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Reader Tip: How I Save Time, Money and Energy in the Kitchen

Sabrina emailed in the following simple tips for saving time, money and energy in the kitchen:

::Buy extra veggies when they are at their lowest price, then chop and freeze them. I have found this is usually near the end of their season.

If I find bell peppers for an awesome price, I will buy maybe 8-10, take them home, slice half of them and chop the other half. They then get thrown into a freezer bag and into the freezer. I do this with onions also and it’s perfect for stir-fry.

This will save you lots of money! For example, I bought peaches for $o.49/lb in season, and my store usually has them for $2.99/lb out of season. Great deal!

::Buy discounted meat, and freeze or cook immediately. The stores will not sell outdated meat, so they are trying to get rid of it before it expires. The grocery store near my house marks the meat down two days before the “sell by” date.

I can get a five-pound pork roast for $2.00! I actually have two pork roasts, two Angus beef roasts and two packages of boneless skinless chicken strips in my freezer now, and I purchased these all for under $10 total.

::Keep inventory. I keep a pantry, freezer and refrigerator inventory list in my household notebook. It consists of a list of items, and boxes to check as I use up the items. I put one slash in each box to show quantity, and as I use the items, I put a slash in the opposite direction, turning it into an “x”. This helps you know what you don’t have to buy, and it helps you put meals together because you know what you have.

I don’t have any calculations as to how much money is saved doing any of these, but I will say that I have been following for about a year now, and the above tips along with the things I’ve learned at this site helped me keep my grocery budget under $40/week (and I live in California, not a cheap place to live!).

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  • Becky says:

    Great advice. My only question is about meat. If I cook it, and freeze it, and then use it as a meal, is it then done, or can it be reheated for leftovers?
    I worry about food borne illnesses, and don’t want to make my dh or daughter sick.

    • Ashley says:

      You either Freeze OR cook the meat right away. I do this all the time and have not had any issues. But you can freeze cooked meat. I have done the taco meat and chicken breast and I thaw it out and then heat it up.

    • Sabrina says:

      I always freeze or cook by the “sell by” date. If I freeze it raw, I can re-freeze after I cook (never re-freeze raw meat). When I freeze raw and then cook it later, the cooked meat will last a few days for leftover or roll over meals. To limit possibilities of food borne illnesses, I thaw in the fridge and not on the countertops. I do this even if I am slowcooking something that was previously frozen (If I bought it at the end of its life).

    • Heidi says:

      Household notebook? What is that? Would love to hear more……

    • Stephanie says:

      I took a safe food handling course and learned all about this. You can cook and then freeze and then reheat one time. When you reheat ensure that the temperature of the most center part of your food hits 160 degrees.

  • Deana Cruse says:

    I buy marked down meat regularly at my local stores. My plan is either cook it same day or freeze it. You can cook the meal then freeze it. I would think it would be okay to refridgerate for a day or so for leftovers. When I cook foods in large quantities I just put it in serving size bags in the freezer. For example:when we find canned veggies on sale and ground beef we usually make soup or stew. We use a 3 gallon pot. By the time we eat our meal we still have at least 2 gallons of soup to freeze for next time. Once it is cooked, frozen, reheated, I would limit how much re-heating I do. Hope I didn’t make you more confused!

    • Becky says:

      You didn’t make me more confused. How many times do YOU reheat?

      I usually limit reheating to once, after its been cooked, which eliminates left-overs for me. Am I being too strict/paranoid?

      I’m going to google this and see what I can come up with .

      • Andrea Q says:

        I always reheat in small portions to avoid reheating the same food multiple times. But in general, I think I am too paranoid about leftovers.

      • Deana Cruse says:

        I limit reheating to once as well….if you do break it up into single servings to heat you can cut back on waste! It may be safe to reheat 2 times but I don’t risk it. I don’t like to waste but getting sick is not my idea of frugal!lol

      • Maureen says:

        Also, re-heating and re-heating starts to dry out the food, and it doesn’t taste great.

        In our family, we freeze our portions into single servings or double/triple servings (3 adults) if the meal is a dinner entree.

        I would say the most important thing is to LABEL EVERYTHING. If not, you are left wondering what the dish is or when it was made.

  • Veronica says:

    I also chop green peppers and onions before they waste. But, I measure them and lable the bag before freezing (i.e. 3 cups green peppers).

  • Amy says:

    I love to purchase sale items and freeze to use later! I purchased cheap eggs the other week and froze them to use later. And last week I purchased chicken on sale, cooked it, and made 4 meals out of the chicken and then froze to use later. I made chicken enchilada meat, chicken noodle meat, chicken stir fry meat, and chicken baby food.

    • Samantha says:

      When you freeze eggs, do they taste different when you thaw them? Do you use them for things like scrambled eggs or just baking?

      I’ve never heard of that =]

      • Amy says:

        I have never noticed that they taste different. My kids have never said anything either, and my son would so on top of that if they did taste different!! : )
        I have used them for both baking and scrambled eggs.

  • We usually freeze the meat when we buy it on sale because I don’t always have time that day to cook it or already have the meal planned out. Plus, I don’t always know when and what I will be using it for since I make meals for families outside our home as well. When I am cooking up a large portion of meat I will freeze the extra cooked meat to save time on a future meal since I am already doing it, but otherwise we use it right away or put it into the freezer for future preparation.

    I know a lot of pregnant women who will cook up a bunch of hamburger meat and/or chicken to stick in the freezer to help with cooking after having the baby. It saves time and energy during a time of when we don’t have much extra rest anyway!

  • dorothy says:

    In the last year I’ve started buying peppers when they are on clearance and then taking them home & chopping/slicing them for the freezer. Total time saver-well, and money saver, too!
    The meat that I buy discounted tends to just go right into the freezer as-is, as I never know what I might do with it. Too many choices!

    • Sabrina says:

      FYI-Target has bell peppers on price cut right now for $.15 each.

    • marie says:

      When you freeze peppers, when they thraw aren’t they soft and squissy? How can you prevent this?

      • Sabrina says:

        I havent used them raw after freezing. I use the frozen ones in stir-fry, burritos, casseroles, or pasta. I haven’t tried this with peppers, but you may be able to cut them up and freeze them on a cookie sheet first. I do this with fruit so i don’t end up with a bag of mush.

        • Patti says:

          Any vegetable that has a high water content will be mushy when frozen because the cells burst . They are perfectly safe … just use in dishes where they will be cooked so it doesn’t matter.

      • Michelle says:

        Marie, frozen peppers are really best for dishes where they will be cooked – like stir fry, fajitas, soups, roasted veggies. They are not for eating raw, you are right, they do get too mushy to eat them raw.

      • Jenn says:

        I’ve used my frozen peppers in homemade strombolis and pizzas. I put them on the pizza, etc frozen and once I bake them I don’t even notice if the consistency is a bit soft 🙂

      • Amanda says:

        My good chef friend taught me that blanching veggies before freezing them prevents the mush factor. Boil some water, plop the veggies in for just a couple minutes, until they turn bright, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking. The idea is to partially cook them first.

    • Patti says:

      I also have started freezing veggies that I already have that may lose quality if stored in the refrigerator too long. For example, celery – I then use it when I cook chicken or when I throw together a meal in the crock pot. I also started freezing green onions and fresh herbs for the same reason. Before this, I would always end up throwing some of them out because I couldn’t use them up fast enough. I now try to think about all my food items this way – so I am freezing left over OJ, lemon juice, fruit juices, even the juices from cooking veggies – they can go into a soup one day!

  • Patti says:

    Do you have a picture of your food inventory list? Not quite picturing in my mind how you’re keeping track of what you need to buy, etc.

  • great tips! I have a freezer full of chopped/sliced bell peppers and whole jalapenos from my mom’s garden, blueberries from a local orchard, chopped celery left over from only needed 2 or 3 stalks at a time, etc.

  • Deana Cruse says:

    FYI-I love to buy day old bread at the bakery and pop it right into my deep freezer….there are very few items I will not freeze for later!

    • Maureen says:

      We freeze the end pieces of loaves of bread.

      We use these pieces for turkey stuffing, bread pudding and brown betty.

      This post is awesome, because this is what I do on a weekly basis.

  • April says:

    You ladies are all so inspiring! I have been on my journey to frugal living since the beginning of this year and have pretty much mastered couponing and shopping the drug stores. I am getting better at stockpiling foods, but I still have a long way to go when it comes to utilizing my freezer to the fullest! I will have to focus on this for a while and add it to my frugal mastery!

    • Deana Cruse says:

      April-I have found there are certain days at my local grocery store where they mark items down due to sell by dates…It varies at stores but you can seriously add to your savings that way! I love marked down meat, fruit, veggies, bakery items….I don’t know if everyone does this but I also purchase marked down milk and eggs. In my local stores they mark milk down 2-4 days before the sell by date. I have found that most(not all) milks are still good up to 4-5 days after the sell by date. Usually I pay around $2/gallon. With a family of 5 it makes me able to buy 2 gallons for the regular price of 1. Eggs are also good past the date for up to 2 weeks. Always check them before adding them to any recipe of food you are perparing. Meats are bought marked down and separated into individual servings before frozen. I can honestly purchase $100 of meat for at least 1/2 the price if not cheaper. Many ways to stretch a dollar and have fun too! Good luck with your $ saving adventure!

  • KK says:

    We freeze peppers and onions for later use too. My husbands uncle usually has a lot of peppers from his garden and offers them to us. My husband chops them up and then triple bags them so the smell doesn’t affect the other foods in the freezer. Same with onions. This year we got some pepper seeds for 15 cents a pkg and we are going to try and grow them in the yard with nothing special added. We are also going to try to grow our own onions and carrots. We will see!

  • Chris J. says:

    I’ve learned to use the internet to think outside the box on some produce that I didn’t used to think I could freeze. Did you know you can freeze mushrooms and avocados? When Aldi had the 8oz. packages for .49 a week or two ago, I steamed some of them whole, then froze them spread out on a cookie sheet, then popped them in bags. The rest of them I sliced, sauted in a tiny bit of olive oil, and froze on cookie sheets. I save the waxy bags from cereal to spread out on the cookie sheet first so nothing sticks and the cookie sheet doesn’t even need to be washed. This week my Aldi has avocados for .29!! I have NEVER seen them this cheap in my area. I’ve never frozen them before, but according to what I’ve read they can be frozen after pureeing them with a little lemon juice. The puree could also be premixed with onion, salsa, garlic salt, or whatever for guacamole before freezing. Yum! As for the onions, I’ve found chopping them and freezing them in ice cube trays to be the easiest for me.

  • Diana says:

    What day or days of the week are best for getting the soon to expire meat? I one got a package of soon to expire Brats and Italian Sausage for $0.28 at Food for Less, but that was a couple of years ago. I usually shop on Saturday, but if a weekday is best for finding these deals, I can rearrange my schedule and stop after work. I don’t imagine you find these kind of deals on the weekend, since the stores are so busy then.

    • Elisa says:

      Every store is different so before you rearrange your schedule I would stop in at your favorite stores and ask the meat and produce managers when they mark things down (often they have a certain time on certain days) and then try to get there within the hour for the best deals. Even Walmart marks down their bakery bread everyday at a specific time you just have to know when it is.

    • Deana Cruse says:

      I have found no 2 stores do it the same day. I have just tried them all on different days and discovered when. There is usually an ideal time to go for me would be between 10 and 11 am. There are some stores mark items down on Friday and then some do it on Monday and Tuesday mornings. You just need to check out your local stores.

  • leah says:

    ive scored with cheap broccoli. I rinse, chop, blanche (to preserve color), freeze in a single layer on a wax paper lined cookie sheet until firm then put in a gallon freezer bag. this way i can use any amount because they arent stuck together. Ive done bell peppers the same way.

  • liz says:

    I’ve found that the best day (in my area, at least) for marked-down meat has been Thursday mornings. Both Sams & Walmart seem to have a lot of markdowns then. Maybe they’re getting ready for the weekend rush?

  • Angela says:

    This has been a helpful post. Thank you to everyone for the great information!

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