Flickr Photo Credit: Memotions
I know when I first started using the once a month cooking and bulk buying strategies, I relied heavily on my large upright freezer to implement the process.
Why? Let’s face it, most of the ideas on the internet relate to the freezer when implementing once a month cooking and bulk preparation as well as bulk buying. Now that we are living remotely for a time, and with the only freezer being the small one over the top of our also very small refrigerator, I am having to really put some serious effort into new strategies to keep us on track with our savings and investment goals. Here are a few things I’m implementing now, or have tried in Arizona (particularly after the movers took our freezer) before we left.
- The once a month preparation of cabbage-ramen salad packets. This is posted under the bulk / o.a.m.c. recipe section of this blog. Basically, I chop and toast a bunch of almonds at once and set up several quart sized bags of the dry ingredients necessary to make the salad (including the seasoning packet for the dressing). Getting a couple dozen of these packets together and storing them all in an extra large resealable bag keeps us ready for the summer. Cabbage also keeps a while, and since we are remote, it’s an important part of my bulk shopping list (along with cases of chicken ramen, as you can imagine). This is one of many cabbage recipes we enjoy, and can be accomplished ahead of time without a freezer, and is very economical.
- Incorporating more canned goods into our menu selection. This strategy includes many areas. First, there are a few items I used to buy frozen that we just don’t any more. Canned corn is one of them. I really don’t see a difference in quality between frozen and canned. Since we are in dire need of all the freezer space we can get over the fridge, this was sort of a no-brainer. Also, when our larger freezer was available, I used a lot of savings ideas involving ice cube trays. For example, I would buy the larger cans of tomato sauce and paste at the warehouse store and break them down into frozen cubes which would then be stored in a larger freezer bag. Now, I’m having to just get comfortable with buying cases of the smaller cans of puree, sauce and paste when it comes to my tomato products. Since I don’t have room to do bulk spaghetti sauce for the freezer anyway, that’s two major reasons to make the switch. It’s still saving money to do it this way, and if it’s not the cheapest all time way to do it, it’s the cheapest I can come up with given our current situation. I’m also implementing more canned meats and fish. For example, the large double packs of canned clams available at the warehouse store are becoming a major staple in our house. Creamy clam Alfredo, red clam spaghetti sauce, clam and corn chowder and other types of recipes involving this product are becoming more a regular part of our diet. Feeling like you have no way to cook with style can get pretty boring when living in a bush-type situation. These large cans of clams have been really helpful. Canned salmon is another item that can be used for chowder, casserole, fish cakes and yummy appetizer spreads. Tuna can give you lunch sandwich fillings and casserole options. Other canned meats may also be helpful. I just haven’t found a way to justify the huge cost difference in my mind, yet. If you have, or know of a more affordable source for them, please let us know!
- Getting comfortable with powdered milk. Seriously, this will save you more money and space than several other ideas combined.
- Putting a larger focus on the once a month bulk preparation of dry mix recipes that can be used for numerous meals. There’s nothing wrong with bulk cake mix either ladies, but I’m talking about things that you can use for actual nutritionally-based meal preparation for your family. Here’s an example. In Arizona, I had a bread machine that a good friend gave to me. I used the recipe book to pick out healthy and affordable bread recipes that fit our lifestyle and budget. Then, I assembled large resealable bags and mixed several batches of the dry ingredients for each type of bread I had chosen and sealed and labeled each bag. These were stored in a bin in my cupboard and could be easily grabbed and tossed in after the wet ingredients into the bread maker whenever I put a batch of soup or beans into the crock pot. The use of these bagged bread mixes required absolutely no freezer or refrigerator space (other than the bulk yeast). We felt they really added to the “wow factor” for our evening meals and saved a ton of cash. These breads are also great to rip apart and serve with homemade fondue, another affordable yet stylish meal option. Need more ideas? The fat free dry cream soup mix recipe in our bulk section can be used to make a ground turkey sausage biscuits and gravy topper (to be used with the bulk baking mix, of course), a base for cream of chicken / brocolli / celery soup, chowder, white sauce base, creamy clam or alfredo sauce base, etc. It also requires no refrigerator or freezer space. The bulk low fat baking mix can be used for breakfast pies, dinner casseroles, desserts, etc. The bulk corn bread mix? Breakfast bread with butter and honey / jam, corn dog muffins for grab and take lunches, and an old fashioned dinner side with beans or Mexican dishes. Bulk pizza dough mix can be used for pizzas, calzones, or breakfast hot pockets, and the tortillas you can make with the bulk dry mix can be used in a variety of ways as well. I used all of these items fairly extensively in Arizona, but not as much as I’m probably going to be using them now that they will be playing such a large role in our savings plan. They should also help offset the increased cost of not being able to buy the larger cans of tomato products and being too far away from town to be able to rely on weekly access to major loss leaders in the grocery store. (A price book will also likely be jumping to the top of my priority list because of this.)
- Another thing I’m doing is starting to explore recipes that use few ingredients and can be put together relatively quickly using bulk ingredients we can store here outside of the fridge. For example, medium sized cans of tomato puree with a little olive oil, Italian seasoning, a dash of brown sugar and some canned clams can go in the crock pot for a nice sauce that I don’t have to make ahead of time for the freezer and has no need for me to pre-cook the meat. The baking mix dinner casseroles will be more of a regular item, as will biscuits to go with the all of the soups we’ve been eating. We are way to far from the bread store and far too short on freezer space to be setting it aside for bread. When we have it, great. Otherwise, crackers for simulated “lunch-ables” and other homemade options are what more easily fit into our situation.
- Getting creative with storage space. As I’ve been tripping over numerous cases of things in the less than 600 square feet we are living in at the lake this summer, the spaces underneath both beds and the couch are calling my name as an acceptable place to store cases of vegetables, tomato products, beans, toilet paper, bins of dollar store toiletry items, and beverages. So are walls where no shelves or artwork are currently residing.
- Downsizing. For non-consumable items such as bedding, I cleaned out the enormous back up supply that had been left here by generous family members. Three sets per bed are all I kept, and for the twin couch option people will just need to bring a sleeping bag for that. This cleared up an enormous amount of closet and shelf space, as well as floor space for things I now had room to store, like toilet paper.
- Considering the use of smaller packaging for items that don’t need to be refrigerated until opening. This one just came to me as something I made need to get comfortable with. With the cost of gas and our distance away from things, we really do need to stock up in advance on as many things as possible. It has always gone against my grain to buy the smaller items because of the cost differential. However, because we are adjusting to a smaller fridge as well, perhaps multiple small jars of mayo and other condiments may be how we have to go. It will allow for more flex space in the fridge when we make large batches of soup or other party foods when company stops by because the containers will be smaller. But we can still store more of them in unused spaces. I’m thinking pickles, sandwich pepper rings, mustard, mayo, ketchup, etc. This may or not work out, but I’m willing to test drive it. Maybe it will work for you, at any rate, and if you are closer to stores and can utilize the sale and coupon factors more extensively, you may be able to find a way to save more by doing it this way.
Related Reading: Cornmeal Recipes