Every Day

Why I No Longer Meal Plan and How I Use My Freezer

In the fifty two years that we have been married, I have tried it all. On and off over the years, I have meal planned. Whenever it gets hectic around here, I go back and try to meal plan. 

But you know what? It doesn’t work for us. It never really worked for us. I always have trouble sticking to the plan. It causes me a lot of stress and that is not good for my mind or my body.

One of the major reasons that it does not work for us is that I stockpile meat and frozen or canned veggies. I also buy a lot of fresh produce.

Why do I stockpile? Because I buy at sale prices that are low for my area. I have purchased food this way since the 1960’s. Even before I owned  a freezer, I stocked on what I could if the deal was fantastic. In our first apartment, we only had a tiny little freezer in a small fridge. So each week when I shopped, I would buy the meat loss leader for the week and one or two for the following weeks. I would do the same for items for my pantry. I would have purchased more but buying a freezer was not a top priority in our budget at that time. Plus I had a very limited grocery budget. 

When we moved into our first home, a freezer still was not in the budget. Eight years and a move to a new home and 2 children later, a freezer became a priority so that I could get the best deals possible and continue to be a stay at home mom.

I remember how excited I was to go shopping for that first freezer. We went to Sears and got a great deal on a 27 cu.ft. chest freezer that was a scratch and dent. That was perfect because it was going in our basement. When we moved to Arizona when Hubby retired, we gave that freezer to a friend. It was so old we did not want to pay to move it nor did we have room for one in our home in Arizona. We had a 2000+ square foot home but the only place to put one was in our garage. In the Arizona heat, that is not a good place for a freezer. The last we talked to our friend that freezer is still working.

While we lived in Arizona, I made due with our freezer in our side by side refrigerator. I would still stockpile meat at rock bottom prices and some pantry items. When you have limited space, you stockpile the most expensive product at the lowest price. And that was meat! 

When we moved here, we
purchased a small 8.8 cu. ft. freezer that we put in our basement. It is
perfect for the two of us and only costs us about $31. a year to
operate.  We also have a French door refrigerator with two bottom
freezer drawers.  

The reason we have always purchased chest freezers is that they are cheaper to operate. We have never had large utility bills annually because of them. When you open a chest freezer, the air doesn’t fall out like in a stand up freezer. 

Chest freezers are a pain to use sometimes because you have to dig to find what you are looking for. But I have mine pretty well organized with reusable grocery bags. So at the most I have to lift one bag out to get to another one.  We have meats separated with them. We have a bag for veggies and one for fruits. The same goes for cheese and nuts. Bread just lays on top because I don’t really stockpile much of that. Only Hubby eats bread and then we sometimes use it for our family breakfasts. 

Buying meat at the lowest prices for our area is our top priority. That is because the biggest savings is on meat. Every week, our sale ads have a loss leader price on one or two meats. The loss leaders for any particular store are usually on the front page. The only exception that I have found is Dash’s. Sometimes their loss leader is buried in the ad. If I am in need or a particular meat and it is the loss leader, I will buy a lot. It all depends on how much I already have stockpiled. 

The above boneless chicken breasts were on sale for $1.68 per lb. I already had some chicken but I estimated that I needed another 7 packages to get us through the winter. What I already had in my freezer cost me $ 1.49 to $ 1.99 a lb. I try to buy at the low end when I see a deal. 

We have been buying organic ground beef at Aldi’s when it goes on sale for $ 4.49 a lb because it tastes so much better than the ground beef in our area. I have quite a few packages of that. But when I saw the $2.99 price on the ground chuck at Dash’s, I bought 8 packages because it is delicious according to our friends.  We always used to buy ground chuck but I had not been able to find it up here. It has great flavor and is usually very tender.  So all of this ground meat should get us through the winter. 

So instead of meal planning, we cook from our stockpile to use up what we have purchased at the best prices. I transfer a piece of meat or fish from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw the night before I am serving it. By not planning our meals, we are making sure that we eat at the best prices and before our meat gets freezer burned. It also let’s me use up all of our leftovers.

The first place I look when making a meal each day is the produce drawers to use up what needs to be used. If the fresh produce gets low, I look for our veggies in the freezer, then the canned in the pantry.  Then I pick out what meat is needed. I constantly rotate my meat and fish and veggies so that we use the oldest first.

Most of the food we buy is at rock bottom prices for my area. Sure sometimes I buy at higher prices if I am in desperate need of something(that I didn’t think to plan ahead on) or for a company meal. But that only happens about 10% – 15% of the time. I am working on getting that percentage down.

If I don’t find a rock bottom price, I just don’t buy it. I am patient and will wait till I see my buy price.

Speaking of my buy prices, I will be doing a post on those tomorrow. I am in the Buffalo area of New York. Buffalo is the second largest city in New York state for those who don’t know. Many of our prices are high if you don’t buy on the loss leaders. Some of our loss leader prices are high compared to others. But know YOUR rock bottom prices in your area and buy the loss leaders when they are at or below those prices.

Do you meal plan or do you cook from your stockpile? Do you have a freezer and what is your best way to use it?

10 replies on “Why I No Longer Meal Plan and How I Use My Freezer”

We have a few different systems, but we have a reasonably small list of preferred meals & generally have most ingredients on hand to make at least some of those at any time. The menu plan is more of an organization plan for me, so I know what to defrost, what to make/prep, etc. The shopping is unlikely to be significant, but I may need to make sure I have a one off item around.

I also cook on weekends (typically Friday, Saturday & Sunday) & then we eat leftovers Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. Thursday is always a bit hit or miss. Sometimes there is one more bonus leftover, or often we eat something form the freezer. We serve all meals with a substantial salad, we also customize meals to ensure my one picky eater will eat. Because we're (mostly) keto & the kids need lots of carbs with all of their sports, there is quite a bit of modification in the meals.

I do as you do. I stockpile rock bottom priced items, and make my menus according to what I have on hand. If ground beef has been on sale at $1.99/lb. you can bet that will figure prominently into our menus. Currently, we have a freezer full of chicken–both split breasts ($0.89/lb) bonless, skinless ($1.69/lb) whole chickens ($0.79/lb.) sirloin tip roasts ($3.29/lb) and sirloin steaks ($3.99/lb) The latter two prices are the lowest I can find for those cuts. My meal planning begin as rough plan when the week begins based on what I have on hand. As plans change throughout the week, the menu changes. Rarely do I find myself in the store looking for something for dinner. I do, however, stop at the stores almost daily on the way home from school drop off, to look for manager's specials. Also, as the family gets older, I am more willing to pick up, say, cube steaks for a requested meal on a given night, figuring it's far cheaper than going out. Also, when they request, they cook! When planning dinner, I consider what we have on hand, then what we have planned that day, and base the menu around that. I almost never decide what we want to eat, then purchase ingredients. Anyway, during the school year, our week can look far different on Thursday than we thought it did on Monday, so meal planning is never set in stone. It is times like these that the stockpile really helps!

With being low carb and his digestive issues we pretty much have the same meals every week. Thankfully,he will eat whatever I make and if I say I'm not hungry tonight he respects that and finds something on his own. It took 20 years for me to realize that he could care less about variety, special treats or expensive food. So here is typical week
sausage and broccoli
ground beef with cheese
salmon and a frozen veggie
tilapia and a frozen veggie
frozen pizza
Alternates are shrimp stirfry, PF Changes Beef and Broccoli or chicken on a salad
steak and whatever fresh veggie I can find cheap at the store
pork chop and same as above
I take all leftovers to work for lunch and he eats the same 2 lunch meat wraps every single day (sometimes I change the cheese) :).
Weekend lunches are hamburgers or brats plain, no buns. With the rare exception if I find Deli Chicken on markdown.
Stockpiling and couponing is easy for me

I am like you, I have a hard time meal planning. I do not like to stick to it and then the meat is thawed and it goes bad which is bad. I just stockpile and go on a whim. i just pulled a frozen cake and a frozen taco hot dish out of the freezer to use for the next two days.

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