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YOUR MONEY
Smart consumer tips and strategies from Eyewitness News Online



Cooking For Less

Katie Briges used to spend more than an hour each night cooking for her family of six. Now, she's out of the kitchen in less than fifteen minutes every night. She can help the kids get homework done, and she "...can get the house cleaned up," she says.

How does she do it? She learned a time, energy, and money saving technique called cooking for the freezer. "I have saved probably about $300 a month on groceries," she says.

Debi Taylor-Hough, author of "Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month," shows us how to get cooking!

Frozen Foods

What can be frozen? Taylor-Hough says just about anything. Just take a trip down your grocer's frozen food aisle, and you'll see everything from pizza to sweet and sour chicken. "Anything that you see frozen there is something that you should be able to freeze at home," she adds.

You can keep your family happy by freezing some of their favorite recipes. Katie says her family likes chicken meals, spaghetti and ziti meals, and hamburger meals the best.

But she also suggests only serving a dish two or three times a month, "Any more than that, they start feeling like their seeing the same thing too often," she says.

Starting on Low

When you start cooking in bulk, Taylor-Hough says not to go full steam ahead. Instead, try just doubling or tripling your recipes each night. "Let's say you're making lasagna for your family tonight, make three...Serve that one to your family tonight and put the other two in the freezer," she suggests.

If you did that for a week, you'll have two to three weeks of frozen meals. All you have to do is pop them in the oven and heat them up.

That's just what Katie does, "I make three pizza crusts, I put two in the freezer and have one for dinner," she says.

Saving at the Grocery Store

Taylor-Hough says you can shop the sales and still cook for the freezer. Try doing what she calls a "mini-session". For example, let's say ground beef is on sale. You spend an afternoon making meals with ground beef like, spaghetti, meatballs, and meatloaf.

You don't have to serve those meals to your family all in one week. Once you have an arsenal of frozen meals, you'll just mix the ground beef meals in throughout the month.

Cooking for a Day and Eating for a Month

Once you're comfortable cooking in bulk, Taylor-Hough says you can try cooking all your meals for an entire month in just one marathon day.

Here's how to do it:

Check This! 2 Days Before

Sit down with your cookbooks and figure out what you're going to make. Make a shopping list.

Check This! Day Before

Go shopping! This is a big shopping- a whole month's worth of food. You can try making it easier on yourself by going early in the morning when the store is not as full.

You can also do some of the prep work. Taylor-Hough says try to chop vegetables, shred cheese, brown ground beef- anything you can do to make it easier on the next day.

Check This! Cooking Day

Today, you cook. "It's a full day, it's usually six to eight hours if I'm doing a full month of cooking," Taylor-Hough says.

Packing the Freezer

One of the benefits to cooking for the freezer is saving money. You may think with all this food, you'll need to spend your cash on another freezer. Taylor-Hough says that's not the case, "The cooking session that I just did, I got forty meals in my fridge's top freezer," she points out. She gives us some space saving tips when you're storing meals in your freezer.

Check This! Pack in freezer bags as much as you can. They take up much less space than plastic containers or pans.

Check This! Freeze items flat and set them in a single layer. You can keep soupy items flat by stacking them on a cookie sheet.

Check This! Stack them up. If your meals are flat, it's very easy to just stack them right on top of one another.

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