Many of the specials that I bring up on Happy Ad Tuesday posts are with an eye toward stocking up. The chicken walk-through that I posted earlier was a step-by-step way to deal with a bulk purchase. But what about fruit? vegetables? that 3lb sack of spinach I can’t resist at Costco? Taking advantage of good prices is smart, but only if you don’t end up throwing away four cartons of moldy berries in a few days.
We all have the staples we know our family will always eat–my kids will always eat berries, my husband will eat a caesar salad with every meal if I put it on the plate. Stocking up when you see something you know is a staple on sale, and knowing how to store it, can really help your grocery budget. Even better? When you’re not wanting to shop, or don’t have time, your stored items let you ‘shop’ from your pantry/freezer/fridge, and make a great healthy meal, and not stop at Torchy’s for something trashy (that’s their word for ‘with queso’)( I think it should be ‘awesome’ since putting queso on something is good)(I wasn’t consulted, though, and since they have about five restaurants on Lamar alone, and I’m a chick writing a grocery blog, I’ll have to concede they might know better).
If you’re not used to making purchases of size, it can be tricky to process. First, how to save this stuff you bought? Does it need to turn into something else first, or can it be frozen as-is? Should it be canned (holy cow! more about that later)? I’ve had canning phases, freezing phases, and drying phases.
Currently, I’m in a freezing phase. I feel it is the least work for the most reward. This relies, though, on me having a deep freeze. With the smaller freezer of a usual kitchen fridge/freezer, you need to be circumspect and calculate that into your choices when shopping. The only reason I do have a deep freeze is because it’s built into the house. When we moved in, the people we bought our home from realized they’d added onto a room in such a way that they couldn’t remove the freezer without destroying a portion of the room. Turns out, if you’ve got a contract on a house they can’t just tear stuff up willy-nilly, so we kept the freezer.
Drying is a great thing. When grapes are 99c or less? My kids make raisins on the sidewalk in front of our house. Jerky is a snack we all will take anywhere. Fruit leather, sun-dried tomatoes, and any kind of dried fruit are all cheaper when you buy on sale and process. The trade-off is time, as drying isn’t speedy, and there’s a learning curve. A lot of jerky recipes say, “Slice thinly and put in oven on lowest setting.” That’s not always going to work for every situation, so you’ve also got to put time in experimenting.
Canning. We’ll talk about canning another time. If you’ve got questions, throw them in the comments, and I’ll address them. I feel like this needs a whole post of its own because of the volume of information. It’s not enough to say, “Hey! Can things, when you can!”(ho ho ho). So I’m tagging that for a future post.
I am going to run through a few things I do regularly to take advantage of prices and keep myself stocked up on things we all eat. These won’t all apply to you–maybe you hate spinach, I don’t know (but really, if you’re eating kale? spinach is like Royal Kale). I’m hoping you’ll read something you can use, as well as something that will spark an idea in you as a way for you to use Happy Ad Tuesday as a way to stock up and save up.
Spinach (hereafter called Royal Kale): I buy this in the BIG sacks at Costco. Not the box, the goofily large sacks. When I get home, I blanch it all, and freeze it in portions. I’ve thrown away enough of these sacks that I know this is the only thing to do. I buy it thinking, “I will have a salad EVERY day for lunch. It will be awesome, and healthy, and look at all I have to do–toss spinach in a bowl with feta and pour dressing on it!” That never happens, and the sack takes up half a shelf in my fridge and goes that weird swamp-smelling stinky bad. So now I freeze it all, except for one salad worth. Which my daughter eats. Sometimes I vacuum seal them , but more often I freeze in small tupperwares, and then thaw enough to remove them and toss in a ziploc. The spinach is good for soup, omelets, creamed spinach, tossing with pasta, and pretty much anything not salad.
Berries: These get tossed in a ziploc when they’re getting a few days old. I don’t worry about freezing on a baking sheet so they won’t stick, or anything like that, because all these berries are going into smoothies. If it’s strawberries, I do cut the tops off. I keep this ongoing bag of berries, which gets added to all the time, next to the ongoing bag of bananas. Bananas don’t really go on sale too much–they’re like milk, a staple-low. But I often buy too many, or too ripe. All you need to do with them is peel, and then toss in a bag. I break mine into thirds, just to lessen the stress on my blender. This way, you’ve got bananas and berries right there waiting to be smoothies whenever you want! It’s great.
Ground meat: I walked you through chicken last week, but I’d like to point out another way to save. When brisket goes on sale, I buy a bunch and grind beef. I do this with my Kitchen Aid and the grinder attachment. For me to do this, I have to find brisket at $1.99/lb. That’s usually on holiday weekends–Labor Day, July the 4th, Memorial Day, what I like to call the Texas BBQ Meat Sale Holidays. I grind it and sack it up in 1 lb chunks. It’s cheaper than ground beef, and I know it is way less likely to get recalled. If you don’t have a grinder, you can still take advantage of this by buying brisket and chunking it up–I used to cut a whole brisket into fourths. Then I’d use that meat for stews, crockpot meals, or anything that wasn’t a stir-fry/quick heat recipe. Brisket, even when not whole, needs long slow cooking to get tender.
Eggs: Seriously, eggs keep so much longer than people think. They weren’t even refrigerated back in Little House days, and people ate them and went on to live full productive lives. Don’t throw out eggs past their date-give them a float test. Fill a glass half with water. Does the egg float in it? If yes, that’s a bad egg. Throw it away carefully, or you’re in for a big stink. When eggs are on sale (Easter) I buy a bunch.
Rice: This is a staple that goes on sale occasionally for 59c/lb, and I like to stock up. But I do not like pantry moths, which always seem to be rice-related. So I will stock up, but I keep my rice in old spaghetti sauce jars, canning jars or other glass recloseable jars, because that’s seemed to work for the past several years. There is also a school of thought that if you keep your rice in the freezer it’ll be safe because the eggs will be killed. But I’ve seen Aliens too many times, and don’t trust it.
Tomorrow I’ll get my Happy Ad Tuesday post up, likely about the same time as last week. I hope you’re finding deals, and shopping well. Cheep Cheep!