Wasted food

How I feed all these people is one of those questions I get asked a lot, right up there with how I manage the laundry. I do not find these two topics all that riveting, but I guess they are, so I like to address the whole food issue every now and then.

Feeding a lot of people, and currently for us that is 12 people three meals a day, every day, has some odd quantities of scale about it. Because I can buy many things in bulk, I usually end up paying less per person than those buying for fewer people. So, while I do spend more to feed 12 people, it is not the budget of a four person family times 3. It just doesn't work that way.

I'm also realizing that I must buy a lot less food per person in general. This is based on a highly unscientific poll in a group I'm in about what types of food is most often thrown away. As I thought about it, I realized I just don't throw out all that much food. Sure we have the occasional left over that went bad because it got lost in the back of the refrigerator, but that is about it. I did throw out a sad and wrinkled very small potato today, but I have a feeling that it never looked too great to begin with, or someone would have cooked and eaten it. With so many people to feed, including three adults and four teens, I just cannot buy a whole lot of extra food. This does mean that Monday lunches can be slim, and people must be fairly creative in what they fix, but no one has starved yet.

I thought it might be interesting to write out my shopping list for the week for comparison purposes. Remember, I don't find this terribly interesting, but maybe somebody does. This is for the whole week, and I'm sharing the specifics. In my actual list making, I'll be more vague in some categories and then buy what's on sale. This list is also a little longer than my typical list, and the price at checkout reflected that. If you know Aldi at all, you can follow along as I mentally look at the aisles as I recreate my shopping list from today.

Milk - 4 gal.
Almond milk - 1/2 gal.
Butter - 1 lb
Eggs - 4 doz.
Orange juice - 6 cans of concentrate
Cheap Aldi pizza - 5 (J. and I are planning on going out to dinner one night this week)
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 bag pre-made meatballs
Bagels - 3 pkg
English muffins -1 pkg
Cream cheese - 4 oz
White flour (not everything turns out well with my 100% whole wheat flour) - 1 bag
Raisins - 1 lg box
Wheat crackers - 1 box
Graham crackers - 1 box
Tortilla chips - 2 bags (will be part of a dinner)
Roasted peanuts - 1 container
Dried cranberries - 2 small packages
Ramen - 1 pkg of 12
Spaghetti - 4 lbs
Macaroni noodles - 2 lbs
Crushed tomotoes - 3 cans
Diced tomatoes - 4 cans
Mandarin oranges - 4 cans
Red kidney beans - 3 cans
Tuna - 4 cans
Tortillas - 1 doz.
Black olives - 1 can
Tomatoes - 8
Celery - 1 head
Iceberg lettuce - 1 head
Potatoes - 10 lbs
Leaf lettuce - 2 heads
Baby spinach - 6 bags
Mushrooms - 1 small box
Cucumber - 1
Green onions - 1 bag
Bananas - 3 large bunches
Oranges - 3 lbs
Apples - 3 lbs
Avocados - 6 (they were really on sale, otherwise I usually have to pass)
Deli style sliced ham - 1 lb
Sharp cheddar - 6 blocks of 8 oz each
Co-Jack cheese - 1 - 8oz block
Blue cheese - 2 containers
Ground turkey - 2 lbs
Sirloin steak - 1.5 lbs

I still need to pick-up some ground pork and some Napa cabbage at H-Mart at some point this week, but this will last about one week. Some ingredients I need for dinners I already have on hand, and there are other staples I buy in bulk, so they don't appear on the list. I don't buy bread because D. makes ours. The fruit will be gone by the weekend, and possibly the celery, tomatoes, and cucumber. The avocados may not even see Friday. Sure food choices as the week progresses become less broad, but there is food, just not the most popular varieties.

I'm curious... do you throw out a lot of food? Why?


Kelly said…
I do not throw out a lot of food in general. Since switching to "away school" I do find I'm throwing out more leftovers because they pack a cold lunch rather than reheating leftovers.

I think the difference is related to cooking skills. I'm often surprised at how few families with two working parents and under 3 children eat regular home-cooked meals. We simply can't afford to dine out frequently with a large family. I hear friends say that they ate out because they didn't have anything at home to cook, but I keep the ingredients on hand for one or two "emergency" meals. It's things like lentils and rice that won't spoil so it's always an option.

We don't have a lot of wasted food because I make a menu up for the week and we stick with it (no tossing ingredients for meals we ended up not making). I survey what we have in the house to see what items we need or don't need rather than dropping by the grocery to pick up a few things at random. If I see that we have half a bag of potatoes left in the pantry, I plan a meal that will use it up. I don't mean to say that's an award winning tip, but again, being able to plan a meal based on ingredients you already have on hand is something few families seem able to do. It's not the number of people in a family but the loss of meal planning skills over the past generation.
Carla said…
How in the world do get by with only 4 1/2 gallons of milk per week? We have just 3 kids (6, 2, & 1), but I buy 5 gallons at a time and often have to have my husband pick up a couple more before the week is out. I'm pretty sure it comes from my growing up on a dairy farm, but boy do we go through the milk!

We do throw out more food than I'd like, but it's often based on my tastes. I usually don't care too much for leftovers, so some of them languish much longer than they should.
thecurryseven said…

I try to have five gallons of regular milk on hand, but I only needed four this week, since I had one on hand already. Everyone gets one glass of milk at dinner. We don't do a lot of breakfast cereal, so that cuts down on what we go through. I will use a glass of milk as a quick emergency protein drink when necessary. Everyone just drinks water for the rest of the day, including lunch.


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