interested in making my homemade sweet dill pickles, my recipe here HERE

mini cucumbers for pickling

Keeping a frugal kitchen shows appreciation for how easy and convenient our lives have become. I don’t take for granted that I can walk over at any moment and purchase almost anything I need at my local grocer. The frugal kitchen is about being grateful for how simple our lives have become while also being prepared for hard times; Even losing one’s job can put us in a tough spot. The frugal kitchen is filled with wonderful food and comfort and I like the planning involved in creating a menu, stocking the pantry and preserving food. Our ancestors had to plan ahead, had to keep a regular schedule of tasks, to survive! I like that, it’s simple, it’s real.

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