I have raised four kids, a few dogs and cared for my mother. I have learned a few things along the way--especially how to save some money here and there on groceries. Even though I don't have to be as careful these days, being frugal is something I still love to do! I especially feel good when I can make something stretch or when I have as little waste as possible. Here are a few hacks that have gotten me through the tough times as well as things that really help now as well.
Family Pack Foods - When I had a lot of people living in my house, I bought family packs of all kinds of things, but ONLY if it was cheaper than buying 2 of smaller items. Do your math, sometimes family packs aren't really cheaper, just more convenient. Also, now that there is only my husband and I at home, buying a family pack seems excessive, UNLESS it's on sale! Buying a family pack of different kinds of meats can go a long way! Just divide it up when you get home into zippered bags and pop them into the freezer! I mainly started this with hamburger when the kids were little. Usually you get packages of 3 lbs or so, and I would measure the mound of meat by thirds, pop a third in a quart size zippered bag and flatten it. This makes more space in your freezer and helps the meat to freeze (and thaw) more quickly! Plus, you know it's about a pound of meat when you pull it out. One thing I started later (when the kids were gone) is freezing large can or jar contents. If I didn't, I would have too much or it would spoil before we finished it. So, if I open a jar of salsa and know we won't use it all right away, I will freeze the rest in a freezer container and get out it when I need it later! It's a great way to keep things lasting a much longer time which, in turn, saves you money.
Breads and Biscuits - Getting breads, buns or rolls on sale and then freezing them is a good way to always have some bread in the house and keep it fresher longer. Just be sure if it will be in the freezer for a while that it is sealed well. Don't over buy and keep too much because after time it will get freezer burn. If you like canned biscuits, but you won't eat all eight biscuits at one meal, freeze them after they are baked. They keep great and taste just as warm and yummy when you microwave them for a few seconds. Just wrap one or two in a paper towel and zap for about 25 - 30 seconds. No thawing required. *I bought a few cans of biscuits on sale and it was getting close to the dates on the cans, so I baked a couple cans at once then froze them all. They were great!
Easy Gardening - I never really learned how to truly garden, so all the great grocery saving hacks you can do with your own garden are endless and out of my scope of knowledge. However, I do container garden with herbs, peppers and have even grown tomatoes here and there. Herbs are my favorite, and I love a variety. However, there are only so many herbs you can eat in a season and some herb plants are just annual plants, so when the season is over they are done. I try to harvest the leaves as much as possible, clean them and let them air dry then freeze them on trays and put them in zippered bags in the freezer. These are great alternatives to drying the herbs and it gives a fresh herb taste when you use them in meals. I have done small peppers like this too. I just cut them up, getting rid of seeds (especially if they are hot peppers) and then freeze them on trays and pop into bags as well. These peppers keep forever and are great for cooking. With jalapenos, keeping them for a while might lessen their heat, but, I will use them as a substitute for a green bell pepper in some recipes. Since they aren't hot but just add a nice flavor, they are great. Herbs and peppers can be expensive depending or unavailable certain times of the year so they are great to keep on hand in the freezer! *You can freeze a halved Serrano or small pepper with the seeds to use in a sauce, but, already diced peppers are great to freeze because they are so easy to use in a recipe. They not only save money, but time as well!
Don't Throw it Away! - Chicken and other meat bones, vegetable scraps and herb stems are items you would normally throw away. But I don't! After you have had a roasted chicken (or turkey, or pork chops) and you have removed all the meat from the bones, pop the carcass in a freezer bag and freeze it. Later, you can pull out the carcass, add it to a big pot of water and simmer it with some veggies and herbs to make a great broth! Just strain out all the stuff (this time throwing it away) and freeze the broth to use in soups, stews and recipes. Freezing the peels, stems and scraps of veggies and herbs is a great way to add flavor to your bones as you simmer away. Don't keep rotten portions of the vegetables or herbs, but clean peels, stems of herbs, ends of onions and garlic, mushroom stems and more. There are all sorts of recipes on the internet on how to make your own broth or stock. I read them for ideas, but, I seldom use a whole onion, or carrot or any other vegetable because once they are simmered for such a long time they really aren't fit to eat. Who wants to discard perfectly good food like that? So, using the scraps is not only cost effective, but a delicious way to add flavor to so many meals.
There are so many things you can do to save money in the grocery store. Using some of these food hacks is a way to stretch your food farther and have as little waste as possible. For me, that is a satisfying feeling.
Until Next Time!
Jen Lush--Associate Broker & Mother of a Managing Broker