Monday, November 8, 2010

Mission Impossible Week Two: A Spending Freeze

Week two is long over and once again, my budget was blown this week after my husband went to Costco. Without me. He took my short list and decide to add to it quite a bit. I can't say I blame him, though, for buying that box of sweet potatoes (although I already had ten of them sitting on the counter) or the five pound bag of frozen blueberries (despite the fact we had one-and-a-half bags in the freezer already). We do eat a lot of them. And he was easily seduced into grabbing the gourmet frozen meatballs after that little sample he and our son tried - although I already bought pounds of ground beef and ground turkey to make homemade meatballs... Whatever. If I did the math and had an accountant to amortize all of the food he bought, then we'd probably be a-o.k. budget wise.... so I'll try not to sweat it this month. (cringe)

One of the reasons he was so excited to "stock up" at Costco (a.k.a. Disney World for adult men) is because we recently purchased a chest freezer. In our previous house we had two refrigerators which was a Godsend. Now we have the world's smallest refrigerator. We debated on whether we should get another one or just a freezer and the freezer won out - mostly because of the cost. Chest freezers are much less expensive than refrigerators (we bought ours at Sears for $170) and with a little know-how, one can freeze a lot... and save a lot of money.

By my calculation, buying a freezer was the most economical decision. I figured it costs us $.46/day or $3.26/week in its first year - and by then it's more than earned it's keep. Buying wholesale chicken breasts alone saves us $3/pound! My other favorite meats to freeze are inexpensive stew meat and pork shoulder - both are great crock pot meats and can be used in stew, tacos, and bbq recipes, among others. Suffice it to say, after the last trip to Costco I will not be buying meat for months.

Meat is not the only thing the freezer is good at preserving. I freeze just about everything - here are a few items we freeze that save us a ton of money:
  • Cheese: split up a 5 lb bag of shredded mozzarella into ziplock bags (2 cups each) and you're set for many pizza nights to come! Once thawed, use quickly since the extra moisture can lead to quick mold growth.
  • Vegetables: Whenever I have extra onions and peppers that are getting old, I slice or dice them and freeze them flat on a cookie sheet. Once they are frozen, put into a ziplock bag and use when needed. They work well in cooking but are not so great fresh.
  • Mashed Potatoes, cooked rice: make extra and freeze in ziplock. Put in boiling water to thaw when ready to use. Saves lots of time!
  • Extra broth and soups
  • Any leftovers: I always freeze one or two servings of leftovers we really like in individual serving containers - that way I can pull them out quickly when I don't feel like cooking or my husband can take them for lunch.
  • Bread: make bread crumbs from the heels of a loaf of bread and freeze.
Here's a quick guide to freezing just about anything!

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