Thanks so much for your comments and feedback on last week's post which talked about our strategy for building a healthy stockpile. Many of you had questions about freezing produce as part of stockpiling. I'll just quickly address this before I jump in to how we shop.
Most fruits and veggies that you can freeze are best stored by "flash freezing". This involves washing and cutting produce into the sizes you desire, and then laying them out on a cookie sheet so that the pieces do not overlap. Place the cookie sheet into the freezer and allow the produce to freeze for about 30 minutes.
Then, remove the mostly-frozen fruit/veggies pieces and place them into plastic containers or bags to store in the freezer. I love doing this with berries and bell peppers.
Other produce items, like asparagus, should be blanched before freezing. This basically means that you bring a pot of water to a boil, toss in the veggies to the boiling water, allow them to boil for about 1 minute.
Then, quickly drain them and douse in ice cold water for 2-3 minutes.
You can then flash freeze these pieces too, and store in the freezer for later use.
My blogging friend, Pheobe, over at Cents to Get Debt Free has a nice post making the most of your freezer stockpile -- check it out.
While most fruits and veggies freeze well... they don't always thaw the best. Case in point -- do not eat peppers or apples raw after they have been frozen. Freezing damages the structure of the cell walls in these plants and as a result their crispy, crunchy texture created by the cell wall structures are no longer firm. Translation ... flimsy apples and peppers best used in roasting, cooking or baking :)
Now... without further ado... how we do our shopping.
Where do we do our shopping?
The majority of our shopping is done at our local grocery store chain. We have two chains -- Kroger and Meijer, and when I moved here, Kroger was most definitely cheaper. Now, Meijer has their own line of organic and natural products where they have great sales, which makes them cheaper. Organic broth? $1.79 for a 32 oz. container. Organic mushrooms? I've gotten them as cheap as $0.50 for 8oz.
As I mentioned last week, I shop the sales -- so I take advantage of the produce sales especially that these two places have. I got organic raspberries for less than $1 a pint this summer, which I thought was a good deal from what I've seen at our stores on a regular basis.
We also like to shop our local Farmer's Market, and our local Farmer's Market store. Yes, we have a local store that buys from local farmers and runs a fabulous grocery store. We love going to both of these places to support the local farmers who work hard to grow our food. The store tends to have better prices than the Farmer's Market, but sometimes you just can't beat buying your Thanksgiving Turkey from a little old man at the market :)
Another store we visit, although not entirely often is Sam's Club. They have some really good deals on some items that we use regularly -- so we go to Sam's about once a month.
How many grocery trips do we make each week?
We are busy, so we do not like to make many trips to the store each week. Right now, we do our grocery shopping to Meijer on Friday mornings, and any extra runs to Kroger/Farmer's Market/Farmer's Market Store/Sam's Club on the weekends.
How do we keep it manageable?
We take the pressure off. Seriously. If a week is super busy and we don't have time to make it to one of the stores to catch a great sale, I let it go. It does me no good to get super stressed about buying things on sale. If I miss a sale, we re-arrange our menu a bit... and we take it in stride. I know that the sales cycle -- thus, we wait a few more weeks before we see that again. The hubster pitches in a lot too -- if I'm swamped, he'll make a grocery store run for me, which is a HUGE help :)
Thanks for reading along for the past three weeks. This is just one glimpse into how one kitchen serves up healthy meals while staying within (and sometimes under) our food budget of $200/month for the two of us. I've gathered from reading the comments and others' blogs that many people have found success in making changes in the way they shop and prepare meals, and it's been so encouraging to learn from others.
If you have any questions, please let me know. Do others of you have tips to share? I'd love to hear how your families eat well on a budget and what your tips and "secrets" are :) Leave your thoughts in the comments! I do read all of them.