Welcome to the Favorite Freezer Foods Ezine Issue #10: How to Actually Save on Groceries

May 4, 2010

What’s New This Month?
10 Things You Should Always Keep in Your Freezer
How to Actually Save on Groceries

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What‘s New This Month?

On the home front:I don’t feel like I'm cooking in the middle of a construction zone anymore, that's a huge accomplishment around here. We've tiled, grouted and sealed our counter-tops and we installed the sink and the dishwasher plus the living room is nearly done.

I've got to say, as much as a sink is better than washing dishes in the bathtub, I'm loving loading a dishwasher instead washing dishes by hand. It's worth every penny, if you've been debating getting one just do it. Believe me, with the amount of time it will save you, you won't regret it.

On www.FavoriteFreezerFoods.com: If you haven't seen them yet you might want to check out my new article on how to flash freeze food. Flash freezing is a technique of freezing things in individual portions so you can sort them together but pour out as much or as little as you want.

And while you're at it here's some pointers on how to properly use a freezer bag. Be sure you pick the right size, remove the air and freeze it flat.

10 Things You Should Always Keep in Your Freezer

Everybody has a list of staples they can't live without. Here's my list of staples to keep in the freezer.

1) Chicken, Beef or Vegetable Broth Homemade broth is ideal for soups. If you freeze it in ice cube trays you can pop out one cube at a time to saute veggies or add flavor to a sauce. And next time someone feels under the weather you've got a nourishing homemade broth right at your fingertips.

2) Cooked Chicken Slices are ideal to toss on a homemade pizza, salad or pasta dish with just a few minutes in the microwave instead of waiting for chicken breasts to bake or boil. You can also cube them up for a creamy chicken salad or dice them for a chicken stuffed pasta dish.

3) Cooked Ground Beef can be tossed into a sauce and served with pasta or mixed with taco seasoning for quick tacos or burritos. It's ready to be assembled in a casserole, dropped into a soup, seasoned for sloppy joes or mixed with beans for chili.

4) Cooked Rice is a huge time saver. Brown rice is nutty and nutritious but can take up to 45 minutes to cook. Frozen rice can be reheated in minutes to serve as a healthy side dish or use as a ingredient in another recipe.

5) Vegetable Skins and Scraps around my house always go in the freezer. Carrot peel, onion skin, the celery base and similar scraps go in a plastic bag in the freezer. Then whenever I want to make stock I dump the whole bag in a pan, fill with water and simmer away. No shopping, no prep, no mess.

6)Nuts add a nice crunch to salads, vegetable side dishes and desserts but they can go rancid fast. Storing them in the freezer helps keep them longer.

7) Bread, the staff of life, is such a daily staple that running out often means a trip to the grocery store. If you always keep a few loaves in the freezer you'll never run out again. Frozen sliced bread can be toasted without thawing. If you want a regular sandwich the slices thaw in minutes on the countertop.

8) Frozen Fruit is perfect for smoothies and desserts. Use frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit and you don't have to add ice to your smoothie. Heat your favorite fruit in a pan with some honey or sugar and use an immersion blender and you've got a great topping for ice cream, cheesecake or angel food cake.

9) Meatballs can be made into a million other meals. They are small so it's easy to grab just as many as you need and they thaw and reheat fast. Serve meatballs in sub sandwiches, on pasta, in soup, in sauce as an appetizer or on a pizza.

10) A bag of ice cubes. Not a tray of ice but a freezer bag with ice cubes in it. If the freezer gets too warm the ice cubes will melt and then when it gets cold again they will freeze together.

This might seem trivial but it's how I can tell if there has been a power out for some reason and food has thawed and refrozen. Refreezing food can decrease quality and safety thus it's important to keep track of.

How to Actually Save on Groceries

If you've been around the bloggosphere much you've no doubt seen Bloggers talking about cutting their food budgets. I recently saw one as low as $200 a month for 5 people, but that's just not realistic for everyone.

Let's talk about this. I'm of the opinion that cutting our food budget is rarely the best thing for a family to do.

Now if you gotta pay the bills and you can barely keep a roof over your head you shouldn't be spending more than you need to on groceries. And if you're spending less on food because you have to buy gas, pay rent or cover other basic needs or an emergency (without saving to pay for it) you have some serious financial questions to ask yourself (like should you move, buy a more fuel efficient car, get a different job etc). I'm not going to pretend to know the answers or tell you how to handle all that.

But there comes a point where cutting your food costs is going to affect your health and lifestyle, sometimes that's good and sometimes it isn't.

Let's not even talk about the real price of food or how much politicians and large conglomerates effect price and quality and focus on our own households and budgets for a few minutes.

I know darn well that the cheapest foods are those that are shelf stable. The most shelf stable foods are dried carbs. Flour, dried beans, rice and pasta for example are dirt cheap. But these aren't the best foods to load up on, carb heavy diets aren't the healthiest.

So if you want to cut your grocery budget here's my top 5 tips.

1) Determine how much you actually spend on food. It's not how much you spend at the grocery or super store but how much of that goes to edible items. If you're buying paper plates and napkins and towels, plastic silverware and cups, dish soap and hand soap, vinegar and baking soda, socks and underware or DVD's and CD's you can't actually include that in your food budget.

I even calculate pet food and toothpaste in a different category than food.

Figure out how much you actually spend on food and then you can determine if you need to cut that budget or other spending.

2) Stop eating out. Restaurants have to pay labor and rent, insurance and utilities. Thus, they have to charge more than the actual price of the food to be profitable. Cooking at home eliminates these extra expenses.

Time is money and you have to do what works for your family but if you need to save some cash cooking at home is the way to go.

3) Keep a price list. A price list is a journal of the average and sale prices of an given good that your family uses at your local stores. If you know (like my local price) that boneless skinless chicken breast is $16 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) on average then when it's on sale for $12.99 a kilogram you know it's a good price to stock up on.

When I use my price book I keep everything in common units such as dollars per pound of meat or per gram of cheese that way it's easy to compare prices. Some stores have the math done for you on the shelf label, in others you'll have to bring your own calculator.

4) Stock up on sales. If you can buy in bulk when your family's favorites are on sale and freeze what you don't need right away you can save a ton of money in the long run. All it takes is a bit of planning so you can thaw stuff ahead of time.

5) Reduce food waste. No food is more expensive than the food you don't eat and have to throw in the trash. Having a meal plan and shopping for it reduces food waste. I'd also suggest buying frozen vegetables because they last months instead of days and you can use just the amount you need instead of wasting fresh veggies you don't eat fast enough.

Contact me:
If you have any comments, opinions, content ideas, or requests I'd love to hear from you. You can find me on Twitter, or on Favorite Freezer Foods' Facebook page

Eat Well!
Michelle Zack


 

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