Want to cut your grocery bill? Stock up on sale items to save on food and keep them longer with these smart storage tips!
Loading up on staples when they go on sale is a great way to slash your food bill. But what, exactly, do you do with 15 pounds of chicken quarters when you get them home? You’ve probably had the experience of stocking up on groceries just to unearth them months later from the back of your freezer or cupboard. Don’t let your bargains go to waste. Mary Ostyn, author of "Family Feasts for $75 a Week," shares her tips for portioning, prepping and storing your food. The payoff? You’ll spend less money, keep ingredients fresher longer and save precious time in the kitchen!
When it comes to ground beef, buy several family-size packages at a time. The last thing you want to do is toss eight pounds
of beef in the freezer as it is, even with the help of the trusty microwave. It is ridiculously hard to get a large block
of meat thawed. I usually cook ground beef as soon as I get it home, or form it uncooked into hamburgers or make meatballs
or meatloaf that go into the freezer
I buy beef or pork roasts on sale, then cut them into slabs myself. I use the pork for pork chops, or I’ll cut it into smaller pieces for stir-fries. Freeze the pork chops in gallon-size ziptop plastic bags, enough for a single meal. Quart-size bags are good for a meal’s worth of stir-fry meat.
Cut the beef into cubes for stews or strips for stir-fry. The more cutting you can do before the meat hits the freezer, the quicker your meals will come together. An alternative is to buy a roast that’s big enough for Sunday dinner, plus pulled pork sandwiches for lunch on Monday, plus meat to add to a stir-fry on Tuesday. Don’t worry about not being able to eat it all. It is always an advantage to have cooked meat in the freezer.
Often, 10-pound bags of legs and thighs are very economical―yes, those big, drippy plastic bags. They’re not so pleasant to handle, but at 70 cents per pound, you can quickly learn to get over any squeamishness. Some of the chicken I cook, then shred or chop and freeze it. I also freeze some pieces whole for a single meal. For my family that would be about a dozen pieces, but your family may need only six thighs or drumsticks to make a single meal.
I often buy grated cheese in five-pound packets. The easiest way to handle this amount is to put it into the freezer as is. I just thump the bag on the counter a few times before opening it. Usually enough cheese will release from the frozen clump for my meal. Occasionally, it is inconvenient to have all my cheese frozen, like when I want to serve some along with a baked potato or as a topping with a taco meal. You might also consider repackaging a five-pound package of cheese into zip-top plastic bags.
Fruits keep best if you remove them from the plastic bag you brought them home in before placing them in the crisper drawer. (This is also true of green and red peppers.)
Tomatoes also do best when they are taken out of the bag. Leave them on the counter until use. Cold actually has a negative effect on their flavor.
For zucchini, cucumbers, green beans and grapes, place a paper towel in the plastic bag you brought them home in but leave
the bag open. The paper towel will soak up extra moisture and prevent rot. The paper-towel treatment also works for lettuce,
but close the bag.
Too much water dramatically shortens lettuce’s life, so use a salad spinner to get the extra water off after washing it. If you don’t want to pay full price for this gizmo, check in thrift stores. Or put your lettuce in a clean pillowcase and have a child spin around in a circle outside (This burns off pre-dinner energy, too!)
I store garlic, potatoes and onions in baskets in my pantry. Store onions apart from other vegetables, since fumes will speed
spoilage of other vegetables. Otherwise, store garlic and potatoes in baskets in the pantry.
To organize dried goods such as beans, powdered sugar, brown sugar and raisins, I use rectangular plastic storage boxes the
size of shoeboxes.
In my pantry I have a couple of 18-gallon plastic bins with snap tops that slide underneath the lowest shelf. In these bins I store opened bags of things that I buy in bulk, such as 25-pound sacks of flour, sugar and oats. This keeps them fresher longer and avoids any problems with bugs. If you don’t have a pantry, consider using under-bed storage or garage shelves for some of these items.