What's in Your Refrigerator? (And How Much Did It Cost)

What's going to go in this bag?

Am I the only one who regularly digs through her crisper only to find a fuzzy green pepper that started out red snuggled into a pile of brown parsley?  Every once and a while we manage to eat all the fresh food I buy in a week, and when we do, it’s like I’ve climbed the Mt. Everest of home economics. But, given the food news this week, it’s time to buckle down and get serious about meal planning.

Why? Because this year’s drought in Russia and the growing demand for beef in China and India, which translates into  a growing demand for grain, mean the cost of food is going up. And yet, on the whole, Americans don’t use 25 to 50 percent of the food we buy.  What’s going on in our refrigerators?

According to the Wall Street Journal, food prices for staples like milk, flour, sugar, coffee and beef have all risen sharply in the last year. But it’s not just rising food prices that hit the family budget hard, it’s buying food that doesn’t get eaten.  According to Tara Parker Pope writing in the New York Times Well blog, “a family of four that spends $175 a week on groceries squanders more than $40 worth of food each week and $2,275 a year.”

Ouch.

A big refrigerator is a big culprit when it comes to food going bad.  Food gets lost in the drawers, leftovers get pushed to the back, stuff that could be eaten goes bad.

Ditto shopping without a list, which I do all the time.  When you go to the market without a list, you end up buying the same stuff over and over again, so the older food doesn’t get used. This is why I have seven cans of chickpeas in my (very small) cupboard and three half eat cucumbers languishing in the fridge.

To make matters worse, when food ends up in a landfill, and about nineteen percent of what ends up in landfills is food waste, it gets turned into methane, a greenhouse gas.

Everyone in a family should avoid processed foods in favor of healthy, fresh foods.  But getting the apples home from the market is only one step in the family food chain. I’m newly committed to shopping with a list and cooking a big pot of something (like this!) on Sundays to last the week. How do you manage your food budget?  What’s your best tip for eating up all the food you buy?

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