The fridge was empty again. I spent 200$ at the grocery store just days earlier.
Where did all the food go?
Did we get robbed by hungry bandits in the night? Did the kids have a party I didn’t know about? Or did we just have a house full of growing kids? There were still things to eat in the pantry: noodles, canned beans, and that really good chocolate I keep hidden on the top shelf. But I wanted fresh produce to make a meal with.
Luckily I still had food in my freezer.
I had good healthy food in my freezer. Not frozen pizza and nuggets: fruits, vegetables, and meats! Enough to make balanced meals until my Friday grocery run. I strategically use my freezer as a “storage bin” for the foods we frequently eat. I buy in bulk when prices are good, and freeze the extra before it goes bad. My freezer helps me spend less money on keeping healthy food in the house.
Do you want to spend less on healthy food too? Here's a list of money-saving freezer friendly foods you might find helpful!
#1 Discounted Produce: Smiths has a discount bin with fruits/vegetables for $1.00 in red mesh bags (see lemons + peppers in photo below). The produce is sometimes old or bruised. It's fine to use right away, but if you can't use it right away, freeze it! Below is a list of my favorite clearance items to freeze for later (and a link for the recipes I use them in)
Lemons + limes:
how: Freeze whole and then microwave for 30 seconds when ready to use,
cost savings: 10/1$ on discount, normal price: $.75 each
recipe: peanut noodles, many recipes I find online often call for fresh lemon juice!
how: Chop then freeze in a ziploc bag for cooked recipes. Don't use frozen bell peppers in fresh salads - they won't be crunchy after you freeze them
cost savings: usually 3/1$ on discount, normal price: 1$ each
how: Peel and keep in a ziploc bag for about 1 month
cost savings: Discounted ripe bananas are usually 1/2 the cost of regular bananas. Plus, you want ripe bananas for these recipes anyway!
how: Place an entire bag or container in your freezer for about 3 months. If you have spinach going bad in your fridge, put it in the freezer for smoothies!
cost savings: Entire bags are sometimes on clearance for $1.00, normally a bag is $3.00. I often find the big bins for $2.50, they are about $6 regular price!
Squash and pumpkins:
how: Roast squash in the shell, then scoop out of the shell and put in ziploc bags. Freeze extra canned pumpkin if a recipe doesn’t use the entire can.
cost savings: pumpkins are often deeply discounted after Halloween. If you are willing to cook and freeze them, you can get a lot of pumpkin for about $1.00.
how: Buy bags of frozen berries instead of fresh, defrost in the microwave
cost savings: 6oz fresh berries = 2.99 (.50cent/oz), 48oz frozen berries = 10.99 (.22 cent/oz). Fresh berries are DOUBLE the cost of frozen berries.
how: Buy frozen bags of mangoes instead of fresh, defrost in microwave
cost savings: fresh = 1$/.5 cup, frozen = 1$/1 cup Prices vary, but usually frozen is more economical, and you don't have to bother with cutting them!
recipes: defrost and serve on the side of meals
Broccoli + Cauliflower
how: Buy frozen bags of broccoli and cauliflower, or if discounted, buy fresh and freeze in ziploc bags. This also works for brussel sprouts.
cost savings: fresh = 1.99/lb, frozen = 1.66/lb + you don't have to bother with chopping, and packages stay good in your freezer for about 3 months
how: Buy fresh ginger and stick it in the freezer. It doesn't even need a bag on it.
cost savings: No savings, other than having it on hand so you don't have to run to the store when making the recipes below
#2 Meat Dairy and Bread
Discounted meat: I don't eat a lot of meat. However, I know most people do! Meats are good past the expiration date if you put them in the freezer before they expire. I will buy discounted sausage and bacon that is about to expire and put it in my freezer for later (see bacon in photo above). It's still good if I use it within 1-2 months. I do make sure it hasn't already spoiled before I buy it!
Bulk meat: I like to keep bacon on hand to give flavor to recipes. It is much less expensive per ounce to buy bacon in bulk. The same is often true of chicken. When it's a good price, I will buy it in bulk and portion out extras into ziploc bags.
Butter: A few month ago my local smiths was discounting butter for $1.50 a pound. It's usually $4.00 per pound!! I bought 20 pounds and put them in my freezer. The checker thought I was crazy. But I know that butter stays good in the freezer for a year or two and saved myself at least $50 in butter costs!
Milk: Gallons of milk will often get marked down at my local Smiths. I will buy a few extra gallons and freeze them. Previously frozen milk does have a different texture, so I only use pre-frozen milk for cooking (pancakes, waffles, oatmeal). Other dairy products, like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheese do not freeze well in my experience.
Cheese: Cheese prices change a lot! One week 2 pounds will be $5, the next week it will be $8. When the prices are low, I buy several bags and freeze it for later. I find that shredded cheese freezes nicely, bricks of cheese do not freeze as well.
fancy bread: Stores often discount baguettes and "fancy" sourdough loaves for less than 1$. They stay good in the freezer for about a month. I toast frozen bread before eating it.
naan bread: I often serve stone fire naan bread with curry and hummus. I often see it on clearance for half price. It stores well in the freezer for about a month or two.
bread loaves: When sandwich bread is priced well, I will buy a few loaves and freeze them for french toast.
There's a list of foods I keep in my freezer to save money and eat healthy! I hope a few of these ideas will help you save money and eat healthier too!
Want more to try out a few recipes from the freezer on a live zoom call with me? Join us for Cooking Club March 28. We will be making green smoothies and banana cookies. Click this link to join us! It's free and fun, once you sign up, a zoom link and recipes will be emailed to you.