Single Moms Meets Budget: Clean up Your Finances and Your Fridge

By Jessica Pegis

Not long after writing the first Single Mom Meets Budget column, I had a close encounter with my fridge and cupboards. Sure, we’d plunged into the budgeting journey by making lists in various categories like food and personal care. . .and I’d been to our three main stores to price and comparison shop – to save money grocery shopping. But every time I opened a cupboard door or peeked in the fridge, I was reminded of all the stuff we

  • used rarely
  • wasted
  • bought on impulse
  • bought for other people
  • bought for one recipe and couldn’t use up

At least 20 percent of our foodstuffs fell into this category, leaving some unpleasant evidence behind. Do you know how fresh dill dies? It turns into a green-black slime at the bottom of your crisper and gives off the scent of sewage.

Ditto broccoli.

So I took a break from the lists last month and cleaned the fridge and food cupboards. The result? Solutions to help you eliminate the “stupid” factor from your budget and help keep your kitchen more organized too.

Avoid buying any single-use food. For me, the biggest hurdles were chicken stock in a carton, fresh dill, and ricotta cheese. For the longest time I used each of those items in just one recipe. After cleaning, I hauled out the cookbooks and found at least two more ways to use up the cheese and stock within a two-week period.

I also decided to chuck jarred tomato sauce (too hard for us to use up) in favor of canned or fresh tomatoes. We now make our sauce from scratch and eat up what we make in two days. Finally, fresh dill doesn’t come home with me unless I can find a tiny sprig. So far, it’s working.

Make sure everything is visible. Avoid stacking too many boxes or cans back-to-front in your food cupboard. Seriously, I once watched a television show where the couple built a cupboard that was exactly as deep as one soup can because they wanted to see their supplies right away. They said it reduced waste and made shopping lists a breeze. Keep leftovers in see-through containers toward the front of the fridge (if you stick them in a margarine carton, you’re going to think they’re margarine).

Compromise on food fetishes. My brother’s the only family member who eats Romaine lettuce so I was buying a head on the weekend and telling myself to eat it up during the week, but that never happened. Then one day, I started serving him baby romaine mixed in with lettuce I enjoy. Now I eat this combo too and we’re all happy and we don’t have a honkin’ big head of lettuce sitting in the fridge that everyone avoids.

Check those impulses. Kids can get us into trouble with this one, especially with larger boxes of cookies or cereal. How many times have I stood in that aisle wondering why that cereal box has to be so big? (During the big purge, I found three boxes of half-eaten cereal.) But it’s not just kids. I’ve bought new brands on impulse because I got suckered in by the nice packaging and I wasn’t at the store that carried my preferred brand. When that happens, don’t do anything. Just back away from the display and buy what you really like on the next trip.

Just before the holiday crunch is a great time to throw open those doors and scream, “OUT!” And the bonus is, when you eliminate the stuff you don’t use, you can find the things you need more easily. If company’s coming that’s a plus, and even if they aren’t, you still benefit from not throwing your money away.

Happy holidays from O Solo Mama to all SMW readers and may your New Year be filled with peace, joy, and prosperity!

More Single Mom Articles from SMW

Single Mom Meets Budget

Single Mom Meets Budget: How I Dumped the Phone Co.

Discount Health Care

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Single mom Jessica Pegis is a writer and editor living in Toronto, Canada.

She blogs at O Solo Mama