Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Reducing Food Waste

by The Glowing Gazelle on January 9, 2014

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

There are several ways to save on your grocery budget (of course the first being to actually have a grocery budget!) but aside from using coupons and meal planning another one of the bigger ways to save it to reduce/eliminate food waste. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You just grabbed a great deal on strawberries and two days later, they are a big moldy mush because you forgot about them. Or you go to grab a can of something and find out it expired months ago.

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Here are some of the ways I have compiled to help reduce/eliminate food waste:

1) Rotate your food stock – Make sure that you always have your oldest canned goods up front and try to use them first. I’ve even set aside an area in my pantry where I grab all food that will expire within a few weeks and put it there so I can be sure to work it into my weekly meal plan.

2) Hang a dry-erase board on your fridge and jot down food items that you should use first, your “don’t forgets” such as those strawberries that you bought.

3) Instead of buying all your produce at once, make bi-weekly produce trips to the store. Since the produce is sold towards the front, you can easily run in and grab the few items you need without risking too many chances at food impulse buys. When you go to make your grocery list from your weekly meal plan, jot down the produce that could wait a few days before purchasing and keep that list separate so you won’t have to remember later.

4) Keep a designated area in your fridge for the “use first” food. This could include leftovers, dairy/produce items that are soon expiring, etc. Try to work those into a meal during the week.

5) Try to have one night a week where you use leftovers. If your family isn’t one to like a meal a second time, try to make meals where you can easily freeze the leftovers for a quick lunch later or even another meal later on.

6) Go through your pantry quarterly (or even monthly!) to be sure that you don’t have food go past its expiration date.

7) Set limits to open snacks/cereals. Instead of having 5-6 boxes open at once, set a limit of 3 cereal boxes open at a time. Make it a rule that a new box can’t be opened until those are gone. Do something similar with snacks. An easy tip: Only keep a few bag clips and set a rule that a bag of chips (etc) can’t be opened if there’s no available bag clip.

8) Make sure you work all “soon expireds” from your pantry and fridge into your weekly meal plan. Check your “don’t forget” list on the fridge, too!

9) Invest in Produce Savers to extend the life of your produce. And make sure you are using a high enough quality freezer bag/container to avoid freezer burn. If you only use a partial bag of a frozen item, make sure it’s sealed properly or store it in a freezer safe container with a label.

10) Set a “food waste charge” for family members to encourage that they reduce the amount of food waste at meal/snack times. This will help them learn portion control, as well. Keep the money you collect in a separate little bank and use that same money to reward kids when they’ve gone longer periods of time without wasting food.

I’m hoping that these tips will help you reduce the amount of food waste and help you make the most of your grocery budget! In what way do you try to reduce/eliminate food waste.

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser! The series is almost done!! In case you missed them, you can check the recap to see what I’ve posted already.

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Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Having Necessities on Hand

by The Glowing Gazelle on January 8, 2014

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to pay full-price for something because I was disorganized and forgot to have a back-up of a product on hand. While I don’t stockpile to the extreme, I do like to make sure I have a 3-4 month supply of the things I use the most so I can usually catch the items on some type of sale, and hopefully find a coupon to pair with it! (You can see my post on How to Stockpile Sensibly.)

I usually do a pretty good job of keeping track of things but when I do forget, here’s why I don’t let myself get upset over it – Stop for a second and think about every product that you use. After about 5 minutes of going through a list in your head this is what you’ll realize: it’s a lot to keep track of! But here are the ways that I try to stay on top of always having our necessities on hand:

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1) You need to have an idea of how much of your most used products that you go through in a time frame. Pick up some small circle stickers (like you’d see used at a garage sale) – you can find them at most dollar stores – and keep some in your laundry room, pantry, bathroom cabinets, wherever you store your supplies. When you start, say a new bottle of dishwasher soap, write the date on the circle. When you are getting low on that product, check the date and it will give you and idea how long it takes you go through one. Try to keep a 3-4 month supply on hand. That should get you through your next sales cycle.

2) Keep a low inventory list. This can just be a simple piece of paper taped to your pantry or bathroom cabinet wall. Anytime you are getting low on things, jot it down on the list. When you go to make your grocery shopping list for the week, check to see if there’s a sale/coupon for those items.

3) Keep a list by the fridge. Jot down any items you need for the week as you think of them because more than likely, you won’t remember when it comes time to make your list later.

4) Get your family members involved! Make sure that they jot down on that low inventory/fridge list when something is getting low or you need a new one (for fresh food items.)

5) Make sure you always rotate your stock. Keep your soon expireds up front. This is especially important for food items. When it’s time to make your weekly menu plan, take a glance at what’s at the front of your pantry that may expire soon and try to incorporate them into your meal plan that week.

6) If there is a sale on something you use, make sure you check your stockpile. Do you have a 3-4 month supply already? You don’t want to overbuy or else you lose valuable space that you could use for other items. You could also be taking unnecessary money out of your weekly household budget that you could have used to save on something else.

7) Do your best to keep your fridge/freezer organized. If you try to keep items in a similar location each time, it might be easier to see what you are low on in case you didn’t update your list.

8) Besides checking soon expireds each week before you make your shopping list, make sure you do a quarterly check on all your items to make sure nothing has expired. You don’t want to go to grab an item and find out all your inventory has been depleted due to you not using them in time. An easy way to remember is to try to check inventory each time the season changes. This will help you get in 4 per year. The new seasons are often at the end of the month so it’s a great time to prepare for the next month, too!

I’m hoping these ideas will help you keep the necessities on hand to help you not have to ever pay full price for the products that you use, too!

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser! The series is almost done!! In case you missed them, you can check the recap to see what I’ve posted already.

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Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Keeping a Clean Car

by The Glowing Gazelle on November 11, 2013

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I miss the days of having a clean car interior. It seems like now you never know what you are going to find when you reach between the seats. It kind of parallels the same findings of beneath the couch cushions, right?

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I’ve tried to brainstorm some ways for keeping my car in good standing. Here are a few I came up with:

1) Empty out any garbage in the car when I fuel up each week.

2) Keep a special container in the car for garbage, especially when we are taking longer trips.

3) Set limits on how many things the kids can bring with when we travel, even on shorter trips.

4) Add a “clean out car” day to the calendar each month and be sure to vacuum the floor/seats and to organize the console/glove-box.

5) Keep the trunk of the car more organized with a trunk organizer bag. Keep necessities in it like umbrella, flashlight, picnic blanket, ice scraper, etc.

6) Get a special bag for each kid to keep their own toys, treats etc in the car. Make them responsible for keeping it maintained.

7) Get in the habit of emptying out all garbage, paper, water cups, etc. each time we arrive home.

8) Set it up to get a car wash with each oil change and one in-between, as well.

9) Bi-annual detailing of the car. Look online to find a DIY for it.

These are just a few ways I’ve thought of to continue to keep my car clean and organized. What ways do you keep your car clean?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser!

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Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Saving and Smarter Shopping

by The Glowing Gazelle on November 4, 2013

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

When some of you read the title to this one, you might have thought that I already covered saving and smarter shopping. But there’s a difference between spending less and being a smarter shopper. Hand-in-hand the two work together to help you save the most.

Here are a few ways I’ve brainstormed to be a smart shopper and to save more money:

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SMARTER SHOPPER

1) Keep track of sales cycles. Jot down each month the things I tend to find good deals on products I frequently use.

2) Always ask myself if something I’m about to purchase is at the lowest price. I can stop and check online to see what the going-rate is elsewhere. Some stores like to trick you into thinking that something is a hot price when it’s merely a few cents off.

3) Avoid impulse buys as much as possible. You can read my tips for these in the Spending Less segment.

4) Use Coupons! Without a doubt you can save money by using coupons. I’m not saying you need to go extreme and stockpile like the world is ending but just check websites of the products you use the most to see if they have offers. Clip only the coupons from the Sunday paper that you may use. Keep looking for new printable coupons to save more!

5) Instead of buying items just as I need them, wait for a sale and stockpile what I think I’ll use in 3 months time. You can read my post on How to Stockpile Sensibly.

6) Use a Price Book. This is a book where you jot down the items you use the most and then find out the current regular price in the stores you shop at the most. This is a great way to see who has the best prices and to know if a sale price is truly a good deal or not.

7) Try off-brands of the products you use the most. I’ve found some great store brands, especially the 365 line at Whole Foods, is of a great quality and price.

8) Buy in bulk. This is especially a good idea for recipes that call for smaller amounts for items you may not use a lot. I like to get a lot of bulk items at Whole Foods. They have the best selection in our area for so many items.

9) Keep a low-inventory list and update at least once a month. Pull aside any soon expiring items so they can get used quickly. Keep an eye out for deals on those items that I am running low on.

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SAVING MONEY

1) Set up an automatic transfer each paycheck of a certain amount to go into a savings account, even if it’s as low as $10. It will all add up over time. Do what you can not to touch that savings unless there’s a real emergency.

2) Keep a bank at home and dump your change into it at the end of each day. Turn your change into the bank once-a-year and add to your savings account. You’ll be surprised at how much it can add up to and how you probably won’t miss that change on a daily basis.

3) Every time you get a $5 bill, put it in your bank. It’s a great way to save up fast.

4) Take any money you earn from having a garage sale, selling DVDs/CDs/Books, etc to go into savings. You’d be surprised at how much you can earn from selling items you are no longer using.

5) Set goals. This is the best way for me to save. If I have a big goal in mind, I tend to watch my spending even more.

6) Consider using a credit card for major purchases and paying it off right away. Just be sure the credit card is one you’ll earn a high percentage of rewards with. Use cash for your other purchases.

7) Consider having a no-spend month and putting all the money you save into savings.

8) Set Limits and Create a good budget and stick to it!

These are just a few ways I’m trying to be a smarter shopper and to help get a good savings account building up. In what ways do you save?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser!

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Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Morning/Evening Routine

by The Glowing Gazelle on November 4, 2013

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I have to say that I am completely surprised in the difference of how my day starts off merely by having a few things laid out the night before. It’s amazing to me how just 10 minutes or so of legwork can seem to alter my morning by a good half an hour.

I’ve been doing what I can to simply even have my clothes and my kids’ clothes laid out the night before. My kids are still young so they aren’t quite ready to piece together the proper clothes for school so I still do that for them. But on the days when I stay up too late and don’t get this done, it’s like a mild chaos in our household and we are often coming close to being late for school.

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So I’ve been brainstorming some ways to help get a good morning/evening routine in place. Here’s my outline so far:

Morning Routine
1) Rise and Shine and Make the Bed. I’m trying to wake up well in advance of the kids.
2) Get ready right away so I don’t have to squeeze in a shower midday. (one less thing to worry about!)
3) Start a load of laundry. This way, it’s done by the time breakfast is over!
4) Unload the dishwasher, if need be.
5) Make myself a cup of hot tea and review my to-do list for the day before the kids wake up.
6) Enjoy breakfast with the kids before I start my work day.
7) Check my emails and begin whatever I have planned for that day after I drop them off at school.

Nighttime Routine
1) Lay out clothes for myself and the kids for the next day.
2) Check to see events for the following day and put any items I need by my purse/coat so I don’t forget them.
3) Take time out with the kids to read books and get them tucked in for the night.
4) Check washer/dryer and finish up anything left.
5) Wrap up loose ends in the kitchen–-washing up counter-tops, putting away dishes, etc.
6) Do a quick walk-through of the house and put away anything that’s not where it should be.
7) Make a to-do list for the following day.
8 ) Check my meal plan for the following day and take out any frozen items that need to thaw.
9) Take time to wrap up any website loose ends or take time for myself or with my hubby.
10) Check my email one last time for the night and get to bed at a reasonable time!

In addition to the above, I hope to set aside one day a week to assemble the kids’ clothes into sets for the week. This will be helpful if I’m sick or out-of-town and someone else has to fill in for me.

This is just a routine that I’ll try to start off with and update as I need to. What things are on your morning/evening routines?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another “stresser!”

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