Thursday, November 10, 2011

Having an extra freezer saves time and money

One of the biggest challenges to couponing can be storage. We need to buy enough of a sale item to last the next 6 weeks, but that seems daunting when you have a small cabinet or a little fridge/freeze. Does it save you money to have an extra freezer?

Ways it can save money:

You can buy more of the sale items to last you until the next sale. A big example is frozen vegetables in our house. We tend to grab a bag of vegetables with almost every meal, so 6 weeks of bagged veggies is a lot. There is no way I could fit that in our inside freezer. When the vegetables are on sale with a coupon that might be 25-40¢ each. I really want to be able to get close to what we need at that price rather than paying $1.50 each when we run out and have to buy them off sale.

You can stock up on fresh produce and meat when it’s in season. We love to hit the farmers market in the summer. I always try to buy the largest box they have of squash, corn, peas, zucchini, broccoli etc. and then spend the next few days blanching and storing it all. Buying in season and storing fresh vegetables we can save up to 50% versus paying out of season prices.

You may not know this, but your food is will actually last longer in a deep freezer (not your freezer attached to your refrigerator). Most stand-alone freezers get colder and keep a more regulated temperature than kitchen freezers. For some items it lengthens the freezer life by 3-4 months!

Ways it can save time

Use your extra space to store prepped and ready to go recipe items. Cut up vegetables (onions, peppers etc.) ready for recipes, or mix up some homemade cookie dough starter and store it to always have a base cookie ready for a ton of combinations.

Not only prepping food, but also storing ready to freeze meals is another huge time saver! I have many friends who cook only once a week and store all their meals for the week in the freezer. There are other folks that do this once a month! Not only are you saving time that night for dinner, but you also save time by only getting the kitchen dirty once a week.

Finally with all the storage capability we need to point out the obvious time saver… you have the ability to go to the store less often. Make one trip to the store a week a freeze those extra gallons of milk needed to get you through the week. You will quickly find that you don’t have those panic moments nearly as often that you are out of chicken and need it 5 minutes from now.

(with that being said if you would like to get I deal on a freezer the best time to get one is Feb, when Hy-Vee will have a sale on them, in the past they had deals where you but one get it back in coupons!!!)

To start, you can freeze all things in the world but it doesn’t do any good if you don’t store them properly. Depending on the food you are freezing the prep will be different. In general for vegetables you will need to clean and blanch them just long enough to stop any further ripening. This helps to preserve color, texture and flavor for 9-12 months depending on the vegetable. That means you can buy items in season and store them until the start of next years season!

If you are storing cooked meals, either package them in square freezer safe containers for easy stacking or in freezer bags with all the air removed. Casseroles can be the one exception. I would recommend storing them in disposable pans and make sure they are packed to the top.

So we have everything blanched and ready, it’s also important to note what you are storing them in. You have a number of options today, but depending on what you pick you make increase the storage time of your food by 6 months or more! The number one thing working against you in food storage is oxygen, so working hard to remove as much as you can from your food is best.

Storage Options:

Plastic Freezer Bags – The most affordable way to store items, Make sure you are using a bag labeled as “freezer”, there is a huge difference between these and regular storage bags. Lay the bag flat and smush it to get out as much air as possible. Depending on the brand you pick most bags can keep food for 1-2 months without freezer burn starting.

Double-Wrapping – Wrapping your food in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil is a technique that can actually work better than plastic bags. This is best for casseroles, and cuts of meat. Still work the items to get out as much air before freezing.

Vacuum Sealing – This requires purchasing a vacuum unit, normally around $100. You also have the expense of buying bags etc to continue using the sealer. If you store food often it could be well worth the purchase though. Foods stored using this method can last up to 1-2 years without freezer burn beginning. To store moist foods like soups and stews make sure you have the appropriate vacuum containers. (Lately we are seeing a lot of deals on these so don’t rule it out!)

What exactly can you freeze?
I would say almost anything! Aside from normal things, we freeze cheese, eggs, milk, refrigerated rolls, cream cheese, etc. Also don’t forget about things you can freeze to save time later: cooked rice, chopped onions, broths, and more. Obviously the one thing to stay away from though is a can of coke!

Tip: In south it is also common to freeze flour, bread and other similar products. Remember if you freeze any baking ingredients that you should always warm them to room temperature before cooking.

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