Save money by freezing food properly


You may do it without thinking about it -- enjoy your lunch or dinner, and pack up the leftovers to toss them in the freezer. But putting a little more thought behind it could save you lots of money.

Forget calling in for takeout or dishing out cash in the drive-through, save money and open your freezer.

You can pretty much freeze any kind of food, you just have to know how to prepare it and store it properly. Those who rely on this say it really pays off.

Who knew that a freezer -- the place that can become a black hole for old and un-used food -- can really save big bucks.

"I like to call my freezer foods 'freezer gold,' because it's like a discovery in your freezer that will pay off in many ways," said meal planner Brenda Thompson.

There are a few simple rules for storing food and saving cash. Thompson, author of the blog Meal Planning Magic says first, freeze items that may be close to the expiration date -- including dairy products.

She said, "Sometimes when you need buttermilk, you just need a little for a recipe. You have some left over, you can put some in an ice cube tray and pull out what you need."

Next, freeze individual portions. It's quick and easy that way.

"We can pull them out for lunches and heat them up on the go," Thompson explained.

Thompson says don't be afraid to cook a little extra and freeze that too. Always let the food cool off completely before putting it away.

"Generally, if you put something in the freezer too fast, like, if you take it off the stove and you stick it in the freezer, it has a hard time adjusting and the crystals will form on the food," Thompson explained. "Occasionally those freezer crystals are freezer burn."

For the final and most important rule, when it comes to freezing foods, always label.

"No matter how great you think your memory is, you are just not going to know what it is," Thompson cautioned. "If you sort of identify it, then you may not know how old it is."

After all, throwing it out could mean throwing away a bargain meal

"Put it in your freezer and pull it out when you need it," Thompson said. "By doing so, you can save money by not making so many impulse buys at the grocery store."

One more thing to remember -- don't jam-pack your freezer. Experts say if it's too full, the air can't circulate completely. So make sure it's about 75 percent full -- that way your foods will stay frozen.

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