The foods you prepare this summer will save you time and money in the fall
Stocking Your Pantry for Fall
by Lauren Romano
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As fantastic as September is, it signifies the start of a busy fall schedule, especially as the days start to inch toward the holiday season. It can be even busier if you have kids and your schedule is jam-packed with getting them to and from school, working on homework, handling projects, meeting with teachers, attending school events, and more. Summer tends to allow for a little more leeway in regards to schedules, so it's the perfect time to stock up and get your fridge and pantry ready for fall. You'll have less that you have to worry about when the time comes. You and your family can have the healthy foods and snacks you love without always having to rush to get everything done last minute and without spending a small fortune. While the following does require some effort, these ideas are usually a lot easier and more cost-efficient to do in summer than to wait until fall.
Buy a dehydrator
Dehydrators can run a large price range, typically starting around $40 and going up. However, you can get a substantial amount of use out of one when it comes to making delicious, healthy snacks. For example, let's say you wanted to make dehydrated banana chips. You might spend roughly $3 for four pounds of bananas, and you can use the lemon juice you already have in your kitchen. A small bag of banana chips costs about $3 in the store. You can make a lot more at home than what you find in one bag, the chips you make wouldn't be fried, and you know exactly what you're eating. There are so many other fruits and veggies you can dehydrate as well like zucchini, kale, strawberries, sweet potatoes, onions, and green beans.
Stock up on seafood
The beautiful summer weather is a great excuse to get out on the water and stock up on fresh seafood. Yes, you're going to have to clean and prepare the seafood at home, but the good news is that while seafood doesn't hold up past a few days when in the fridge, it can last for months in the freezer as long as it's stored properly. This means, as an example, instead of going to the grocery store and paying $12.99 for flounder fillets, all you have to do is reach right into your freezer.
Check clearance sections
Not sure if your local store has a clearance section? You might want to check it out. You could find some granola bars, fruit cups, and a variety of other snack items that could be significantly marked down even 50% or more and have an expiration date on it that goes well into fall or beyond. For example, instead of paying $8.99 for cashew butter, you might be able to get it for just over $2. It's even better if you have matching coupons, which some stores might let you use. Check the expiration dates, but if all looks good, you could easily stock up for a fraction of what you would pay at full price.
What's better than eating fruits and vegetables that are right from your own garden? Canning and pickling are useful for helping to preserve foods for an extended period of time while also adding a good dose of flavor. The amount of time these items can be stored depends on the recipes and processes you're using. However, to avoid getting sick, the process absolutely must be done in a safe and exact manner. The ingredients that you could use are endless. For example, have a whole bunch of tomatoes growing in your yard? They might be perfect for tomato sauce or salsa. Why pay about $2 to $8 for each jar of tomato sauce or salsa when you can save yourself a good amount of money by making it at home? It's a great way to save some money along with having the satisfaction of knowing that you created something amazing from what you grew. You will need the initial equipment (a canner, jars, etc.), but depending on how much you use them, what and how much food you make, and if you choose to use additional ingredients that you don't already have in your kitchen, you could very easily get your money's worth even after the first batch.
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Slow cook and freeze
One of the best aspects of using a slow cooker is that it requires little to no effort. You can make breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, appetizers, and snacks as quickly as you can throw some ingredients in the slow cooker, plug it in, and turn the knob. Depending on what you're cooking, you could make big batches of meals, freeze them, and have them ready to use when you need them. In one day, you can make a few different big meals that could save you quite a bit of time and money once fall rolls around.
Bring the kids into the kitchen
Consider bringing your kids into the kitchen and involving them in the preparation and cooking process. Even if they're doing something as simple as putting ingredients into a bowl or taste testing what you're making, it can get them excited about cooking, eating what's being made, and trying new things. It's also a fantastic way to spend more time together before they head back to school and is an ideal option for hot days when going outdoors isn't going to happen.
Taking some time to prepare food ahead of time will be made even better when you learn what you can do with the food to make it last longer rather than it going bad quickly. One of the great things about the internet is if you don't know how to properly do something (such as canning), you can easily learn with a little research. There are plenty of articles out there that will give you specific instructions, and the best part is that anything you want to try likely isn't as complicated as you might think. Once you see your fridge, freezer, and pantry fully stocked in time for fall, you'll be happy you made the effort to get a head start and get everything ready.
Take the Next Step:
- Apply at least one of these pantry stocking ideas to reduce your grocery bill in coming months.
- Take the TDS Pantry Challenge. Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!
- Discover savvy ways to trim the fat from your food budget by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
- Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
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