One of the best ways to save money AND hassle when it comes to meals is to properly stock your freezer full of foods. But where to start? Pickle Planet asked our friends at Delicious on a Dime to teach us their secrets. (Are you following them yet? No. Go do it. We’ll wait here. Back? Excellent! Let’s keep going!) Huge thanks to Myra Hyland-Samson for agreeing to let us in on some of her family’s best tips for stocking the freezer – which foods to pick, when to buy them, AND how to store them!
Do you love to eat delicious food? (I’m always suspicious of people who don’t.)
Hi, my name is Myra, and I LOVE good food. Aside from friends and loved ones, there isn’t much that makes me happier than munching on something delicious.
But here’s the thing. I live in Atlantic Canada. RURAL Atlantic Canada.
Groceries are expensive around here guys! I hear from readers in the U.S. who can buy cream cheese for $0.75 a block, or avocados at 3 for $1 and it is mind-boggling. Just imagine!
But I wouldn’t leave my quiet life in Cape Breton for all the avocados that money could buy down south. So I’ve come up with a few tricks for saving money on groceries.
I’ll let you in on the biggest trick of all.
Treat your freezer like the goldmine that it is.
Freezers let you stock up on foods when you find them on sale, stash them away for a rainy day, and then eat tasty meals on the cheap.
Your freezer is the number one weapon you have to help you save money on groceries.
Here are 7 genius foods I always have stocked in my freezer (ahem… freezers), and some delicious ideas for how to use them!
Bacon must be one of the most delicious foods on this planet. I love to use it in my recipes, even just in small amounts. It packs such a huge flavour punch! But bacon can be pricey when you buy it full price. A pound of bacon (which is rarely actually a pound any more – more like 375 grams instead of 454) can easily cost $6. Um, no thank you.
I watch for bacon to go on sale. In a pinch I’ll buy it for $4 but $3 is better and $2 is just the best. When it goes on super sale I buy a bunch of it. Take it home and check out the best before dates. If they’re a long way off I stash it in my fridge, but if they’re coming soon I slice the packages in half, wrap ‘em up in stretch wrap, and pile them into a freezer bag. That way I can have bacon-y goodness whenever I want.
Enjoy your cheap bacon in this Potato, Bacon and Egg Sheet Pan Breakfast!
I absolutely adore mushrooms. For a long time, though, my husband couldn’t stand them (he’s since seen the light). What this meant for me, back in the day, was that I rarely bought them. Until one day I decided to try freezing them.
Well, that was a game changer.
Instead of buying a package of mushrooms, using half of them, and finding the rest in a slimy mess in the back of my fridge, I buy a bunch (on sale of course – I look for $1.50/package), take them home, slice them up, and freeze them.
I can pull out however many I want, thaw them on the counter or in the microwave, and cook them up just like fresh mushrooms.
Enjoy your cheap mushrooms with Vegetarian Dan-Dan(-ish) Noodles
I don’t know about you guys, but we plow through cheese in our house. We just love it. Cheese can be pricey though. Instead of paying $7 per large block, wait for a sale and stock up when it’s $3.50 or $4.00. The savings are huge.
Best before dates on cheese are usually months away, but if yours are closer, you can freeze all that delicious cheap cheese. The best way I’ve found to do this is to shred it first (which just takes a few minutes if you have a food processor) and store it in big freezer bags. I love the convenience of the already shredded cheese, AND the way cheaper price tag from doing it myself.
Enjoy your cheap cheese on a Homemade BLT Pizza (with white sauce)
Chicken is a staple for most families, and there’s a pretty good chance you watch for it to go on sale and then stock up. If you don’t, you definitely should. Regular priced boneless skinless chicken breast is around $8/lb where I live, but on sale it’s half that.
The problem is, I don’t necessarily want to freeze the package whole, and I dread the icky process of packaging raw chicken for the freezer.
At least I used to, before I found this tip over on Budget Bytes: Buy some fold top baggies. Put one, inside out, over your hand like a glove. Use it to pick up a raw chicken breast. Use your other hand to pull the baggie over the raw chicken and fold the top over. Place the chicken in a large freezer bag. Continue with the rest and you’ll have a bag full of individually wrapped chicken breast (or thighs), without even touching the chicken (be sure to wash up well anyway). Yay!
Enjoy your cheap chicken in One Pan Thai Chicken and Rice Bake
Okay, I know this isn’t the sexiest tip in this list, but hear me out. How many times have you opened a can of tomato paste for a recipe, used a tablespoon of it, put the rest of it in a little container in your fridge and then promptly forgotten about it? Next time you clean the fridge you find it pushed to the back with a little fuzz of mold growing on it. Yuck. Into the garbage.
Never again, my friends.
Now, when you have that leftover tomato paste, spoon it into a small ziptop baggie, press it into a line along the bottom of the bag, and freeze it. When you need some you can just go get the baggie and break a piece off. It’s genius.
If you’re worried about measuring, you can always spoon out tablespoons of the tomato paste onto parchment paper and freeze it, then stash them in a baggie.
Enjoy your cheap tomato paste in a Vegetarian Ranch Shepherd’s Pie (with lentils!)
Remember those 3 for $1 avocados I mentioned above? Those are the kind of things I have dreams about. My goodness I love avocado! But sometimes it’s too expensive to even think about. $2.50 for an avocado?! I just can’t.
Instead I pick up a bunch when I find a great deal, let them ripen, mash each one with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon or lime juice, spoon it into a ziptop bag, and freeze. It will only discolour a tiny bit and it’s perfect for guacamole, avocado toast, eating with quesadillas or tacos, or any place you’d use mashed avocado.
Enjoy your cheap avocado in Freezer Steak or Chicken Quesadillas
I develop a lot of recipes that call for goat cheese. I absolutely love its tangy, salty flavour and guess what? It’s lower in calories and fat than regular cheese! Bonus!!!
To get the best price on goat cheese, I buy the huge double rolls at Costco, slice them into smaller chunks, wrap them tightly in stretch wrap, and freeze them in a freezer bag. When I’m making pasta, pizza, salad, dips, or omelets, I pull out a chunk. You can usually still cut it even though it’s frozen, or you can thaw it in a few minutes on the counter. It’s the best!
Enjoy your cheap goat cheese on an Easy Winter Salad
What little gems do you stock in your freezer? How do you save money on groceries? Let us know in the comments below!
Myra Hyland-Samson lives in Cape Breton. She blogs over at Delicious on a Dime, where she and her hubby, Laurier, help people save money on groceries and eat more delicious food. (And sometimes have a little kitchen dance off on their Facebook page when meal prepping!) You can also go Pin all their recipes on Pinterest (We’re there, too, with lots of crafts, meals, household tips, and more!).