How to beat rising food costs — plan, plan, plan

Our frozen food inventory this year, The gravy is my home-made tomato sauce for pasta.

The beginning of every year is special in our house because it’s when we clean out our refrigerator’s freezer and the small freezer we have in our basement. What does that have to do with beating rising food costs? Read on and find out and see how you can save on your food bills with a little advanced planning.

The first rule of smart shopping for me has always been to shop sales and stock up on sale items whenever possible. That’s why our freezers are full. When I see salmon go to $6.99 or lower at a local supermarket, for example, I buy several large fillets, cut them into individual portions and freeze them for future meals. The same with another staple of my heart-healthy diet, extra-lean ground beef.

If I see 95% lean ground beef on sale for $5.99 a pound or less, I buy several pounds, turn some into hamburgers and save the rest for meatloaf, all in my freezers.

Think you can’t stock up on vegetables on sale? Think again. WE all like fresh veggies best, but they have limited shelf life — unless you cook them and then freeze them in portion-sized bags for future use. Or, watch for frozen veggie sales. Nutritionally they are the same as fresh and will keep in your freezer as well. I recently bought bags of frozen spinach, frozen peas and frozen broccoli for 99 cents per 12-ounce bag. That’s about $1.32 a pound.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you have to eat all that frozen food in a timely manner. The longer it stays frozen, the more chance of freezer burn and other unappetizing things happening to it.

We started February by making a list of everything we have frozen. It turns out we had frozen protein for 28 meals for the two of us. Given we normally have take-out two nights a week, that translates into almost six weeks of meals for us. We had about eight meals of frozen veggies to go with the protein, so I’ve been shopping veggie sales, recently getting asparagus for 99 cents a pound, for example, and broccoli for $1.29 a pound.

So in these times of rising prices, start your food planning with each week’s sale flyers from your local stores (always shop at more than one if at all possible in your area). Note the sale items that are heart-healthy (fish, lean meats, white-meat chicken, ground turkey etc), then plan your weekly menus around those. And remember to stock up!


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