Here's a peek at my pantry madness:
You might remember my old post where I changed my back closet into my pantry and organized it. It works really well for a huge amount of storage, which in turn lets me buy things when they're on sale and spend less at the store.
The other big gun in this system is my freezer. I love my giant upright freezer. It was money well spent that has paid for itself over and over again.
If it wasn't for the freezer, I would have to buy things when I need them, instead of when they're on sale. I also would have to pay for meat at the grocery store - which is more expensive and less healthy then meat from your local farm - or in our case, yard.
Here's a how to on freezing food:
I freeze it right in the bag it comes in from the store. Just make sure you have a place that it won't get squashed. I've tried to store it in the baskets on the bottom before, but once it's frozen, it gets hard to slide out. I just throw it right in front.
To thaw: set it on the counter overnight. It should be ready in the morning. Rarely, the edges can get a little stale. Just use that part for toast or bread crumbs. I routinely freeze the bread (and cakes) from the clearance rack at Walmart to use later - usually for french toast or garlic bread. Make sure you freeze any clearance items as soon as you get home.
Pour out a cup of milk to allow for the expansion of the liquid in the freezer. If you notice the freezer picture above, there's a creamy white blob on the second gallon of milk. That's because I didn't take enough milk out of that one. If you don't take a little out before freezing there's a chance that the milk could burst in your freezer. You don't want that. To thaw: Set it in the fridge for at least a day. I put it on a dish towel to soak up the sweat. I also give it a shake every time I open the fridge. Ronnie says he can taste the difference between fresh milk and frozen, but I serve him milk that's been frozen all the time and unless he tastes an ice crystal, he never knows the difference.
*Anytime milk is priced less than $2.99, I pick up extra to freeze. I use it up within the month.
I throw it in the freezer, box and all, straight from Sam's. To thaw: I pull out however many I think I'll use in the next week (usually half a box) and let them thaw in the fridge. I put them in a clear shoebox (the cheapo $1 ones from Walmart). It keeps any sweat from making a mess in your fridge.
*Aldi brand Gogurt (MooTubes) are on sale frequently and I buy as many and I can afford and freeze them. They last 3-4 months.
If it's a brick of cheese, I keep it in the original package and put it in the freezer as it. If it's a giant shredded bag from Sam's (the cheapest place I can find for cheese), I separate it into 4 freezer ziplock type bags, squeeze the air out and seal. To thaw: Put in the shoebox for at least a day.
I freeze cream cheese when it's on sale just like it's packaged. I put it in the door of the freezer - it fit's perfectly. A word of caution - the consistency will change some. It's not good to use for bagels or dips after being frozen. It's perfect to use for baking or icing or our favorite, homemade Alfredo sauce. To thaw: put it in the fridge for a day.
*Savings: I picked up a case of cream cheese (24) when it was on sale after Thanksgiving at $0.89 a pack. I'm down to 10 packs and it still is fine.
Freeze it right in it's package from the store. Thaw it in the fridge for a day, although sometimes I just leave it on the counter. My grandma left butter on the counter all the time so it would be soft. I don't know if it's a food safety issue or not. Use your own discretion on this one.
*I bought a case of butter (24) when it was on sale after Thanksgiving at $1.69/pound. I'm still using it and it's just fine. I usually try to pick up butter when it's under $2 a pound.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. All meat - even the pretty meat you find in the freshly cut grocery store meat counter - has been frozen at one point or another. Ronnie's cousin is a butcher and he said the meat that arrives at the store is frozen. It is then thawed and cut in shop. Basically, unless your the one doing the killing and the grilling, chances are strong that it's been frozen. Meat is easy to freeze and will keep for up to a year if packaged properly. I'll use Ziplock bags for short term storage (less than 1-2 months), but for long term storage, I use freezer paper or a vacuum sealer. To thaw: place in shoe box and thaw for 1-2 days.
*I try to buy meat when the price is less than $2 for pork loin or chicken breast and less than $1 for chicken thighs or legs. I also stock up on whole turkeys when they're on sale around Christmas and whole hams when they're on sale at Easter. We raise our own cow, so our price for beef is an average of $2.69 for everything - ground beef, steaks, roast, ect.
Keeping a stockpile at home allows me to not have to run to the store when I'm out of something. Mostly because I don't run out of things that we use regularly.
You're going to eat, you might as well plan ahead and save some money!