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Sunday Saver: How to Reduce Food Waste and Slash Grocery Bills

Friday, November 8th, 2013

“When my daughter wakes up, she opens her eyes and asks ‘What’s for dinner?’”

“I wish I was kidding,” Alex Guarnaschelli laughs. ”By the time she’s eating breakfast, I better have an answer for her.”

Like moms everywhere, this Food Network star faces The Dinner Question. (And thus, trips to the market and food storage tasks.)

Alex, the author of Old-School Comfort Food and mother to a 6-year-old, is the executive chef at Butter in New York City. Last year, she became one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, and she is a regular judge on Chopped.

Every morning Alex goes to the kitchen to plan her entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

Making a plan of attack on your groceries will save time, money, and cut back on waste, she says, which is why she partnered with Glad for the Save It Sunday campaign. The movement, which encourages participants to protect and preserve food, centers on the Sunday ritual of grocery shopping.

“It’s the one day of the week when you can commit to setting aside time: for shopping, cooking ahead meals, and storing other items—it’s about starting the week on the right foot,” she says.

Alex does a lot of her cooking on Sunday, which is why the pledge really speaks to her. But it also goes a step further.

“Ironically, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook—because I’m doing it all day everyday and by mid-week I’m fried,” she says. “Taking that time on Sunday, and getting joy from it, is wonderful.”

A proponent of reducing waste, Alex is extremely conscious of the issue both at work and at home.

“When I talk to my team about how to prep and store 100 pounds of beans for the restaurant, the same thing applies when I go home and make braised short ribs for my daughter,” she says. “You have to be very proactive.”

According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food purchased—roughly $1,500 worth each year.

 

Try Alex’s tips for saving time, money, and reducing food waste:
• Make a meal plan.

“Figure out what you are going to do with everything you buy,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to have an agenda—you’ll feel like you’re pulling a fast one on everybody because it’s so easy!”

Read the Parents meal-plan guide to get started.

 

• Stop thinking about leftovers as, well, leftovers.

“Instead of looking at packaging as something that lets you recycle and throw back in the scraps no one ate, think about it as a new beginning,” she says. “And, by making a plan, you’re actually ensuring there aren’t any leftovers.”

Plus, “leftovers” can be better than the first time around: “Growing up my mom would make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and, to me, the sauce tasted better two days later,” she says. “It’s not a leftover—it’s something you created that got better with age or other ingredients.”

 

• Don’t be hard on yourself.

“Some weeks, I don’t have my act together,” she says. “As a busy working mom, there are nights when I have to say, ‘Guess what kid, it’s fried eggs tonight.’ And that’s okay.”

 

• Reorganize your fridge.

“The crisper can be the kiss of death. Don’t put your fruits and veggies in there,” she says. “Instead, fill it with club soda and put your produce on display. My favorite thing to do is put herbs in a jar of water on the top shelf, or sometimes right on the kitchen table.”

 

• Buy different ingredients.

“Challenge yourself to use new items—like a bunch of thyme or mint—by taking one little step each day for a week. In order to use it up, you’ll find creative ways to add the ingredient to dishes.”

 

To join the #SaveItSunday movement, visit glad.com. If you pledge, you’ll be entered to win a meal prepared by a personal chef.

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