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Waste Not, Save Lots

Thoughtful Grocery Shopping Saves Money

Have you ever thrown out a head of rotten organic broccoli and been irritated about it? Or cleaned out your pantry to find a slightly used bag of quinoa purchased for a recipe made two years ago that’s now expired? Or what about this one—you reorganized your spice cabinet and found three containers of paprika? If you haven’t already suspected it, I’ve unfortunately done each of these. Multiple times.

As someone who actively works not to waste money (and to be a responsible human!), groceries are an area where I’m continually frustrated by waste. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that in the United States, a family of four wastes about $1,500 in food a year. I won’t go further into the statistics of food waste because it’s depressing. So, what can we do to improve not only on our families’ bottom lines but also the greater waste problem? Below is some food for thought (pun intended!) that might help:

1. Buy Organic Only When It Counts: EWG has two helpful lists, the Dirty 12 and the Clean 15. The dirty dozen includes berries and spinach—they’re worth buying organic. But produce such as avocados and broccoli are on the Clean 15 list, so you can avoid buying organic and save those pennies for something else.

2. Keep Your Perishables in Plain View: We’ve heard this one before. But what about the “crisper drawer?” Does it really work? There is some science behind the crisper drawer, but if food is forgotten down there, what good is it anyway? Alternatively, preserving produce in a mason jar or glass container in plain sight can help it stay fresher longer and keep it at eye level, making you more likely to remember it’s there.

3. Shop Local: When you can, buying locally produced produce is ideal. Not only does it help the community, but the produce also gets to your home quicker (rather than being shipped hundreds of miles to your grocer) and will, therefore, stay fresher longer.

4. Buy in Bulk: Don’t think Costco “bulk” items; think package-free and customized quantity “bulk” from your grocery store. Whether beans, grains or spices, buying bulk and only the quantity you need for a specific recipe can help you reduce money spent, food waste and will preserve space in your spice cabinet and pantry.

Just as with trying to stay on an exercise or spending plan, making incremental steps can have a huge impact over time. Saving a few cents here or there by implementing a couple of these suggestions could amount to a weekend getaway! It’s worth a shot—for our bottom lines and for our world.

PYA Waltman is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about PYA Waltman’s investment advisory services can be found in its Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.