Last summer, sometime in July, I made a trip to Costco and purchased at least five large packages of chicken breasts. Each large package had approximately 18 breasts in total. I opened all the chicken breast packages up and divided them into Ziploc bags. Then I put various (homemade) marinades into the Ziploc sealed and drew out the air. In at least two cases, I sliced the meat and included fajita style marinade. I ended up with orange chicken breasts, rosemary chicken breasts, teriyaki-you get the general idea
On the surface this seems a bit extreme for a family of one or two. Most people would go shopping for a week and pick up a package of chicken breasts. Lately (as per the freezer discussion) I have been doing exactly that. The only thing is, I'm spending more money, time and effort. In terms of meat, Costco has very good quality for the price, and my homemade marinades are much cheaper than anything in a bottle and made from pantry items. In terms of time, I do have to take the few minutes to fill the bags, add the marinade, and clean up after frozen. Here's the thing though-I've made a summers worth of marinated chicken breast meals at one sitting. Also important (at least in my life), all I have to do is thaw those puppies and throw them on the grill. Preparation is minimal.
One of my frugal retirement goals is to significantly lower my cost of food without impacting the quality of what I eat in a major way. I've decided that in some cases cooking in and storing in bulk is still one of the best ways to do that. How does this save me money? Well, first because while I like to cook, I don't like to cook every day. Without access to these homemade frozen "convenience items", I would probably opt for fast food or run out and get deli chicken.
I also get to save money because I am cooking with quality ingredients that I purchased on sale, usually at the lowest price (although I am the first to admit that loss leader sales sometimes are not what they were). Buying really good quality boneless breasts at $1.99 a pound and working this way is a huge money saver. Also, because I do things like this, I can afford to go to the farmers market every weekend and still meet my lower budget (in Dallas, that's from March through the first of November at least). A huge bonus for me.
It's opportunities like this one last summer that have me taking no real action on rethinking the freezer, and considering re-upping my Costco membership (or trying Sam's) There are many bulk cooking choices I made with a larger family that I probably will not make now. Rarely do I actually cook meals in bulk and freeze these days other than right around the holidays and in terms of bulk baking (I cook a couple dozen muffins and pull them out as I want them). Using my freezer and pantry for food and pantry stuffs (freezer tomato sauce in two person servings, cooked bulk) does seem to make sense. Especially now that I am expanding my canning and freezer storage preserving skills.
I'm still not sure about my freezer-or perhaps I'm just not sure about THIS freezer and it's size. I'm not walking away from the thing any time soon, although I have promised that I will try and use the freezer side of the half and half before moving to the garage. I've also decided that Costco has a place in my life, as do those five rolls of slice and bakes cooked at once (giving me a chance for fresh, warm cookies one or two at a time).
Learning to cook smaller and smarter takes time, but I'm learning that some of the old habits fit right in with small family cooking.