It's so hot I can barely think. Here in Austin it has been over 100°F every day for weeks on end. All I want to do is crawl into the freezer. So, that's what I'm going to do, virtually, anyway. Maybe just focusing on cool, cold, icy things will lower my body temperature. And in the meantime you can hopefully benefit from climbing in there with me to see why the freezer is my money-saving friend. Here's what's in my freezer right now:
6 Ice Trays
Having plenty of ice on hand makes it easy to create truly satisfying homemade versions of icy drinks that cost a lot more when you buy them. I make my own smoothies, I mix up cocktails-with or without alcohol, and sparkling fruit juice (mineral water with a little juice) is one of the most refreshing things on a hot afternoon…not to mention a tall glass of ice water.
If you've read my blog a few times, you'll know I rely on sausage for budget meals. Whenever it's on sale I buy a few packages or pounds so I'll always have it on hand for pasta salad, beans, pizza, etc.
A fast, affordable dinner solution, for sure, but I also take them for lunch. I simply take a veggie burger and a bun to work frozen and put them in the toaster oven together. Another container holds sliced pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato. I always keep mustard and hot sauce at work.
Ground Beef, Bison and Turkey
I buy ground meat when it's on sale or in a "value pack" and then divide it up into small packages at home before freezing. My method is to wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil, then label each with the date, what it is and about how much it weighs.
For the aforementioned veggie burgers, or bison, beef or turkey burgers.
Whole Wheat Tortillas and Whole Wheat Pita
They thaw quickly in the microwave, steamer or skillet and tacos, wrap sandwiches and mini pizzas are always a good way to use up leftovers. I also toast the pita to make pita chips for serving with hummus.
I use the slow cooker to make a big batch, then freeze portions in either empty glass jars or freezer bags. They will thaw in the fridge in a day or faster in the microwave. I'm sure I don't need to expound on the value benefits of beans.
Shrimp and Scallops
IQF (individually quick frozen) shrimp and scallops are one of the best value meal options. You can take out however much you need and leave the rest right there for another meal. You don't need much of these to add a lot of flavor to a rice or pasta dish. You can get cooked shrimp like this, too, and just thaw them to put on a salad.
For those smoothies! And again, they're IQF. I always heat some frozen fruit in a little honey or maple syrup to top waffles (also in my freezer) to get a serving of fruit. Sometimes I'll put a spoonful of yogurt on top.
Walnuts & Cranberries
I'm a sucker for an entrée salad with these (along with blue cheese crumbles), so I keep them in the freezer and never have to go to a restaurant to get my fix. I sometimes toss these into brown rice to make a simple pilaf. Other nuts are nice to have on hand in the freezer, too.
Bacon eaters know that a teaspoonful of bacon fat transforms a batch of greens into an entirely different type of deliciousness. Whenever I cook bacon, I let the pan cool completely so the fat thickens, then use a rubber spatula to scrape it into a bacon jar and store in the freezer.
Other than homegrown pesto in small freezer bags, some IQF frozen veggies and occasional fruit pops (I have vowed to start making those myself, too), that's about it for my summer freezer. What's in yours that helps you in your quest for budget meals?