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Freezing Leftovers, a Great Way to Save Money

The price of groceries is outrageous. Is anyone else noticing that?

I needed to pick up a few things last Friday, and it happened to be the week between paychecks. I try to only shop on pay weeks, but sometimes there's no help for it. I went in after what used to cost around $30.00 to $40.00 a few years ago. I was shocked to pay over $70.00, and I didn't even buy any meat.

I'm not someone who has loads of money to throw around, so I tend to be on the conservative side of spending. I take my lunch to work every day. I eat at home nearly every night. I admit to enjoying a fast-food breakfast once in a while, but I usually keep it under $5.00 when I indulge. You see, I only get order a sandwich, never the full meal with the hashbrowns.

One of the ways I make lunch and suppertime easier on myself and save money in the process is by freezing my leftovers in individual servings. For example, I made a large pot of vegetable beef stew last Saturday. My husband and I ate two meals from that pot, and I froze the remainder. Now, anytime I want a good homemade meal without the hassle, all I have to do is defrost and heat up my stew.

Making my own frozen meals saves a great deal of money, and I dare say my homemade fare is a might healthier than most of the frozen meals you can buy at the grocery store. Have you ever looked at the sodium content of those commercially frozen meals? Plus, the ones I like, the Healthy Choice, usually cost $3.00 and up.

When I got my first apartment back in the 90s, Aunt Alma called me to share with me some sage advice. My great-aunt lived in California, and she was the epitome of independence and self-reliance. In addition to advising me to not make special trips to the store, only stopping when I was already going to be in the area, she told me to never waste my leftovers. She said with access to a microwave oven, there was no excuse for eating lunch out every day. She explained how by making a good size meal and freezing what was left, I would always have something good to take to work with me.

Did I follow Aunt Alma's words of wisdom right away? Of course not. I was young and dumb. I nearly bankrupted myself with fast food and takeout the first couple of years and wondered why I never had enough money to pay my bills.

Then I wised up. The blinders came off, and I took a good hard look at what I was spending and where. It was surprising then, but it would be absolutely shocking now if I were to repeat that ill-conceived behavior.

My aunt was right. By the time I got married and began to feed not only myself, but a husband and two step kids, I was adept at cutting corners and pinching pennies. Our dinners may not have been gourmet, but they were made with love and cost a lot less than ordering pizza. As the years passed, my skills grew.

I've frozen several different kinds of meals. Chili freezes particularly well. At the moment, I have sloppy joes, chili, French toast, vegetable chicken soup, vegetable beef stew, black-eyed peas, and ham for sandwiches all ready and waiting in my deepfreeze.

What I usually do is take my meal of choice out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before I want to eat it for lunch. While this takes a modicum of planning, it's no extra work. Then, I pop my container into my lunch box and keep it in the fridge at work until lunchtime.

The last time I took chicken soup to work with me, I did have to finish defrosting it for a couple minutes before warming it up. However, within five minutes, I was enjoying a hot, healthy homemade meal that I prepared with my own hands a couple months before.

Freezer bags and freezer containers work equally well. I have learned to label my frozen meals from experience. I thought I was thawing soup one day, but it turned out to be pumpkin puree. I've labeled everything since.

I hope my little seeds of wisdom will help you save some time, energy, and money. Freezing leftovers and taking them for lunch or eating them for dinner at a later date a simple and effective way to save money and cut food waste. It's win-win.

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