Sunday, July 3, 2011

Including Perishables in Your Stockpile

If you look in my cabinets, you'll see that my stockpile includes eight bottles of salad dressing, nine boxes of pasta, seven bottles of body wash, and seven sticks of deodorant. There's more, of course, but do you see the pattern? All of that stuff is nonperishable.

The concept of building a stockpile is fairly easy when you limit your thinking only to products that have months-long, or even years-long, shelf lives; the tricky part is stocking up on items that spoil within a few days or weeks. Fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, eggs, cheese, meat- these are all things that make a serious dent in anyone's grocery budget. It might seem like having to make weekly grocery store visits just for fresh food is negating the savings you get from stockpiling, but there are ways to help.

Here are some of my tips for adding perishable items to your stockpile:

1. Dairy (cheese, milk, eggs, etc.)
As you keep reading this post, you'll notice that I'll talk a lot about freezing things; dairy products are no exception.

Cheese, including cream cheese, can be frozen. When freezing cream cheese, simply freeze the entire unopened package. If freezing a brick of cheese, it works best to freeze it already shredded. The taste and texture won't be the same as unfrozen cheese, so I would recommend using previously frozen shredded cheese in something that's going to be cooked or baked: casseroles, biscuits, sauces, etc. For added convenience, freeze shredded cheese in half cup or one cup measurements. Then simply pull from the freezer the amount you need for your recipe.

Milk can also be frozen. Simply pour it into an airtight container, leaving room at the top for the milk to expand when it freezes. As with cheese, I wouldn't suggest drinking milk that has been frozen, just for taste reasons, but it can be used in sauces, pancakes or waffles, quiches, and more.

Eggs are something I didn't know could be frozen, until recently. The process is simple: just break the eggs into a bowl and scramble. Pour into an airtight container, freezer bag, or ice cube tray (if you use an ice cube tray, you'll want to transfer the cubes to a freezer bag after they've completely frozen). Again, I wouldn't use frozen eggs in a dish where they'll be eaten by themselves; instead, use them to bake.

Yogurt is simply frozen in it's original, unopened container. I don't know how the taste holds up to freezing, so unless you do a lot of baking with yogurt, you might want to try freezing just one container first to see how it goes. Of course, you can always eat the yogurt while it's still mostly frozen, and you'll have frozen yogurt!

2. Meat and Poultry
Most meat and poultry can be frozen.

Unopened lunch meat, pork, chicken, and beef can be frozen by simply putting the package in the freezer. Depending on the size of your family and how you plan your meals, it might be wise to open the packages and portion the meat into sizes that make sense for the meals you usually cook. Be sure to label what you're freezing with the date and portion size.

Precooked meats, like chicken breast, whole roasted chicken, taco meat, and more are frozen by placing in airtight containers or freezer bags and then freezing. If you're freezing a whole roasted chicken, just cut it into smaller pieces or pick the meat off before freezing.

**The items listed above will give you the best taste, quality, and baking results if you use them within 2-3 months of freezing. I suggest making a detailed list of the foods you have frozen in your freezer. Keep it in your recipe box or on the front of your refrigerator- somewhere you'll see it often and be reminded to include those ingredients in your meals.**

Tuesday's post will be all about stockpiling fruits, vegetables, and bread. You know you don't want to miss it!

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