How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill
Last year, I shared tips for how use your freezer to store easy meals in a pinch. Today, I have a few more things to add to my tutorial.
My freezing techniques came up again recently when I was chatting with a mom of two, who told me she exclusively buys organic food for her family. This means meat, produce, dairy, nuts, baking supplies and snacks all carry organic labels — and price tags to match. She explained that the $1,500 a month she spends on food is well worth her peace of mind.
That’s all well and good, of course, but it got me thinking about all those times we realize our milk is juuuuust about to expire, or the greens we bought in bulk over a week ago, thinking we’d devour them in smoothies and salads in no time, are definitely beginning to wilt. When you’ve spent so much cash on food, organic or not, it just feels criminal to let any of it go to waste.
This is when I enlist my trusty old pal, the freezer. Freezing food is an easy way to save money on your grocery bill because it allows you to, well, waste less food. And over the years, I’ve learned that you can freeze almost anything, if you do it right.
So check out my post from last January for a few general freezing tips, then scroll below to see a few more items I like to throw in the freezer — or buy frozen, to begin with — for safe keeping.
Organic versions of frozen strawberries, bell pepper and greens, like spinach and kale are readily available in the freezer section at most grocery stores. I’ve found that the price is right on these items, especially when they’re out of season. So instead of getting my organic goods from the fresh produce aisle, I first check the frozen cases.
Most nights, I place a handful of frozen berries in a bowl in the fridge to use the next morning; the consistency is definitely mushier than the fresh stuff, but with a quick chop, they’re ready to be stirred into oatmeal, yogurt or cottage cheese or served alongside pancakes. They’re also excellent in prep-ahead dishes like baked oatmeal, cobbler or these strawberries-and-cream sweet rolls.
For the greens, first thaw them in a microwave, then squeeze out the excess water. From here you can sauté them with garlic and oil and use them in pilafs, grain salads, pasta dishes (lasagna or stuffed shells) or as pizza toppings. When it comes to the sweet bell peppers, thaw them in the fridge or microwave, and stir-fry them with chicken and rice for takeout at home.
Frozen produce is just as healthy and fresh, and oftentimes the frozen organic versions end up being less expensive than their freshly picked counterparts. Win-win.
Milk and Dairy
Do you toss milk or dairy items when they approach their “sell by” date? My advice to you here is to let your nose be your guide: Unless a food smells off, it’s likely fine.
Don’t want to try the sniff test? Employ your freezer. Milk, eggs (removed from shells and gently beaten), heavy cream, butter, and most cheeses freeze excellently. Wrap them tightly in plastic and toss them in (just don’t forget to label them), and they’re good for at least a month.
Here are some other things you might be tempted to throw away before they’re totally used up. Upon opening containers of tomato paste, anchovies or bacon — items I rarely use — the unused portions get wrapped tightly in plastic and tossed in the freezer. Freezing breadcrumbs, nuts, whole-wheat flours, brown sugar and oils will prevent mold or rancidity.
At the end of the day, when it comes to saving money in your kitchen, the most expensive items are the ones you throw out. Remember your freezer!
Becca Boyd is a wife and mom who creates healthy and delicious recipes in her West Chester kitchen. She blogs about them on her website, Home Beccanomics.
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