Smart food storage can save you time and money in the kitchen!

Smart Food Storage Secrets

by Emily Bright

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I'm not a big fan of kitchen clean-up. When dinner's over, the soup-pot goes straight into the fridge rather than into a plastic container, and I'd rather scrub the toilet than scrub the dishes that quickly pile up in our dishwasher-free kitchen. I'd rather get it done and move on. But, lately I've found a few alterations in food storage, though they might take an extra five minutes, save me considerable time and money later.

Buy it large and store it small. If you're shopping for one or two people, those great deals on family size meat are hard to pass up, even if it'll take you a while to get through three pounds of beef. Divide the meat into portion-sized pieces and wrap each tightly in aluminum foil before putting them into the freezer. That way, when you go to cook, you don't have to cook it all at once or try to saw off a frozen portion. If you're really organized, or if your freezer is particularly disorganized, label and date the meat when you put it in.

Money-Saving Tip: Frugally Freezing Meats

You don't have to cook it all now. Love to bake (or eat) baked goods, but don't want three dozen cookies sitting around the house? Freeze your cookie dough and bake as much or as little as you want, when you want it. Also, most muffin batters will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Store up when it's in season. Bell peppers, those brightly colored, vitamin-rich vegetables whose prices shoot up in winter, freeze beautifully. Buy as much as you can in early fall from the grocery store or farmers' markets. In high season at my farmers' market, I can get two to five bell peppers for a dollar, depending on the color. Then I freeze them for later use. Declare your own pepper chopping party. Freeze the raw chopped or sliced peppers in Tupperware or plastic bags. When a red bell pepper is going for $4 a piece in January, you'll be liberally tossing them into all of your favorite dishes.

Money-Saving Tip: Veggie Freezing Guide

Slice it up the night before. It's a wonderful idea when making a roast for dinner to buy one bigger than you need and eat the leftovers as lunchmeat. It's definitely a money saver. But, when I'm packing my lunch at 6:30 in the morning, the last thing I want to do is pull out the roast and the carving knife. Cutting the roast into sandwich-friendly slices before you put it away the night before cuts down on effort in the morning, making it more likely that you'll pack a healthy and tasty lunch instead of swinging through the drive-through. The same goes if you make your own bread. Always cut a few pieces ahead. If you wrap it up tight in a plastic grocery bag, it won't dry out.

It's all about the packaging. Leftovers for tomorrow? Rather than putting your leftovers into one big container, divide them up into lunch-sized portions in smaller containers that you can bring to work with you. Tomorrow morning, grab it and go.

Related: Meal Planning around Leftovers

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