Not everybody has the money or space to have a stand-alone freezer, I understand. If that’s you, don’t skip this post. I’ll also be sharing great space-saving tips for those with very limited freezer space! 🙂
In our kitchen, we have a side-by-side fridge/freezer. There’s no way we could get a decent sized turkey in there for Thanksgiving, but I do love having a bunch of adjustable shelves. About a year ago we got a big ol’ freezer that is now in our basement. LOVE it! True, it can be pretty expensive up front, but it saves a ton of money in the long run. If you want to get a freezer, but can’t afford to buy new, try www.craigslist.com or www.freecycle.org to find a cheap or free one. You can also try garage sales and moving sales. It may take some time and effort, but I think it will be worth it!
How My Freezer Saves Me Money
Most people want a big freezer so they will have more freezing “space”, but how does it save you money?
- You can buy in bulk. Specifically, meat directly from the farmer. Ask around at local farmer’s markets or check www.localharvest.org for farmers that have cows, pigs, chickens, lambs or other animals that they raise free-range/pastured. Often, you will put down a deposit and then pay the balance when you pick up the meat from a local butcher. We currently have 1/4 of a cow and 1/4 of a pig, both pastured, in our freezer. There are a few free-range chickens, too. The price per pound around here from the grocery store for pastured beef and pork is typically around $7 to $10 per pound. Nicer cuts, like a steak, can be even more expensive. We paid under $5 per pound for our meat! It is all vacuum-sealed and clearly labeled and we know that the meat is the quality we are wanting because we can just hop in the car and go see how the animals are raised.
- Cook a double batch and freeze half. I did this (with my Mom’s help. Thanks, Mom! 🙂 ) before our second baby was born. We cooked a ton of meatballs, put them in canning jars, filled the jars with sauce and froze them. We also made several lasagnas in baking dishes lined with parchment paper. Once they were frozen, I popped them out, removed the paper and wrapped them in freezer paper. I did the same thing with a double batch of shepherd’s pie (that was the BEST comfort food after the baby was born!). If you’re careful to wrap it well, bread can be frozen, too. We made several dozen batched of savory muffins to snack on after Babykins was born. The bread we buy from the local store is over $6 per loaf (it’s organic and sprouted grain), so this month I’ll be making bread for each week and freezing it. I doubled some pots of chili, stew and soup and froze several jars of each. Not only did we save money by buying some items in bulk or on sale, but we also weren’t tempted to order in expensive, unhealthy food! *Note: always leave at least 1 inch of empty space in the top of each jar to account for the food expanding when it freezes!
- Save foods that will otherwise spoil. I bought eight ounces each of fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice from our local grocery store. I froze it in icecube trays and put the cubes in marked bags. Now, I can use fresh-tasting juice without any nasty preservatives! You can toss some types of produce in a bag or jar to add to chicken or beef stock (or you can save the ends and peelings of veggies like onions, carrots and celery for stock!).
- Make your own ingredients and freeze them. Instead of buying cans of beans, cook your own dried beans and freeze them in 1 or 2 cup jars. The same works with broth, tomato sauce, jams, bread crumbs and even purees like pumpkin or squash.
- Go to a pick-your-own farm and freeze what you’ve picked. Berries freeze especially well, but you can also make applesauce from apples. Slice up stone fruit, like peaches, apricots or cherries. Just be sure to learn whether what you’re freezing needs to be blanched and peeled first.
- Find a great deal at the end of the day at a farmer’s market. Of course, this works for veggies you’ve grown in your own garden, too! Most veggies can be frozen well. Again, just be sure about the correct preparation.
I’m sure there are more ways to save money with a freezer, and I hope you’ll share them in the comments!
Organizing the Freezer
All of this wonderful food won’t do you any good if you can’t find and identify it! Be sure to clearly label whatever you’re freezing. A Sharpy can be used on glass jars and then washed off with a little soap and baking soda. Mark any ziploc bags, too. Along with what is in the container, you should also include the date and amount, such as “2 cups of black beans frozen on January 1st”.
- Keep like with like. For example, all of my frozen veggies and fruit live in the big drawer in the bottom of my freezer. It’s so much easier to find the green beans if I’m not having to dig under beef, pork and jars of frozen mystery goo!
- Especially in larger families, it might be helpful to label the shelves so that everybody knows where things go.
- Don’t cram it it! I’m guilty of this with my freezer, on occasion. Trust me. Creating an avalanche of frozen food that will squash your toes is not a good idea. Take a couple of extra minutes to make sure everything is organized and stable.
- Jars are wonderful for stacking. If you have adjustable shelves, use them! Move one so that you can stack jars in an organized way. Beans on beans, broth on broth, and so on.
- If you use ziplocs (I don’t like having my food in plastic, but sometimes it’s necessary), cool the food completely, first. Then, fill the bag and lay it flat to freeze. Once it’s frozen, you can have and entire shelf of frozen soups and such standing on end, like books in a bookshelf!
- Transfer food to a better container. If you buy something that comes in a huge bag, for example, see if you have some other type of container that would take up less room of that you could stack other items on top of. Be creative.
- Before you go grocery shopping, take inventory and throw out anything too old. We’d all rather eat something when it’s still good than throw it away when it’s gone bad, right? Do your best to use food while it’s still good, but also be sure you aren’t wasting space on food that is too old or freezer-burnt to eat! I’ve found things in my freezer that were in such bad shape I couldn’t identify them! I wasted food and space.
Both of my freezers are quite full, which is why I am doing an Eat From the Freezer and Pantry challenge for the month of February. I will also be working on getting both freezers organized (possibly even labeling shelves) and keeping them that way.
How do you save money by using your freezer? Do you have any good space-saving tips?
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