The old saying, “I’ve got more time than money” holds true for many of us. Whether it’s repairing things yourself instead of hiring out, learning to make your own flower arrangements or home decor, rather than purchasing the expensive alternatives, and so on. For many of us, we choose to do the food prep work ourselves, finding that preportioned, prepared foods can cost much more than making things ourselves. In our home, the biggest savings comes from purchasing meat while it is on sale. When we bring it home, we prepare it (clean, trim & cut into individual pieces) then package into family sized servings. We label, date, & freeze each package, then rotate items by date as we use them. Not only are we purchasing at the best prices, but we are preserving meats & produce at their freshest. It wasn’t until we started portioning foods, that we really started to notice how much we actually consumed, and we were able to eliminate waste. I think for years I was cooking larger meals than we actually required. So yes, it’s initially a little more time consuming than tossing the butcher’s packaging in the freezer and forgetting about it, but the payoff is great! I love being able to defrost a package of chicken for dinner, knowing that the fat & tendons have been trimmed, and those huge breasts have already been cut into the perfect sizes. This saves me a huge amount of time when it really counts, preparing those day to day meals. I also enjoy the fact that my freezer & kitchen are stocked and ready for duty! Having things on hand makes the creative process so much easier. I thank my husband for being the shopper of the family, he does an amazing job of keeping things organized. We keep a running list of things that are running low, so that we almost never “run out” of something. This is another way we save money, by planning ahead, knowing what to watch for…we don’t have to be at the mercy of the highest prices because we’ve planned ahead. Don’t limit yourself to meat & fresh produce savings; look for canned goods, baking supplies, household items, toiletries, etc.
A few years ago I discovered the hamburger patty press, and now we use this all the time to shape some of the ground beef we purchase into uniform patties before freezing. What a time & money saver, and guess what? They’re so much better than the prepared patties you buy at the store! The embarrassing part is that I thought this was a new invention, until my friend Patty told me this has been around forever!
When it’s in season, fresh corn has the best flavor, and it can be purchased for pennies. Instead of forcing your family to eat corn on the cob every night for a week…yikes! (because you’ve purchased 10 for $1.00), why not clean, trim, blanch & freeze? What a treat to have access to fresh-frozen corn even when it’s not in season!
Here’s a time saving tip; things that take a long time to cook such as dried beans (that need to soak overnight & cook for hours) or brown rice, can be prepared, cooked, & frozen with ease.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities the next time you shop. I’ve recently prepared green beans, winter squash, & green chilies that are in the freezer and ready to go.
One last thought, don’t forget to do your research on food preservation & safety. (I use the book, Putting Foods By, recommended by Mom!) but you could also check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for more information. There’s really not much to it, and the rewards are more than satisfying!