Ways to Cut Down On Food Waste in 10 Easy Steps

How to Cut Down On Food Waste in 10 Easy Steps- Chic and Domestic
How to Cut Down On Food Waste in 10 Easy Steps- Chic and Domestic

Food waste is a serious issue in many areas of the world. Not only is it a serious issue because wasted food is wasted money, but let’s just be real, there are too many people in the world going without. One of the changes I wanted to make this year was really trying to cut down on the amount of food being wasted in our house. This might be easier said than done because you know, kids, buttt I’ve been trying my hardest in other ways to do my part.

We talk so much about saving money on groceries, and the importance of meal planning and meal prepping here on the blog all the time, but what if an easy way to give your pockets a break is sitting right in front of you? Here are some things that I’ve been doing, trying, and want to try in the future to really focus on this goal this year, and of course save myself a bit of money.

1. Store food correctly
This is complete trial and error for me, I won’t lie to you guys. There is an actual method to storing your food and getting it to last longer, but I have yet to master that method completely. I will say that I’ve invested in some pretty great storage containers, and I’ve been storing my herbs differently and it’s been going good so far but I still have a lot to learn. Research some of the proper storage techniques for some of your own frequently used fruits and veggies.

Check out my pinterest board for kitchen hacks here!

2. Keep your refrigerator clutter free
I like to keep things clutter free in general but I hate for my refrigerator to ever get cluttered. It makes it easy for things to get lost and go unused. It also causes you to rebuy things that you already have on hand. Often times it ends up being things that are unopened, barely used, or still within their life expectancy. Clutter is a huge culprit when it comes to food waste.

Be sure to subscribe and look out for some very useful home organization tips!

3. Understand your expiration dates
So many people are misinformed when it comes to the difference between an expiration date and a sell by date. Don’t be so quick to toss things that still have some life to them.

4. Save your leftovers
Sounds pretty simple right? No matter how big or small the amount of food, try saving your leftovers instead of tossing them in the trash. You can use leftover meat or veggies in a new meal, or carry it for lunch the following day.

5. Pack your lunch
Pack your lunch in the first place! Instead of grabbing something to eat during your lunch hour and again, possibly stretching your pockets, pack your lunch. This will help you to use up leftovers from dinner, and also use up groceries that would otherwise go bad before you’re able to get to them.

6. Use your peels
Instead of tossing your fruit and vegetable peels, use them. Fruit infused water is the new thing. You can use things like cucumber, lemon, and orange peels to add to your water. Both useful and visually appealing. I’ve personally used peels for home fragrances and cleaning and I don’t think I’ll ever toss them again. Another great way to utilize your peels? Just eat them. Eat them, use them for zest, or compost all together.

7. Use your foods for DIY
Don’t look at me crazy just yet, but a really cool way to use up things like ripe fruits or veggies is to use them for a DIY natural beauty alternative. Foods like avocados, lemons, cucumbers, and even mayonnaise can be great in hair and skin masks. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and prevents more food waste.

8. Utilize your freezer
Freezer meals are obviously a huge thing. Who doesn’t love the convenience of just grabbing, defrosting, and reheating? There are so many ways to utilize your freezer, and so many things that spring right back to life after some time in the freezer. Let’s go back to #4 for a second. Not everyone enjoys leftovers and eating the same thing more than once in a week. Instead, why not freeze things for a later date? Store it correctly and it will not only mean you’ve avoided wasting food, but you’ve also made dinner for a busy day in the future.

Check out my post “How To Store Freezer Meals Like a BOSS” here!

9. Make your own stock
I save veggie scraps like nobody’s business! Have you ever made homemade chicken or veggie stock? Let me tell you, it’s nothing like that stuff that you grab off of the shelf at the grocery store. Not only is it a great way to use things that you would otherwise throw away, but it also has the benefit of knowing exactly what’s in your stock. Plus it tastes better too.

10. Get creative in the kitchen
One of the greatest things you can do is to get creative in the kitchen. Just think of #7 on our list! Toss something extra into a salad, soup, or any other dish you can think of and try something new. Put together some new combinations, and most of all, have fun with it.

What are some ways that you guys cut down on food waste? Are these some things that you plan to utilize in the future? Let me know in the comments. 

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How to Create a Household Budget

Creating a budget that works for you, Where to start, and What it takes to make it last.

With the start of a new month, it feels like the perfect time for a fresh start with everything. It’s like a breath of fresh air. A clean slate. Maybe last month your finances weren’t quite where you wanted or needed them to be. That’s fine, no problem. That just means it’s time to create a household budget that you can stick to.

Most people think budgets suck! “Eww, what’s a budget?” “Budget? HA. We’re too rich for a budget.” WRONG. No matter how much money you have coming in, if you can’t account for every dollar you’re spending, you probably either aren’t spending it wisely, or you my friend are more than likely spending money that you don’t really have. Instead of viewing budgeting as a negative thing, view it as more as a critical tool to help you reach your financial goals.

Your finances are extremely important, but budgeting can, and more than likely will be a trial and error experience. What works for you may not work for someone else. Everyone’s pennies are different, and everyone’s expenses vary. The only things that will be the same for everyone is that everyone will have expenses. Unless of course, you’re just living off of the land, creating your own textiles, sewing your own clothes, and walking or riding a bike wherever you need to travel. And, everyone will need some sort of income to pay those expenses.
Now is the perfect time, now more than ever, to find what works for you and really start to concur your finances.

What a Budget Does

Budgets give you the tools you need to plan for how you will be spending over a period of time (usually month to month), how you can or will be saving over a period of time, and it can also be used to keep track of your spending patterns so you can start to see exactly where your money goes.

Where to Start

For most people, finances are scary, but it’s vital to keep your financial house in order. At some point, you need to think of your family finances like a business. You need to be detailed, accurate, and as thorough as possible. If you have your last 2 or 3 months of income statements, bank statements, or copies of your bills, start there. Gather this information to review so you can get a better idea of your average income, and expense numbers.

1. Record your average monthly income
Record the average monthly take home pay for your household. This is where being detailed and thorough comes in handy. If you have your last few paystubs or bank statements, this should help to give you an average number of what you’re bringing home per week, biweekly, or monthly. Use this to determine what your total monthly income number is, because this is what you’ll be using for your budgeting since you’re recording expenses on a monthly basis.

2. Create a list of household expenses
Now that you have a clear idea of what money you have coming in, create a list of household expenses. Everything that you can think of. Don’t just include household bills, (mortgage payment, car payments, auto insurance, groceries, utilities, entertainment) and then forget to include expenses like your actual household items. Cleaning supplies, sponges, rags; if you change them out monthly, toilet paper, paper towels, all of these things are also considered household expenses, because these are things that you will inevitably need in your home every month.

3. Categorize your list of household expenses
Separate your expenses into two categories: fixed and variable. Your fixed expenses will be the things that stay relatively constant each month. Things that are usually a requirement to your everyday living like, rent or mortgage, car payment, cable/ internet, credit card payments if you have them. You won’t really find these expenses sporadically changing.
Variable expenses are your expenses that may change from month to month. Items like gas, groceries, entertainment, and even your grooming (hair, nails, haircuts) budget. These expenses may or may not be essential to your everyday living, but these are normally the things that are easiest to make changes when in need of cutting back.

4. Total your monthly income and expenses
After totaling both your income and expenses, you should have an end result that shows more income than expenses. This means that you’re bringing in an adequate amount of income to cover your monthly expenses. Pat yourself on the back, that’s great! This means that you can start using your excess money to use for a designated savings of your choice, and or extra splurges and entertainment. If your results show that your expenses are higher than your income, no worries. This just means that you’ll have to do some adjusting to your budget and expenses.

5. Make adjustments to your budget
If you have accurately listed all of your expenses, the end goal should be having your income and expenses either be equal, or have an increase in your income amount. If you happen to have increase in your expense number, you should look at your list of variable expenses first to either decrease costs, or cut them all together. You currently can’t afford it. Since these expenses are typically non-essential, it should be easy to find ways to bring you closer to your income number, whether that be decreasing your grocery budget, finding a cheaper hairstylist, or decreasing how often you’re getting your nails done. Another great thing to look out for when decreasing expenses would be things gym memberships and subscription services.

6. Review your budget (Trial and Error)
Now that you’ve created your budget, here is when the trial and error comes in. It’s important to go back and review your budget, weekly to make sure that you’re staying on track with expenses and saving, but you should also look over your budget again after your first official month using it. Sit down and compare what you planned for expenses, versus what you actually spent. This will help to show you where you did well, and where you might need to make improvements. If there is a large difference between what you expected and the reality, then you might need to increase your budgeted expenses accordingly. If there is a slight difference, that’s still okay. Trial and error. Just work harder throughout the next month to stay within budget. Soon you’ll be budgeting and spending like a pro!

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Weekly Meal Planning Menu #3

Make sure to get a homemade dinner on the table for your family this week with this easy Weekly Meal Plan!

After my quick break from meal planning, I am baaack! Last week I took some time to focus on planning and prepping some freezer meals to start stocking my freezer. Yet another great way to plan ahead and save your coins. If you’re interested in how to get started with freezer prep, and or storing tips, feel free to check that out here, but in other news, 123 let’s get started!

If it just so happens that you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I LOVE meal planning for my family of 5. It’s been one of the most beneficial things that I’ve started doing to stay in budget when it comes to our household groceries. I check in weekly to break down my weekly meal plan, and explain my thought process in planning and scheduling things how I do them. If you’re interested in getting started, check out my blog post on how to start meal planning. It’s a great read, really easy explanations, and full of really great tips.

I meal plan on Wednesdays, because I like to check out what’s on sale at my local grocery stores. If I lost you just now, no worries I’ll explain. The average grocery store prints their new sales ads every Wednesday. They normally come in the newspaper if you get one, but you can also check them out online if they have an official website. If you’re a couponer, even better! You should already know the importance of matching your coupons with weekly sales to maximize your savings. I do my plans from Monday to Sunday for the following week, just for scheduling purposes. I normally grocery shop on Thursday or Friday of every week.
I normally plan out breakfast meals for my kids, a various list of lunch options (We plan, but we definitely wing it!), and our family meals. For other examples of my weekly meal plans, check them out here on my blog.

This week I’ve planned the following

Monday: Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Fruit

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Ground Turkey Nachos

Tuesday: Breakfast: Blueberry Muffin, Eggs

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday: Breakfast: French Toast, Smoothies

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Breakfast: Egg Muffins, Fruit

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Turkey Burgers, Fries

Friday: Breakfast: Egg Muffins

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Southwest Chicken Salads

Saturday: Oatmeal

Lunch: Tuna and Crackers

Dinner: Chicken Wraps, Chips

Sunday: Breakfast: French Toast, Eggs, Yogurt

Lunch: Tuna and Crackers

Dinner: Grilled Chicken Cesar Salad

An important reason to meal plan is so you’re wasting less. Less food, less money, less time. In my Meal Planning 101 post, I explain the importance of using leftovers, sides, and extra condiments in other dishes throughout the week.

I’ll be using ground turkey a million and one ways this week. My nachos, meatloaf, spaghetti, and burgers will all be made with ground turkey. In my Friday meal of Southwest Chicken Salads, I will be using toppings from my Monday meal (Nachos) and my Spaghetti dinner will give my leftovers for lunches. Ideally, I plan to buy ground turkey in bulk for a reasonable price to use in my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday meal. Feeding a large family on less!

Meal planning doesn’t have to be as complicated as you would think. Spending 30 minutes to an hour worth of your time, can save you lots of time (and money) over the course of your week. So why not start? Save yourself some much needed time, and money and start planning.

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How To Store Freezer Meals Like a BOSS

In my part 2 of my Freezer Meals 101 series, I’ll be explaining some tips for storing to give your food’s freshness an extended expiration date. If you caught my previous freezer meal post, you’ll know that saving money and time has inspired me to revisit freezer meal planning, and prepping. In my other post, I talked all about planning your meals and how the art of freezer meal prepping is what you make it.

First things first, let’s talk about how to properly store your meals to stay fresh, and conserve your freezer space. You’ll never be able to enjoy those delicious freezer meals you’ve prepared if by the time you pull them out to cook, they’re covered in freezer burn.

Some Things You’ll Need:

Permanent Marker
It’s essential that whatever you do, you’re able to label your foods. A month from now, you’re going to want to know what everything is before you grab it, and exactly when you made it. Nobody likes to play the fresh or not guessing game when it comes to their food.

Plastic Wrap
Any one of your preferred plastic cling wraps works just fine. You can use plastic cling wrap to individually wrap your portions of meat for freezing. Since the portions will be placed in freezer bags they’ll be protected from the cold. The plastic wrap serves to block out air from touching your food. Air is actually what causes freezer burn on your foods.

Ziplock bags
Do not cut corners when it comes to your ziplock bags! Make sure to use freezer quality bags to protect your food from the extreme cold. I’m just as fabulously frugal as the next person, but I’ve found that cheaper storage bags are much thinner, and will have you regretting it when after all of your hard work, you find that your tasty meals are now freezer burned. That’s not good for anyone.

Foil pans or non-aluminum baking pans
This won’t be a necessity for everyone. It obviously all depends on what you’re choosing to freeze and how you’re choosing to freeze it. Foil pans are good options for lasagna or casseroles for you to freeze and just pop in your oven later. Kind of like make your own Stouffers. It’s actually best to buy inexpensive, disposable pans for the purpose of freezing because you end up throwing them right in the trash after eating. If I ever use pans I still make sure to ziplock them for extra protection from the cold anyway, so buying expensive pans for disposable would be a waste. Also, (just a tip) if you’re preparing freezer meals to be gifted, this will be perfect so that the recipient won’t have to worry about returning your dish after enjoying the meal.

Freezer Tape
Freezer tape is the best option as opposed to other kinds of tape. Remember, it has to stay sticky when it’s frozen, be durable enough to withstand the cold temps, and stick to various surfaces. Most importantly, you have to be able to write on it without smudging and fading. Freezer labels are also a great choice if you can find them, because it basically kills two birds with one stone.

Some Tips For Labeling:

Always remember the date!
I’ll mention this a few times throughout this post about the importance of adding the date to your meals. I can’t stress this enough. I actually like to label my bags before packaging everything up. It’s easier to write on an empty bag, and it helps to not forget things that I need to label.

Label Your Foods
(Obviously) You want to know what everything is when you’re ready to go back and cook it. Too many things start to look alike.

Include Cooking Instructions
If your meals come with a lot of specific cooking instructions, make sure to add that somewhere on your label. I skip this a lot, mostly because I’m the only one who really cooks in my house, and I already know how I want the meals prepared. This is a great thing to do if your significant other cooks, or you have older children who sometimes handle dinner. It will prevent a lot of headache to mention that this meal goes in the crock pot, or this should be cooked frozen in the oven for 30 minutes.

Some Tips For Packaging:

Portion sizes before freezing
I’ve found this to be most convenient when I’m separating marinated meat, but it’s also a GREAT way to store soups. When I make a large pot of soup or chili, I find that it’s better to freeze one large bag (for family meals) and a few smaller bags. (for individual bowls) and that way if you just want a bowl to yourself, you aren’t thawing and heating an entire pot of food for one.

Wrapping Meat vs Bagging Meat
Meat that involves a marinade should be stored in its own personal ziplock bag. Meat that will be going into a pot or crockpot with beans, corn, or raw veggies (like a soup or stew) can be stored in a ziplock bag together. Meat that will go with a side of veggies are better wrapped and separated. (I hope that made sense!) If you’re storing something like marinated cilantro lime chicken, store it bagged and ALONE. If you’re storing something like Chicken Tortilla Soup that you plan to throw in a crockpot, you can store it bagged and TOGETHER. If you’re storing raw chicken, a side of fresh broccoli, and red potatoes, wrap your chicken FIRST, and bag everything as one meal.

Avoiding air pockets
Huge, HUGE tip is to avoid air at all costs. When you’re packaging all of your foods, remember to remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Be your own food saver!

Some Tips For Freezing:

No glass or plastic containers
Glass breaks, which is a MESS (although I have successfully frozen things in mason jars before, still wouldn’t recommend it) Plastic containers can end up being a waste of space, and they also put you at risk for too much air exposure which will freezer burn your food.

Allow cooked foods cooling
If you’re freezing cooked foods, you have to give your food cooling time. Your freezer will have to work ten times harder to bring down the temperature of food that’s freshly cooked, and this can also cause other things in your freezer to start to thaw. Cool down first, and then store.

Some Tips for Storing:

Store your meals flat
Storing your meals flat is your best bet your convenience, because it makes them freeze quicker, and thaw quicker when it’s time to cook them. It also helps to maximize storage space in your freezer because you can stack them, and once they’re frozen, you can also lean them up against the freezer if need be.

Older items at the front, new items at the back
This just makes it easier for you to cook your older meals first to ensure that no food is going to waste.

How To Store Freezer Meals Like A Boss. Freezer Meal Prep 101 - Chic and Domestic
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Freezer Meals For Beginners

I’ve decided to write this Freezer Meals for beginners post because I’ve been so inspired lately to save money, and stay on top of my meal planning, and meal prep whenever I can that I’ve decided to revisit the idea of creating freezer meals. I’ve tried freezer meals in the past, and I found it both effective, and convenient for my family. As a busy mom, I’m game for anything that saves me a bit of time and headache, plus it gave me some of the most flavorful meat I’ve ever cooked. I meal plan, I meal prep, but sometimes I just want to sit pack and tap in to my inner crockpot mom.

The weather is changing, Fall is here, so it’s definitely a good time to break out the crockpot to add that bit of extra convenience, to some already easy cooking. Some of my favorite type of freezer meals to make are things like soups, or chicken and veggies that can easily just be thrown into the crock pot to either warm up, or cook. It’s even more convenient to be able to just fill it up, set it, and forget it.

If you’re interested in the freezer meal life, there are a few things you’re going to need to know to get you started. Freezer meal prepping is definitely what you make it. You can freeze 101 crockpot meals, 25 different kinds of marinated meats, 10 different lasagnas and casseroles, or 5 different types of pancakes and breakfast burritos. The possibilities are endless!

1. Create a menu
Do this 2-3 days in advance. You need to already have in mind what you’ll be preparing so you can get your shopping done, prep, cook, freeze, and relax. Keep your menu simple, or at least simple to you. I like to do mostly meals that are family favorites, easy things that I’ve made a dozen times and could probably cook in my sleep. I do one or two new meals, sometimes more depending on how many meals I plan to freeze.

2. Create a grocery list
Creating a grocery list is always one of the most important things to do before walking into any grocery store. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you walk in with a game plan on tackling the store. Look over your planned menu and write down everything you’ll need. Since you’ll be prepping large amounts of food all at once, when you come across duplicate ingredients, make sure to make note that you need multiples. Also, make sure to add what you’ll be needing for storage. Ziplock bags, labels, permanent markers etc.

3. Schedule your time
As a busy mom, my time is very precious. I like to bust out all of my freezer meals in a day, because that simply works for me. If you have only a few blocks of time spread out over the course of a few days, that’s fine too. It just means that you’ll be prepping differently. Instead of prepping full meals all at once, you might have to increase the amount of food that you’re already cooking and save and freeze your leftovers to build up a stash over time. There’s nothing wrong with starting small.

4. Organize ingredients for prep
Now it’s time for the fun part. Prep all of your ingredients that you’ll be using. This means trimming, chopping, and slicing your meat, chopping all of your veggies, shredding cheese, whatever you can think of that you’ll be needing for prepping and cooking.

5. Separate your ingredients for meals
Separate all of your ingredients needed for your freezer meals. I like to bag any meat first to get all of the messy business over with to make sure I’m not touching other things in my kitchen. Depending on how you plan to go about freezing your meals, (cooking or just prepping) will determine what comes next. You’ll either separating your ingredients, cooking and freezing, or separating your raw ingredients and preparing them to freeze. For more detailed help on how to store freezer meals like a BOSS, click here.

If you’re interested in some new ideas for your freezer meals, get some inspiration here on my Pinterest page (Be sure to follow me!). The possibilities are endless. Marinated meats, shredded chicken or beef for tacos, turkey meatballs, buffalo chicken, fajitas, soups and stews etc. As I’ve said before, you can make freezer meals whatever you need it to be to fit your household. Once you start and realize how convenient it is, you might not ever stop!

Freezer Meals For Beginners - Chic and Domestic
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