Mama Say What?! is the new name for Thrifty Guardian.
If you’re like me, your grandparents had at least one chest or deep freezer or a spare fridge/freezer combo in their basement. My grandparents had both – a 30-year-old fridge/freezer and a newer chest freezer, and they were both stocked ALL the time. I believe it’s a byproduct of growing up in the Depression and not knowing if you’d have food at a later date. However, in any case, it was good economy to keep these simple appliances on hand.
My grandfather grew two extensive gardens (probably 1/8th acre altogether, which was impressive for city living), and my grandmother was a master grocery shopper and canner. With their powers combined, there was always canning, harvesting, freezing, and meal-smithing going on in their household. I reaped the benefits: fresh summer and fall produce and delicious pickled and canned foods in the winter. Because of this, their freezers were always full of veggies, fruit, and meat – all homegrown or bought when it was on sale. In the long run, this saved immense amounts of money because they planned meals on what was handy and on sale, not based on what sounded good at that moment.
Investing in a Chest Freezer: A Cool Way to Save
To Freeze or Not to Freeze
The first step is getting one if you don’t already have a chest freezer. I can’t speak to the most efficient new models, but I CAN suggest looking on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or garage sales and finding one that way. Chest freezers ideally should be incredibly simple – a rectangular, insulated box with a compressor to keep food frozen. That’s it – it doesn’t need dials, buttons or whistles to work. A decent freezer might run between $150 to $500 new, but a good used one will cost a fraction of that. I’ve seen them sometimes go for $50 to $100, which would be a steal at those prices. So, once you’ve found a freezer, the next thing is to learn how best to utilize it.
Farmer’s Market Finds
Depending on where you are in the country, your local farmer’s market or co-op is probably winding down its offerings, coming into fall crops like squash, corn, apples, etc. At this point, as peak season for a lot of summer offerings is waning, you can find drastically reduced produce that is nearing the end of its optimal eating period. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up, though! Any vegetation, save for lettuce, is freezable without reducing quality or nutrition significantly. Chop up fruit into bite-size pieces and freeze in freezer bags and they should be good for up to 9 months. Berries are great because you don’t need to do anything, and frozen berries are perfect for smoothies straight from your chest freezer. Hit up the farmer’s market, pick up everything you think you’d eat, and cool it down!
You can always find great deals on meat and produce at the grocery store. I already love Aldi, and one main reason is that as meat gets close to its “sell by” date, they mark it down drastically. It’s not uncommon to see meat, at their already very low prices, marked $1, $2, or even more off the marked price. Taking it home and freezing it immediately (or after some minor prep work) will save tremendous money. Most meat is still great up to about six months.
Fruits and vegetables are the same way – an excessive influx of produce or reduced sales one week might mean deep discounts the next. Get in there and reap the benefits! You can peel and freeze nearly overripe bananas and use them in smoothies or as a base for healthy ice cream.
You can even freeze eggs and butter if you’re so inclined. Butter freezes very well because of its low water content, and eggs can be cracked into ice cube trays to freeze them for up to 6 months.
Keeping your eye out for cheap meat and produce and some great sales on pasta or other staples can aid in another money-and-time-saving technique I love meal prep!
A friend bought a tremendous amount of green peppers for essentially .25c a pepper and then ground beef in bulk. Coupled with rice she had on hand and some cheap tomato sauce, she prepped up dozens of stuffed peppers and froze them in her chest freezer. Prepped meals like this keep great for generally at least three months, and can be popped out of the freezer on a busy night or for a quick lunch in the microwave. Saving time and money? Absolutely, sign me up!
Hurry Up and Freeze!
With some preparation, investigation, and patience, you can find a cheap deep freezer and put it to good use. Whether you’ve got a bumper crop from your garden, a healthy CSA (community-supported agriculture/co-op), or a neighbor who likes to give you all their extra tomatoes and zucchini, you can find use for all of it. Being able to meal prep, store, and save money simultaneously makes a chest freezer a brilliant investment that is cheap to maintain and fix, making it an incredible tool in your money-saving arsenal!
Do you own an extra fridge or deep freezer? What’s your favorite thing to freeze and save up on?
More From Mama Say What?!
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi