At the beginning of every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.
I have saved a tremendous amount of money over the years by using just about every nook and cranny of my freezer space. I use my freezer to store extras of great marked-down deals I find at the grocery store. I use my freezer to freeze almost-expiring groceries (such as milk) so that I’m able to save it to use later. And, as you all well know, I use my freezer to bake and cook food to have on hand for busy days.
There’s no telling how much money I save thanks to my freezer, but it is well, well over $100 each year. For those of you who want to maximize the mileage of your freezer, here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. When In Doubt, Don’t Throw It Out
If you have almost-expiring milk or bread, instead of dumping or tossing it, freeze it. You can use the milk in pancakes or waffles and you can save the bread and when you have a bag of it, make homemade croutons.
Save the bits of meat and veggies and stick them in the freezer to make soup or homemade vegetable broth in the crockpot.
2. Check Your Freezer When Planning Your Menu
It’s important that you don’t just freeze stuff, but that you also regularly use the stuff in your freezer. Otherwise, it’s kind of pointless to mess with freezing things!
I consult my freezer when planning my menu as there are often things in there that I’ve forgotten I had. You can use the ingredient search feature on AllRecipes.com to help you find menu inspiration for what you already have on hand.
3. Take An Hour Each Week to Prep Food For Your Freezer
Having food at-the-ready in my freezer has been such a huge help — and it’s saved us countless trips through the drive-thru lane, too. It’s not hard to make eating at home a priority when you already have food prepped in the freezer
If this idea sounds appealing but you can’t imagine finding a few hours in your schedule to actually pull off freezer cooking, consider just devoting 30 minutes to an hour on the weekends to baking and cooking ahead. Every little bit helps. (See some of my one-hour freezer cooking sessions here.)
You can also double meals you’re already making and serve one for dinner and stick the other in the freezer. It doesn’t take much more time now and will save you a lot of time later — plus, you won’t have to do dishes!
Do I Need to Get a Deep Freeze In Order to Save Money?
A deep freeze is wonderful, but I don’t recommend investing in one until you are absolutely sure you will use it. Use every single inch of your over-the-fridge first before looking to invest in a deep freeze.
And by the way, you can fit a lot into your over-the-fridge freezer. Here’s picture proof. Also, if you freeze things flat in freezer bags, you can turn them sideways and store them like file folders to save space
Does the Cost of Running a Freezer Outweigh the Savings?
Trent from The Simple Dollar did extensive analysis and he concluded that it costs about $11 per month to run a deep freeze. So in order to actually save money with a deep freeze and make it worth it, be sure you’re saving at least $25 per month by running your deep freeze. If it’s primarily empty, move what’s in it to your over-the-fridge freezer and unplug it!
Simple Things You Can Prep Ahead and Stick in the Freezer
We peel, chop, and freeze bananas that are too ripe to use in smoothies. You can also peel them and freeze them whole to use in banana bread or muffins.
If you make carrot muffins on a regular basis, it’s much more efficient to shred a big batch of shredded carrots all at once. Just divide into one-cup baggies and store in a freezer bag to use as needed.
Cooking up chicken and then chopping and freezing it can save you a lot of time in meal preparation later. I like to bake my chicken breasts, as they seem to be a lot more moist that way. You can see how I do it here.
You can use the chopped chicken in homemade pizza, chicken casseroles, to sprinkle on salads, to throw into soups, or to just eat plain–as my children love to do!
Having pre-browned ground beef in the freezer to stick in soups, on pizza, or put in casseroles is a big time-saver. Or, you can do what I often do and go ahead and just add onions, beans, and taco seasoning to the meat to make taco meat. You can always use the taco meat in soups or chili, if need be.
Do you make pancakes, waffles, or muffins on a regular basis? Save yourself some of the prep time by mixing up a quadruple batch of the dry ingredients and then portioning them into freezer bags.
Most cookie doughs can be made ahead and then frozen for later use. You can rolls the dough into balls to freeze, freeze it in logs, or freeze the dough in a tub and scoop it out to use. The only issue is that you might want to hide it at the bottom of the freezer–especially if you actually want to be able to make any Chocolate Chip Cookies with the dough! 🙂
Recommended Freezer Cooking Links: