Two of life’s great mysteries can be solved at one time.
The first of those revolves around my perpetual questions of “Didn’t I just go to the store?” and “Where did all the groceries go?”
The second great mystery comes around five o’clock every day when I wonder what is for dinner or someone in the family asks me that question.
Indeed, the two great mysteries are tied together.
Oddly enough, I found they became much less of a mystery when we got a standalone freezer. As a professional organizer who loves to focus on family routines, it’s been a lesson I’ve shared with others as well. When our family added a freezer, we had three teenagers. I thought I was just adding storage space, but I also saved on groceries, found a way to have less stress on busy nights and ended up with healthier habits.
Freezers for Frugals
Having extra storage space for products helps you take advantage of low-cost finds. Some ways to save include:
- Take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales.
- Stock up when specials are offered on frozen food.
- Snap up several packages of the week’s meat special and pop the extras in the freezer.
- Buy in bulk from a big box discount store.
- Invest in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program by buying pork or beef directly from the farmer and freezing the quantity.
- Use all of your frozen food coupons without worrying about a lack of room.
- Have prepared meals frozen and ready to grab for busy nights, which means less take-out or restaurant meals.
Cook Once and Eat Twice (or More)
Having the extra freezer room made it so easy to double recipes. This really helped grow the savings that began by being able to freeze sale items. I could make large batches of chicken casserole or chili using food from my freezer stash, which made for healthier, cheaper meals.
Here are a few of my favorite items to freeze:
- I’ll buy five to 10 pounds of ground beef when it is on sale. I use a pound for dinner that night and from the rest I make and season hamburger patties, meatloaf or meatballs and freeze them raw but ready to cook. I’ll also brown a few pounds of ground beef and divide it into freezer bags, then heat it up later to make fast tacos or drop it into chili.
- Giant bags of frozen vegetables are really handy and often very inexpensive per serving. I can scoop out what we need that night, reseal the bag and return the rest to the freezer.
- Loaves of bread freeze well for a few weeks. Good-quality bread can be pricy, so snapping it up on sale is key.
- When fresh chicken breasts are on sale, they are often sold in a “family pack” that is a huge amount. I’ll spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and place the chicken on it. I’ll put the sheet in the freezer for an hour so the chicken freezes individually. Then I’ll drop the pieces in a freezer bag. This way I can remove just the number I need without all of them being stuck together.
- Sometimes I’ll put together a casserole and bake it. Then, I’ll divide it into individual containers to freeze. On busy nights when one person has to fly out the door early or comes home late, they can pop a home-cooked meal from the freezer into the microwave.
Make it easy to find what you need and see what you have with some freezer organization.
- For upright freezers, assign categories to shelves. For example, you might divide your freezer shelves into poultry, red meat, homemade foods, store-bought prepared foods, vegetables, frozen treats and so on.
- Chest freezers can be divided sections, with food sorted into similar categories.
- Since stick-on labels often peel off in the freezer, you can keep organized by tying tags on your shelves.
- Practice good food rotation habits. New items always go either to the back of the freezer or to the bottom of a stack. This way, you are sure to use the oldest item first, so you won’t discover wasted items with freezer burn.
- Periodically create a meal plan by looking into the freezer first and deciding which things you need to make use of, then work them into the menu for the week.
Check out this article for more freezer organization advice.
The Pro’s Favorite Freezer Tips
- Line your casserole dish with non-stick foil before adding ingredients, then cover and freeze it. Once it’s frozen, you can lift out the frozen casserole by the foil. Wrap it with more foil, label it and return it to the freezer. This allows you to return your casserole dish to the kitchen and continue using it. When it is time to bake your frozen casserole, just unwrap it and put it back in the dish.
- Label dishes with their name, temperature and baking time. This way you won’t need to hunt for the recipe when you want to cook the dish.
- Place soups and stews in a well-sealed plastic bag. Place the bag on a metal baking sheet in the freezer so it freezes flat. Remove the baking sheet and stack your flat bag of soup.
- Keep a dry-erase board on the outside of your freezer and use it to keep a written meat inventory. Add to and subtract from the list as you buy or use things. This way you’ll always know what is at hand.
Your freezer can save you a lot of money in the long run. Use these tips to stock up and plan ahead so you always have a healthy meal on hand.
A double bonanza–saving money and being organized–is the focus of Lea Schneider’s tips on freezer storage. Lea is a nationally recognized home organizational professional and writes on DIY savings and storage for The Home Depot. To research home freezers available in all sizes and capacities, you can visit Home Depot.