Use your freezer wisely
While certainly nothing beats a fresh piece of grass fed steak on a charcoal grill, it’s only a small part of the actuality of how we eat on a daily basis. As a person who likes to grill a majority of my food (meat and vegetables) I couldn’t do this economically without rationing my produce and protein by using my freezer.
I really try to encourage smart shopping for your groceries and the easiest way to save money is to buy in bulk and exercise your ability to safely store your food until it is time to grill it up. This means buying whole chickens, whole tenderloins of beef and pork, full hams, shoulders, legs of lamb, etc…
If you don’t have the wherewithal (or knife skills) to butcher the larger items yourself…you’ll find that you local grocery store will do most of this for you, FOR FREE. (Especially beef) And if you store doesn’t offer this, don’t worry you can still save money buying larger packages of food that are almost always less expensive!
The key to this is preservation. This includes enclosing single serving and family size servings in freezer safe zip top bags. If you have a vacuum sealer contraption, that is even more awesome. This allows for you to take something out to thaw that is just right for that meal. (Also use this pro-tip; if you have any Anodized aluminum coated pans or flat griddle; they can be used as a speedier thawing device)
Example: dinner for two can be two filet steaks that were cut from your tenderloin, or dinner for four can be a small roast that was from the other end of the tenderloin. Whole chickens can be cut into wings, legs, and breasts for people that have different tastes. If you don’t have the time to cook a whole chicken, you can save the time by partitioning the portions, saving on cook time and thawing time.
If you can shop in bulk, you can also shop for sales. Most grocery store sales run cyclical, following some sort of pattern. If you know that rib eyes go on sale every four weeks…buy them every four weeks. If you know wings go on sale every six weeks, load up!
The key is to take them out of their individual containers (generally made for refrigeration for a few days) and package them yourself to freeze. (Some pork, beef tenderloins and whole chickens are vacuum sealed; just make sure that they have no other additional flavoring ingredients) Ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey or ground pork is best portioned, then put in zip tops. Then you can buy the much cheaper five pound version vs. the one pound.
Look, this is going to take some time AND discipline. You’ll need freezer safe zip top bags and a Sharpie. That’s like a seven dollar investment. You will save money, as long as you package things carefully, keep your freezer cold and work on the “first in, first out” method. (Food that goes in the freezer first, should come out first or as close to that as you can) Use that marker to label your packages with what and when, i.e. chicken thighs 4/4/13. That’s not too hard, right?
I have used this method for years and it allows me to buy much better, healthier, cleaner, less processed food. You can add you own flavors, which you can pronounce, while you save money.
Hope this helps; grilling season is in full swing!