I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the money I spend on food. Being in charge of our family’s meal planning is both a blessing and a huge responsibility. I obviously care about the nutritional value of the food we eat, but I also am concerned about getting more bang for my buck.
Seriously. I can be one cheap chica. I get a huge kick out of getting a great deal.
About a month ago I started realizing I had been under-utilizing my greatest ally in the food budgeting world: my freezer. Here are just a few ways that you can extend your food dollar by using your freezer:
1. Freeze fruits/veggies that are on the verge of going bad.
I’m notorious for making a meal plan, getting all the food, and then not getting to certain foods on time. Instead of throwing all those precious food-dollars out into the trash, why not freeze them?
Our local grocery store even has a section with hugely discounted fruits/veggies that are about to expire. I will sometimes dig through that bin to look for some staples (I especially like peppers for this), take them home, clean them up, chop them up, and then freeze. You can take out the amount you need for whatever you are cooking and they will be nice and fresh.
2. Double or triple your recipes, then freeze the leftovers.
This is especially important with a smaller family. Cooking for two can be quite a challenge and you will often end up with leftovers.
I personally don’t like to eat next-day leftovers, so we can often end up with a fridge full of perfectly good food that is never going to be eaten. Instead, why not make an extra lasagna and freeze it for later? Or make extra filling for stuffed peppers, chicken potpie, or anything else you can think of? This not only saves you time in the kitchen later, it also saves money!
My favorite way of accomplishing this is making soup. When you make soup you usually get way more than you need for one or two meals. I freeze the leftover soup in portioned containers and then eat them later. This is great way to eat fresh, homemade soup (cheaper, more nutritious, and yummier than store bought) without losing the convenience of popping open a new can.
3. Make a soup/stir fry bag.
This is sort of like #1, but with a twist. Don’t you have throwing out the last carrot, a handful of green beans, or even 1/2 a pepper? You may not have any use for these bottom-of-the-barrel veggies at the moment–but they have huge potential. Why not throw them into a bag in your freezer until you have a full bag of varied veggies. Then, make a great soup or stir fry with all of your leftovers.
4. Make your own chicken/beef stock using leftover bones from meat.
This one I’m just getting into, but it seriously can save so much money! Take any leftover bones you may have from cooking turkey/chicken/beef/pork/etc. and freeze them in separate bags. Then, when you have enough bones, use them to make broth. You can then freeze the broth in usable portions (1 cup or so) and use in your recipes. You’ve basically just gotten broth for free!
5. Freeze bread.
Now that I’m getting into making my own bread throughout the week I don’t do this one too much, but it is a great tip. Bread freezes amazingly well. I used to always buy two loaves of sandwich bread and then just freeze one. That way, we’d never run out. You can buy day old bread or buy in bulk when your favorite bread goes on sale. You can freeze your own homemade bread and just heat it up for 15 minutes or so when it’s time to eat it.
You can also just freeze the crusts (if your family doesn’t like them) and ends of the bread. Once you have enough you can use these to make your own breadcrumbs or croutons. Again, this amounts to more free food!
6. Buy meat in bulk.
We love Costco for this reason. I someday hope to purchase more of our meats from local farms, but for right now financially Costco will have to do. The great things is they sell their meat in bulk which amount to great savings! When I bring everything home from the store I’ll spend some time dividing up the meat into meal size portions and then freeze. Make sure to label everything and include the date.
7. Use your slow-cooker on frost-bitten foods.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the slow-cooker. I loved coming home to already cooking meals when I worked full-time. Now as a mama with an unpredictable kiddo, I love that the slow-cooker can get my meal started early in the day when my little man is usually a happy camper.
But the best thing about the crock pot is that it can bring new life to foods you thought were done for. I’m not recommending eating foods that have gone past their expiration date, but you can get more longevity out of some food by cooking it in your slow cooker. Dump in a frozen pork shoulder after several months in the freezer and you’ll still get moist and juicy BBQ pulled pork or carnitas.
I know there are probably so many other ways to use you freezer to save big–do you have any other ideas?