March 6, 2013

How to Use Your Freezer to Save Money

The teaching profession has a lot of great perks...but the salary is not usually one of them. Through the years, I've learned some tips and tricks that helped me stretch my teacher's salary, all while working around my busy teaching schedule. During this series, I will be sharing them with you! 

(Photo: Becoming Green)

Today is National Frozen Food Day and I thought that would be a great way to kick off our new series on helping teachers to save money while keeping a sane schedule. I know, the whole 'Frozen Food Day' holiday is a little bit of a stretch, but hey- it makes today just a tad bit more interesting, does it not? ;)

So our first focus in this series is going to be on using the freezer to save money AND time. We purchased an upright freezer a year after we got married and it has been a fantastic investment! 

Here are some reasons why I love using my freezer:
  • Take advantage of sales. If I find a great sale on an item that will expire (meat, cheese, etc), I can take advantage of the sweet price and buy a large number of that item. I just freeze the amounts that I can't consume that week.
  • Double Dinners. I can double many meals that I make and freeze the leftovers for a quick and easy dinner another night.  I often doubled up the meals I cooked on the weekend so that I could throw a quick dinner together on a school night. 
  • Freeze smaller portions. With just two adults and two kids (age 2 and under), I don't always use the whole jar of spaghetti sauce or the whole can of olives. Instead of wasting it, I can freeze the rest in 'meal-sized portions and pull them out as needed.
  • Easy Lunches. I make large batches of soup, taco meat, twice-baked taco potatoes, chili, and cornbread and then freeze them in single-sized portions. My husband can come home for lunch and eat them and I could take many of these items to school for a healthy and economical lunch. Yup, no cardboard pizza or mystery meat for me. (Eeww- I am getting hives just thinking about it!)
  • Easy Breakfasts. I freeze single servings of steel cut oats, pancakes, and muffins for a quick and easy breakfast for both the kiddos and me. (These items may or may not have been consumed in the car on a particularly rushed morning just this past week. Not that we every have disorganized or stressful mornings. *Ahem*)
  • Meals for others. Life throws unexpected curve balls at each of us from time to time. When that happens to a friend, I am able to grab frozen dinners from my freezer, pair it with pantry items and provide them with a last-minute meal to help them through the rough patch. A frozen bag of pre-cooked meatballs, jar of pasta sauce, box of spaghetti and a frozen loaf of garlic bread can make a comforting meal in a pinch. 
  • My Garden Lasts All Year! I love to garden. However, my garden does not love me. I have exactly four things that I can grow with any measure of success each year. Thankfully, I have friends who not only love to garden, but can actually grow real live vegetables and they are ever-so-kind to share their bounty with me. Having a freezer gives me the opportunity to slice and freeze bags of squash, corn, pureed tomatos, pesto, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, and more to enjoy all winter long.

Items That I freeze:

This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is just a few of the main items that I usually keep in my freezer. If you are unsure whether or not you can freeze something, Google it. Nine times out of ten, you probably CAN freeze it!
  • milk (yup, I haven't noticed a change in the consistency once it's defrosted- just keep a little room at the top of the jug so it won't burst as it freezes)
  • shredded and sliced cheese
  • meat- raw or cooked
  • deli meat
  • sliced or shredded vegetables and fruit
  • any sauces, pesto, juice that I have left over from a recipe
  • shredded regular or sweet potatoes for hash browns
  • chicken broth / stock
  • chocolate used for baking (chocolate chips, candy, etc)
  • bagels, bread, english muffins, regular muffins, baked goods in general!
Still Tasty is a great site that helps you to know how long you can keep items in the freezer and fridge.

Still not sure you can take the freezer plunge? Do you think you'd hate the way frozen meals might taste? 

Think about it this way: 

How many things do you buy from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store each week? How many frozen dinners or pre-made items do you already consume? Why not try recreating those items at home? I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how good they taste and how cheap they are. 

Once A Month Mom has a GREAT series they just kicked off on how to use your freezer to save more money. Hop on over HERE to read it. 

How do you use your freezer to save money and time during the school year?

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