I really hope part 3 wasn't too overwhelming - or discouraging. I know I threw a lot out there. I also know that my pantry is not the norm (well pseudo pantry, I actually don't have one and use the laundry cabinet shelf and a couple shelves in my basement). You could easily spend $1,000 a month feeding a family of five the way I choose to feed mine, which is why budgeting, planning and freezing became so important to me. What is best for my family, may not be best for yours, or maybe it would be - it doesn't really matter. I would like to assume as a parent and an adult, we serve meals we all feel are healthy most of the time.
My main objective was not to say you need to buy all that food and store all those items to stay on a budget. In fact, going out and buying all that stuff would probably eat away a few months budget all in itself. Everything I listed are things I buy, but definitely don't go out and buy them every month. If by chance you do use some of the same food items I do, maybe one of the sources I listed is less expensive and can free up some money in your budget. That was the purpose behind the resource post.
Regardless of how you choose to eat, or any special diets you need to adhere to, I do believe following the ideas in this series will save you some money assuming you are not already implementing them.
Now, on to my favorite part - freezing!
I seriously love my freezer. Without it, I would either be a stressed out, frazzled mom without time to do much else but cook, or I would be ordering a lot of take out. I currently have a separate upright freezer that is stored in our garage, however I have been successfully freezing and reaping the benefits for years prior to owning that large freezer.
Don't throw in the towel if you don't have a ton of freezer space, you likely don't need it unless you plan on purchasing a large amount of meat to store (which is exactly why we bought it). I have a friend who could run circles around my budget, she freezes ALL the time and she only has a basic refrigerator/freezer combo. Her secret is keeping it organized and cleaning it out regularly. This way she never forgets what she has and nothing ever goes to waste. She has helped me immensely over the years and I am forever grateful. If you do decided you want to invest in a large freezer, check craigslist and your local paper for used ones in good condition.
We talked about freezing a bit in the planning portion of this series. Making double recipes and freezing the second batch for another quick meal. Again, hands down, I believe this is a huge part of sticking to a budget and being able to have homemade healthy meals on a regular basis while avoiding burn out. I had to figure that one out the hard way.
Here's a quick list of ways to save money using your freezer:
- Put peeled over-ripe bananas in the freezer to use for smoothies, to dip in melted chocolate, make dairy-free 5 minute ice cream, or to thaw out later for a bread/muffin recipe.
- Make the largest batches you can of your favorite recipes to keep on hand for busy nights or mornings.
- Buy extra amounts of fresh vegetables at the farmers market, blanch and then freeze them for future use.
- Potatoes are another favorite to freeze. Buy a huge bag when they go on sale and you can make then freeze mashed potatoes, hash-browns, potato skins with bacon and cheese (left over from the mashed), potato wedges, home-fries and twice baked potatoes.
- Stocks - When we cook meat with bones, we either add the bones to a bag in the freezer for future stock-making once it's filled, or if we just cooked a chicken, we put the carcass in the stockpot right away to simmer overnight. If I don't make soup the following day, I'll freeze what I have.
- Cheese freezes so well, as long as you don't pack it too tight in the container. I buy an $8 block of cheddar that yields about 12 cups of shredded cheese. My husband or I will shred the whole thing at once, divide it up among freezer containers and then just pull out what we need when we need it. The best part about cheese is that even if you forget to pull it out and put it in the fridge ahead of time, it thaws so fast it really doesn't matter.
- Onions are great to freeze. I just chop off the ends, peel the skins and then put them in the freezer whole. The best part about this is chopping a frozen onion will never make you cry.
- Reducing waste by freezing. An entire post needs to be written about this one, and that post will be the final segment in this series.