Jun 15, 2005

The Frugal Freezer

One of the best methods I have found to save money on groceries is to freeze things. On any given day if you look into my freezer you will see a variety of frozen items such as homemade pancakes, roasted bell peppers, freshly ground bread crumbs and overly ripe bananas.

Here are some of my favorite ways to freeze foods that might have otherwise been thrown away as well as foods that need to be preserved for a later date.

Flash Freeze - Items such as pancakes, roasted bell peppers, uncooked biscuits and balls of cookie dough will stick together when frozen if you don't flash freeze them first. So what is flash freezing? It simply means that you lay your food out on a cookie sheet and place it (unwrapped) in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the food is frozen solid. At that point you remove the food and place it in zipper bags or plastic containers and place it back in the freezer.

Freeze Bananas - I can't say it enough times, do not throw away those over ripe bananas! Put them in the freezer to use in recipes. Among other things you can use them for banana bread, pancakes, muffins, french toast and smoothies. Or you can just eat them frozen just as they are!

Use Ice Cube Trays - Some things like lemon or lime juice, sofrito, tomato sauce, tomato paste, baby foods and any other soft or liquid items you use in small quantities are best frozen in ice cube trays. Once you fill your trays and freeze the item overnight, turn them upside down under hot running water for a couple seconds and your cubes will pop out much easier. Store the cubes in ziploc bags for your recipes.

Save your bread ends! - I always save the ends of loaves of bread. They can be used for bread pudding, bread crumbs (just toss them in your food processor and pulse), croutons and bread cubes for stuffing.

Save your "scraps" - I always toss small things like the end of a beef roast, a half chicken breast or leftover cooked or chopped raw vegetables into ziploc bags and freeze them. They can later be used for soups, stews, sandwiches, casseroles, pizza or pasta toppings or even snacks.

Prepare ahead - If you know you will be needing to bake 3 dozen cookies for your school bake sale or a few loaves of pumpkin bread for holiday gift giving, bake them ahead of time and freeze them. As long as you package your items well in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil or zip lock bags they will last up to a month in the freezer.

Double the recipe - If you are preparing a recipe that freezes well such as spaghetti sauce, lasagna, beans or chili, why not make a double batch and freeze the second batch for a future meal so you can give yourself a day off from cooking in the future. This idea works especially well if you have a food saver.

Make The Most of the Harvest - When fruits and vegetables are in season and on sale it's time to get ready to freeze! Many people can their fruits and vegetables but since I am not skilled at this task I freeze mine. I often buy an abundance of bell peppers, onions, berries, squash, and other vegetables to freeze. I just chop them as I would use for recipes, bag them in ziploc bags and put them in the freezer.

If you make the most of your freezer space you will be pleasantly surprised on how much time and money you can save.

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