I always tell family and friends the freezer and FoodSaver (or other vacuum sealer) are my kitchen friends, as I buy meat, cheeses, and food sale items in bulk whenever I can. Then I repackage for servings of 2-4 and vacuum seal and store or freeze for future use. I normally cook for two now that the kids are grown, and learned buying in bulk when all three were home and I HAD to be "frugal."
This helps to have a variety of ingredients or food items handy when needed, saving extra or last minute trips to the store. Even a small table top home freezer pays for itself quickly over time, as does a vacuum food sealer.
Minimize Waste Saves $$s:
- Green Bags (as seen on TV or shopping channels. Been using for 10 years, and never any produce waste. Each bag can be used around 10 times. Bags from cereal box inserts or crackers work well, too, for lunch meats and produce by keepeing it fresher longer.
- Vacuum Sealer: Been using for 10 years and no waste. Meats cheeses last for months and months. Bags are reusable. I especially like for homemade breads which can be frozen then sealed. Or cut, frozen and sealed.
- Pre-roasted grocery store chickens, especially on weekly specials are handy, and after using, I also use the carcass to make a quick, easy chicken soup, or soup stock. But chickens go on sale regularly, and are bigger, and more rewarding to roast at home. I always have at least 2 in the freezer, using one a week, and watching for sales.
- Inexpensive cuts of meat if cooked properly can yield 5 star menus: Italian beef, stews, chili, pot pies, BBQ beef, the possibilities seem endless to enjoy a variety of quality meals at home.
- 4 oz. of any beef, poultry or fish is "sensible." Served with adequate low cost sides, like a salad and veggie, or a carb like pasta, rice, potato is satifying. Portion control by the cook, saves money.
- When I find a good sale on produce basics like green peppers, celery, onions, especially during the summer at farmers markets or near the holidays, I take the time to chop and saute then freeze for future use in soups, stews.
- I've bought sacks of potatoes when on sale and use in variety of ways: dice or cube and saute with onions, cool then freeze. They are handy to have on hand for breakfast potatoes with eggs, or a side with fish. Some times I'll add green peppers for potatoes O'brin.
- As posted under recipes: Twice Baked Potatoes, I'll make several ahead of time and freeze, when they go on sale. If ambitious, prepare potatoes for french fries, fry quick to sear, but not done, then cool and freeze. Take out what you need and fry again until golden and crisp.
- Nuts of all kinds: walnut, pecans, pine nuts etc are spendy and spoil if not using up, but if you buy in bulk and store in freezer they last forever and you always have them on hand.
- Spices, herbs, seasonings are spendy in those little jars, but over time I discovered buying in bulk saves for spices used most often. Some restaurant supply stores have 1 lbs. containers, and online places sell in bulk. I refill my small containers/spice jars from my pantry of bulk containers. This is a great site to find them all and more: http://www.americanspice.com/
- Recycle/re-using jars: I am a sucker for saving attractive, sturdy glass containers or jars that often come from grocery store items, and save them for storing spices, home made dressings and more. Believe it or not, 30 years ago I bought a fancy blue cheese dressing and the jar was embossed, I still use it when making a batch of blue cheese dressing; also a hexagon shaped fancy mustard jar, received as a gift long ago, but saved and refilled when making homemade mustard sauces. I've avoided buying food in "plastic" containers whenever I can. Large quart jars, like those for pickles, are great for storing pastas or rices in the pantry.
- To save time when needing cooked rice, I make a large or double batch of plain white or Mexican rice in a rice cooker, or on the stove then freeze in pint bags. It's handy for adding to soups, have on hand for stir fry or other dishes served over rice.