Thursday, January 30, 2014

All Things Food and Meals: Part 2

I promised this was going to be a multi-part posting on food, meals, groceries, possibly budgeting (not sure if I'm ready to tackle that topic just yet) here we are at Part 2.  Last time I showed you my meal planning station:
Ain't she a beaut?  Well, another thing that my family relies on is our deep freeze.  Now, I'm aware that some of you may not have space for such a thing, but they come in all shapes and sizes and you may be surprised to find that there may be one just perfect for you.  Like how I'm talking about a deep freeze like it's a significant other?  Years ago, we received our deep freeze as a Christmas gift from my in-laws (thanks again!), and while it may not seem like a "fun" item for a gift, it's saved us loads of money.  Aaaaannnndddd, let's face it, once you get to be my age, 25 (OK, 33), receiving a gift for the home is a luxury!  We did get to choose what type of deep freeze we wanted, and we went with the chest.  Mostly because this specific one had more square footage than a standing deep freeze (like a big ol' fridge).  Here's my baby:
"Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh" (those are angels singing).  But really, this sucker has saved us a lot of money over the 10 years we've owned it.  How?  Well, let me tell you.  There are certain foods that we use a LOT of in this house, mostly:  beef (mostly ground beef), chicken (mostly breasts, but hindquarters are great on the grill in the summer), butter, and shredded cheese.  When any of these items go on sale, and we're running low, it's time to stock up!  For example:  Hy-Vee (the local grocery store around here...that we don't usually shop at but sometimes has great deals - post on grocery stores/shopping coming soon) had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.88/lb.  Since we have this chest of frigid temps, we stocked up on it.  As a matter of fact, Sweet Pickle and myself were the "crazy" people walking around the store with a cart FULL of chicken (juice was on sale too so we did have some of that!).  And another example is shredded cheese, it is on sale THIS WEEK FOLKS, again, at Hy-Vee, for $1.00/2 cup bag!!!  This is a steal!!!  I realize that we could easily buy block cheese when it's on sale and grate it ourselves, but let me tell you something:  I do NOT have a great relationship with our grater.  I ALWAYS, I mean it, ALWAY grate my knuckles - never fails.  And, I do like the ease of the bagged shredded cheeses.  Here's what our stock looks like (I'm kind of embarrassed):
I know it seems crazy, but we really do eat a lot of meals with cheese in it (pizza, lasagna, tacos, foil packs, tater tot casserole, goulash, stuffed breads), and the kids LOVE to eat it.  It's messy as all get out, but if they like it, I'll vacuum.   Another thing you'll notice is that wire basket the cheese is in.  We currently have two of these in the deep freeze to make it a little more convenient to grab items.  It's a very deep, deep freeze (double meaning on the whole 'deep freeze' thing huh?), so to get to the bottom...well, let's just say you could get lost.  These baskets are from The Container Store, and they were $9.99 each.  Here is a glimpse of inside the freezer (minus the cheese of course):
We also like to buy things in bulk, ONLY if we use it often.  We buy tater tots from Walmart at $5.00 for a 5lb. bag.  We do the same thing for french fries (I like to make my own as well!).  As for beef, we actually purchase a half a cow from a local beef man, big initial payment, but per pound, it's much cheaper and we are well stocked for about 6 months.  We almost always run out of ground beef, so we keep our eyes peeled for Fareway (another local store here) to have a sale.  It's always cheaper to purchase the 10lb. tube of ground beef (that sounds really gross now that I'm typing it) and separate it yourself.  I make a double batch of cookie dough, form balls, freeze them and put 24/freezer bag.  We then just bake a dozen when we want a warm cookie.

 Here is what is on the lid of the freezer:
This dry erase board helps us to keep track of what's in the freezer without having to constantly open it.  Now, the trick is to make sure you mark off what you've taken so the inventory stays current...we slack on this but I'm hoping we can get better.  All of what you see is written in permanent marker, these are the items we always have or will have.  We just use the dry erase marker to write down the amounts and the miscellaneous items that rotate through from time to time.  Very helpful...but not very pretty is it?
Much better!  Washi tape to the rescue!  In summary, our freezer has helped us to stock up on items as they go on sale for use later.  Items such as the coveted shredded cheese, runs as high as $2.12/2 cup bag (Walmart), so when it's only $1.00/2 cup bag - you're already looking at a $1.12 savings, on ONE item!!!  There you have it, another must have in our home organizing!

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