One of the greatest secrets to my kitchen success is using my freezer. It helps me appear always prepared, helps manage my time, and keeps my grocery budget low. If you are not utilizing your freezer for more than ice cream storage, then you are really missing out on one of the best tools that are already in your kitchen.
Ok, so how does my humble freezer to achieve all of these amazing ends? Today I am going to share how I use my freezer to keep my grocery budget low.
Keep My Budget Low
The freezer helps me keep my budget low in two ways. First, it helps me buy in bulk. Everyone knows that buying in bulk can be cheaper, but this is really only true if you use all of the product efficiently. I can buy a giant package of cheese, but if some of it goes bad before I finish it, then I haven’t really saved anything. In the same way, if I buy a bigger package of ground beef, but then just use the bigger portion all in one go, I am not saving money. Because of this, I use my freezer to portion and preserve all of the bulk and sale items I buy.
• Buy the big block of cheese, and then break it down into smaller blocks that you can use all of before it grows its own ecosystem.
• Buy meat on sale, in bulk, or directly from a local farmer and then portion it into individual meal serving before freezing. Make sure that you label it well!
• Buy the big pack of butter and store what you are not immediately using in the freezer.
• Buy the large package of bread and wrap and freeze the extra. Frozen bread can go directly into the toaster, and frozen buns let you grill some burgers anytime.
• Store extra nuts, coffee beans, or flours in the freezer.
The second way it helps is by reducing food waste. Food waste is a huge problem in the US, and one way that we can lower our own budget, help reduce food insecurity for all, and support the environment is to use more of the food that we buy. If something is about to go bad, or you know that you won’t finish it all in time, then freeze it for later.
• Freeze large amounts of leftovers if you think you won’t eat them within a few days. (This also helps you appear prepared when you need a quick meal!)
• Start a ‘stock bag’ and fill it with vegetable peelings, herb stalks, and bones so that you can use them to make delicious homemade stock.
• Overripe bananas are freezer gold! If they are too far gone to eat, just freeze them until you need a ripe banana to cook with. (Sometimes I buy bananas just to let them go brown and freeze them.)
• Store your fresh ginger and lemongrass in the freezer, then just add directly to your next curry. Grate frozen ginger directly into your pan without peeling. This allows you to have access to fresh ingredients without buying each time that you need them.
• Freeze your leftover buttermilk in 1 cup portions, and the defrost and gently stir when you want some fluffy buttermilk pancakes or scones.
• Use your freezer to store seasonal over-abundance like summer berries, fall apples or pureed pumpkin.
It is important to remember that no matter how well you stock your freezer with sale items and brown bananas, it is not going to do you any good unless you practice a little inventory management. Periodically root around and make sure that nothing has been sitting in there too long. Use a dry erase marker or paper to make a list on the outside of the products you have. When you are meal planning, check your inventory and plan meals around the things you already have.
The goal is to be using your freezer constantly, not just squirreling things away. I use my chest freezer mostly to store meat and long-term items, and then after I do my weekly meal planning I bring out everything I will use that week and place it in the small freezer in the kitchen. The kitchen freezer is also home to my desserts, berries, and veggies since I access these things regularly.
If you don’t have a deep freezer, you can still use the same techniques you will just have to operate on a smaller scale. Think about items that you are always buying, either things that you use all the time, or items that you want to have on hand but often go bad before you finish them, and start by storing these.
Stay tuned for more freezer tips next time when I share how my freezer helps me appear always prepared!