Tasty Trash: The $55 million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge is a series aimed at helping your family save up to $1,500 this year by reducing food waste. Our zombie-free environment may also thank us. To start from the beginning, read the introduction.
Your freezer isn’t a chillin’ tomb for food in need of burial. I don’t care what the ‘end of the world’ reports (cough) say, but using your deep freeze as cryogenic storage won’t save you from the zombie apocalypse. Mind you, if the zombies do surface and start ‘Thriller’ dancing, I’ll happily replace your freezer burnt bags of peas, frost bitten pizza pops, and frozen mystery meat-flesh covered in sheets of ice. You have my word. Promise.
Anyhoo, for those who are not living in fear of zombies or apocalypses or frozen flesh, dontcha think it’s time to defrost your freezer, take inventory of the food you actually eat, and use your ice box as a cool box for meal planning to save money?
Cold, hard cash, not icy food corpses, is what your freezer is all about. You heard me, right? Your freezer, possibly your holding zone for food that’s about to be trashed, is actually the coolest place on (living) Earth to save money.
Don’t believe me? Unless you’ve already been (freezer) bitten — there’s no cure for a zombie attack, right? — go cue up some Thriller, grab your Zombie Survival Guide, don some winter (glitter) gloves, and get real about the ways your freezer can place a chill on an over heated — perhaps deathly — grocery bill.
1. Organize before they rise.
Do you shop in bulk? Flesh (that’s meat), fruit, and veggies can often be bought in bulk at lower unit prices than single servings — far cheaper than frequently buying smaller portions. The trick to saving money and preventing food waste is to divide and freeze your bulk purchases into smaller servings based on your (living) family’s dinner needs.
TIP: Take advantage of bulk offers and sales. Buy the mega-pack of fresh chicken from Costco or stock up on ingredients when they are on a jaw dropping sale at your local grocery store. Legs and other limbs are often available for cheap too. Split up the portions, double-bag to prevent freezer burn, and then freeze. Just make sure you label and date your haul so you know it’s fresh meat.
Plus: A single bulk shopping trip is safer if you want to avoid hoards of wandering zombies, and fewer trips can save you time and gas money over multiple smaller shopping hauls. Don’t forget to stock your bulk shopping cart with baseball bats and swords, friends. Bats and blades don’t need reloading.
2. Bite back, or gnaw later.
Save those leftovers. Did you make too much mutton? Have too big a batch of delicious spaghetti sauce sitting on the stove? No worries. When you’re not able (or willing) to consume your cooked meals within 4 days, go ahead and store your grub in the deep freeze and gnaw on it later.
Reduce the risk of infection: The Mayo Clinic advises you toss refrigerated leftovers after 4 days to avoid food poisoning. The Mayo Clinic didn’t say anything about zombie attacks though. I should know. I looked. Probably an oversight. I’ll forgive them this time.
Anyways, freezing your leftovers not only prevents your perishables from going to rot, but you’ll have a meal on hand when pressed for time. Defrost, reheat, and serve. Yum.
3. No place is safe, only safer.
Flesh Leather: Fight the freeze, wrap your wares to prevent infection.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead advises that the ideal garb to don for maximum zombie protection is tight clothes and short hair. I can’t agree more.
So, to save your food from the horrendous infection only found in your freezer — yeah, freezer burn — it’s best to bind your bounty in air-tight packaging.
Note: I can’t figure out how short hair helps prevent zombified freezer burn. If you know, please answer in the comments below. I’m all about wearing the right hairstyle to prevent future freezer burn attacks of zombieriffic proportions.
What the heck is freezer burn? Flesh (on all types of food) exposed to air in your freezer can dry out pretty darn quick, and the moisture lost is then deposited as ice crystals on the food’s surface. Lots of air equals Ice Age sized glaciers.
Is freezer burn bad? Yes. It’s terrible. Horrible. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. ‘Cause you’ll need ten thousand knives just to cut through that dried, shoe-leathered steak hiding under the freezer-grown glacier of epically burnt grossness.
Zombie Attack: Is your freezer full of frost bitten bites?
Fight the freeze — protection techniques:
- Wrap tight: Use air-tight packaging. Good freezer bags, air-tight containers, lots of plastic wrap can all work to fight the freeze.
- Remove air: Squeeze out and remove all extra air from your freezer bags, and make sure your storage containers are filled with food.
- Don’t let the zombies win: Don’t be greedy — stuffing too much food and over filling containers to the brim only pisses the zombies off. When frozen, the water in your food could expand and burst open the storage container. Messy. You want a clean kill, so fill your containers to 80%, tops. Nuff said.
- Isolate and quarantine: Don’t mix raw veggies with raw meat. Keep uncooked ingredients separated. Stay safe. Keep healthy.
Freezer burn shouldn’t make you ill (it’s not bacteria), but the burn increases the incidence of food waste, and the taste just might kill you. On second thought, maybe freezer bitten food is the perfect protection against the zombie apocalypse?
4. Thaw of the dead.
This part is about freezer cooking. Seriously.
Let’s say you’ve got a baby (or multiple kid things) keeping you awake at ALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT, so you’re doing the zombie shuffle through your workday. Right? Colleagues have no idea you’re acting out Children of the Living Dead on a daily basis. And child-free friends — what do they know about reanimation at 3AM every morning? Nothing. Jerks.
Anyhoo, after rising at all hours, you need a plan of attack for when the days last into the night. You need to eat.
This is where freezer cooking comes into play. Promise.
Before bringing Chloe home from the hospital, Carl and I stocked our deep freeze with a month’s worth of meals using the freezer cooking method. Traditional freezer cooking, also called once-a-month cooking (OAMC), requires you to set aside a day or two each month to cook multiple meals ahead of time, then freeze dinners for the next 30ish days. Modern freezer cooks often assemble uncooked ingredients together and freeze them for cooking later. Either method you choose can prove to be a HUGE time saver and valuable meal planning tool that cuts food waste while saving you money.
Money Saving Tip: A large batch of food is often cheaper to prepare than cooking the same amount of food across several smaller meals. Less energy for the stove, and better economies of scale for the ingredients equals big money savings.
You’ll save additional dollars by being organized and not needing to rely on store-bought ready-made meals (which are likely unsafe due to the zombie breakout). You won’t dial for takeout (too dangerous) or need to dine in restaurants either (waaaay too dangerous — you’ve seen The Sopranos, right?).
For those without kiddlets, freezer cooking just plain saves you time and money. Enjoy your restful sleep. (Zombies always attack the well-rested first, BTW.)
For those inspired enough to try freezer cooking, check out the site Once A Month Mom for a variety of healthy recipes built for the burgeoning freezer chef. Brains are not on any of these menu plans. Yes, I checked.
5. Guard your garden haul.
You don’t need chainsaws or shotguns to fight your way through a heavy garden harvest. Nope. Can’t eat 25 pounds of tomatoes today? No worries. Freeze the lot and preserve your bounty for the dawn of another day.
Those with fruit trees or even a small container garden can easily save a seasonal crop in the deep freeze for later. Many fruits and vegetables freeze very well. From berries to cherries, and zucchini to linguini? — they can all be frozen with a little care.
Besides, defrosting a bag of home-grown rhubarb in January is a lot less expensive than buying a bag of the imported stuff during the cold of winter at the grocery store.
For those with herb gardens: Freezing is OK, but drying is better. Show the zombies you care by drying and saving your savory spices in the pantry. Hungry zombies always attack the pantry before the freezer, but you knew that already.
6. The threat lives on?
The zombies may be gone, but the threat often lives on. Yes, you must do your darnedest to prevent ‘last minute’ food waste attacks.
I’ve hinted at reducing food waste previously, but what about those last minute dinner invitations, times when a kid gets sick, or the rare days your spouse needs to go on a sudden business trip? The moment you realize you cannot cook your fresh food before spoilage is the second your meal needs to hit the deep freeze.
Don’t let the zombies win. Prevent an outbreak by fighting back, staying sharp, and composting the corpses immediately. Your freezer (and wallet) will thank you.
PS. No zombies were harmed during the writing of this post. Zombies are undead, people.
PPS. I wanted to harm many zombies while writing this post, but Carl wouldn’t let me. Something about being a good example for our daughter, or something.
PPPS. Carl just read this post. He likes The Sopranos reference but doesn’t fully understand how Alanis Morissette got a mention. I reminded him about jagged pills and the 90s, and then he was OK.
PPPPS. Those looking for a real zombie story should check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — it’s like chick lit, but with zombies.
Your Turn: Does your freezer save you money? Go ahead and boast your saving ways in the comments. All zombies allowed.