There’s a local grocery chain that marks down meat a few days before expire, deeply. I don’t usually frequent this store, for various reasons, but I will head there on the days that I know they’re putting out discounted meat. If I prepare and freeze it right away, it’s a great cheap thrill.
By prepare, I mean cook, marinate, portion and/or repackage. Then it goes into the upright freezer, to be kept at a lovely 0 degrees until its predestination: our table. I like to make burgers, or cook ground beef, adding some taco seasoning, or just onion and garlic, for quick-thaw meals. Roasts sometimes get cut down, and “value” packages get separated into meal sizes. Once the meat is portioned and prepared, I’ll repackage it in Foodsaver bags, or in double quart Ziploc freezer bags if there’s a lot of marinade (squeezing all the air out).
I’ll often cook entire meals, or at least the meat portion, when I get super deals. The other day I had 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts to use fast, so I cooked up a sesame chicken recipe I’ve been meaning to try, just the chicken and sauce, with vegs to be added later and heated in the microwave. There’s already rice in the freezer. This week BagNSave has 10# bags of chicken quarters on sale. (You must find the still-frozen bags, though.) One day soon I’ll toss the quarters in two Crock Pots and cook them all day; then I’ll debone and chunk them, and repackage the meat for the freezer. The bones and defatted juices will be the start of some great stock, which will also go in the freezer.
So how does this help with hot weather cooking? If you’re going to cook one pound of ground beef once a week, that’s four times per month you’re going through the same motions and heating up the kitchen. If you cook four pounds one time, then just thaw and reheat, you save energy and effort. When that reheating is done in the microwave, you keep your cool, as well as the kitchen’s. You spend less time making a list, going to the store, and standing in line — let’s not discuss the gas! — when you repackage large quantities.
But not just large quantities (a la warehouse stores) — large quantities at bargain prices. How does .60/pound ground chuck grab you? Or $1.29/pound turkey thighs for the grill? Or even perfectly portioned chicken breasts at .50 each? No, I don’t find these deals every week, or even every month. But when I can get 9 pounds of gb for $6, and have it ready in the freezer, I know I’m saving 80% on that, which will last more than a month!
Right now I know what I have in the freezer (defrosted and refilled this week, complete with inventory), and am confident that I can feed my family well for at least two months from the freezer and the pantry. That means that from now on, I only have to buy bargains. Well, along with the milk, bread and fresh vegs. In the next two months, I am sure that I will find good food to replenish the coffers, at 50-60% off, but I’ll strive for 80% off. I don’t have to increase my food budget dramatically if I use my time and energy wisely.
This process isn’t just for hot weather, but it sure makes sense right now, especially with the heat beating down these August days, and with back-to-school schedules rearing their ever-changing heads with evil grins of havoc. I have my force-field of freezer deals to protect us. Super Shopper? Nah, just Cheap Thrills!