If you have been to the grocery store lately, you may be surprised by the increasing cost of food. I myself experienced sticker shock last week when I stocked up for my freezer cooking day. However, there are some ways you can use your freezer to keep your grocery bill in check.
- Buy fruit when the price is low and freeze the extra. We love banana-blueberry-strawberry smoothies. Buying a one pound bag of frozen strawberries costs me $2.50 to $3.00. However, this past week I found fresh strawberries on sale for $1.50 a pound. I bought 4 pounds; we kept one to eat fresh and I cleaned up the rest and put them in the freezer to use throughout the month. Likewise, we always add a few Craisins to our oatmeal in the morning. On sale, the lowest I can find Craisins is $1.50 per 6 oz. bag. However, I ran across a great deal at the store last week—6 oz. bags of Craisins for .50 each (because they were set to expire in a few days). I bought 20 bags and put them all in the freezer. We won’t have to buy Craisins for many months.
- Freeze milk. When I first heard this suggestion, I thought milk that had been frozen would taste odd, but it doesn’t. We didn’t notice much change in taste. Buy milk when it is at a low price (around $1.99 to $2.39 per gallon around here), bring it home and pour out a little bit to give the container room to expand and put it in the freezer. Once you thaw it, shake the container to distribute the milk evenly (it can separate when frozen). So simple.
- Freeze eggs. Egg prices fluctuate wildly. For our family of 5, I usually buy 18 eggs a week. One week they may cost $1.69, and the next week they could cost a dollar more. To get the best price on eggs, buy when they are cheap and freeze the surplus. Simply crack all of the eggs in a large bowl, stir them until they are mixed well, and add a dash of salt. Freeze in ice cube trays and then, when froze, remove them from the trays and store in a zip-lock bag. We did this frequently during the high prices in 2008; when we used them for scrambled eggs, we could tell little difference in the taste. (Some people do complain that there is a difference in the texture though.)
- Buy meat when it is discounted and freeze. Ask the butcher at your store when they typically mark down meats that are close to their expiration date. Besides the side of beef that my husband and I purchase yearly, almost all of our meat is clearanced meat. When you get home, take it out of the package, divide it into the serving size you would like and wrap in plastic wrap first, then in foil. Label and date it. Freeze until you are ready to cook it.
- Buy lunch meat when it is discounted and freeze. Lunch meat is marked down 50% or more when it is within a day or two of its expiration date. Freeze it in a quantity you could eat up in a few days. When you are ready to use, place it in a plastic storage container with a paper towel underneath it to gather the moisture (this helps keep bacteria at bay). Change the paper towel frequently, and use the meat within a few days of taking it out of the freezer.
- Buy bread and freeze it. While we try not to be fussy about our bread, we love Butternut wheat bread. A few weeks ago it was on sale for $1 a loaf (normally priced at $2.30 to $2.80 a loaf). I bought 8 loaves and put them in my freezer. We have not had a problem with dryness. When I am ready to make a sandwich for my daughter, I pull the bread out and microwave it for 15 seconds, just enough to make it moist and room temperature.
- Freezer cook. When you find a low price on an item, say crabmeat, stock up. Then, turn the crab into a meal that can be frozen such as crab cakes. Make several meal size portions and put them in the freezer. Then, on a crazy night, pull the crab cakes from the freezer and enjoy. Not only are you saving money by not going out to eat, you are saving money by making meals with ingredients you bought at the lowest possible price.
While you can’t do much about the increasing prices on groceries, you can shop smarter to try to keep your grocery bill in check.