When my husband and I first got married, his parents bought us a deep freezer. At first, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous for me to own such a large chest freezer when it was just my husband and me. But my in-laws thought it was an absolute must-have, and now I am VERY grateful to have that freezer — can you believe it is still going strong at almost 15 years old?
While I know that most people are not blessed with the extra space in their house to have a chest freezer, I do believe that keeping a well-stocked freezer, big or small, is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle when crunched for time. Thankfully, with the help of a run to BJ’s Wholesale Club, I am able to knock out a large portion of my grocery needs and be well on the way to getting healthy meals on my table.
Frozen foods are an economical way to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. You may be thinking, but they are NOT fresh, they are frozen. And yes, while that is true, fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak. That means the sweetest fruits and the most vibrant of greens, but most importantly, the most nutrient-packed. I like to stock up on Wellsley Farms frozen fruits and vegetables, found exclusively at BJ’s. I absolutely love their Wellsley Farms brand and can often find quality, organic versions of many items on my shopping list.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are often a much more economical way to incorporate produce into your family’s diet as well. You are able to enjoy off-season produce year-round for reasonable prices. Plus, you just use what you need — no wilted greens left in the produce drawer at the end of the week. That means less food waste, which translates into more money in your pocket.
My favorite produce to store in the freezer are:
- Bananas: When fresh bananas are starting to turn brown, peel and toss them into the freezer. Frozen bananas are perfect to pull out for smoothies, or to thaw and use in banana cookies, oatmeal or banana bread.
- Mixed Vegetables: Perfect to throw into soups or even Chicken Pot Pie.
- Raspberries and Mangos: I love to snack on both of these as a treat or use to make smoothies.
- Pineapples: Perfect for my Pina Colada Smoothie.
- Strawberries and Berries: For Muffins, Berry Crisps, Breakfast Bars, Strawberry Bars, Breakfast Bowls and Smoothies.
- Frozen Spinach or Kale: I use frozen spinach or kale in my Green Eggs, Sweet Potato Egg Boats, Mediterranean Quiche and Tortellini Soup, just to name a few.
- Butternut Squash: Squash is one of my favorite vegetables. I love to roast this and add to Quinoa Salads or steam to make a purée.
- Broccoli, Green Beans and Peas are my kids’ favorites, so there are always bags of these vegetables in our freezer.
- Vegetable Peels: This is one of my biggest money savers. I place all my vegetable peels in freezer-safe bags and place into the freezer for use in my Homemade Stocks.
Of course, be sure to stock your freezer with your family’s favorites!
- Cooked Rice and Cooked Quinoa: These precooked grains make dinners a breeze to throw together, last minute.
- Homemade Bread: It’s great to make an extra loaf or two to have on hand or a high-quality, store-bought option, like this one.
- Pizza Dough: When I am making pizza, I will often double or triple the recipe for dough, and store a ball of dough in the freezer. When the craving for pizza strikes, defrost the dough and bake as usual.
- Bread Scraps: When there is a lone slice of bread or that heel piece left over, toss in a freezer-safe bag and you have the base for stuffing or homemade bread crumbs in a pinch.
- Muffins: My freezer is always well stocked with muffins of all kinds that are perfect for school lunches and snacking. We love PB&J Oatmeal Muffins, Blueberry Muffins, Corn Dog Muffins and Pizza Muffins.
MEATS AND FISH
It is much more economical to buy meat in bulk, and then store it in portion-size packages in the freezer to be used as needed. I will freeze fresh meat on my own, but I also buy pre-frozen meat to use. BJ’s carries a variety of chicken, ground beef and turkey that come individually sealed in portioned packages that are ready to freeze. You can also get to know the local butcher at BJ’s to help custom-cut meats for free.
Meats I like to freeze:
- Chicken: Breasts, wings, legs, whole chickens, etc. I am then always ready to make Chicken Marsala, BBQ Drumsticks and many more dishes.
- Cooked Chicken: After roasting chicken breasts or making my Rotisserie Chicken, I like to cut off the meat and freeze into 1 – 2 cup portions to use in recipes.
- Ground Beef in ½ pound portions to use in dishes like Meat Loaf, Beef Stroganoff, Clean Eating Hamburger Helper and Sloppy Joes.
- Fish: Like salmon, tilapia, etc.
- Nuts: Buying nuts in bulk is a great money saving strategy, but to keep them fresh, I pop them in the freezer.
- Chicken Stock: My homemade chicken stock is always in the freezer to use as needed.
- Tomato Sauce: Make a large batch of tomato sauce and keep on hand to use for pasta dishes throughout the week.
- Cooked Beans: There is nothing more frugal than cooking dried beans. Whip up a large batch and keep in smaller portions to pull from as needed for like Taco Salad.
- Ravioli: To create my Ravioli Lasagna which is perfect for a weeknight meal.
- Breakfast Sandwiches: Make a large batch and freeze to pull out as needed.
- Casseroles: I love to make an extra casserole or two to always have dinner on hand for busy nights. Creamy Chicken and Rice, Parmesan Chicken and Lasagna are all my go-tos.
WHERE TO BUY FROZEN FOODS
Buying frozen food in bulk is ALWAYS a good idea and a great way to save money, especially when you have a chest freezer like I do. As I mentioned before, BJ’s Wholesale Club is a fabulous place to stock up on frozen produce, fresh meat to freeze, frozen meat, frozen treats and nuts. BJ’s Wholesale Club offers a wide selection of high-quality frozen food options filled with fresh flavors at a great value.
But not only is BJ’s a great place to shop for frozen food, but because BJ’s prices on the key items that families buy most often are always significantly less than supermarkets, families save up to 25 percent on groceries and they accept manufacturers’ coupons, which give you even more fabulous ways to save.