How to save money with frozen foods

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Not only is March the start of the spring season, but it is also National Frozen Food Month. With food prices on the rise, this is a great time to take stock of your pantry and freezer items and figure out how you can reduce food waste and save space, time and money for the remainder of the year.

A blue shopping cart in front of a refrigerator.
It’s easier than you think to lower your grocery bill. The frozen food aisle has bargains on your favorites all year long. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

As you roam your local grocery store aisle, droughts and wildfires are probably at the top of your mind when considering the reasons for a high grocery total at the checkout lane. Climate anomalies coupled with demand from American consumers continue to drive prices. 

Due to the impacts of El Nino and our desire for fresh pineapple and melon on our breakfast tables in the middle of January, rising food costs are expected through 2024 and beyond.  

According to the USDA, food prices across the nation surged in 2023, and this trend is expected to continue. Beef and veal prices are slated to increase 5.8 percent this year. And fresh produce prices, while increasing at a slower rate this year, are still on the rise.  So what can consumers do? 

Reduce food waste and save money 

If you’re one of many Americans across the country looking to stretch your family’s grocery budget, consider incorporating frozen foods into your meal planning and cooking.

Frozen foods extend the shelf life of your groceries and reduce food waste because you’re not scrambling to use up fresh foods before they expire. Food waste is a major problem in America, but utilizing frozen foods could help change that. 

If you balk at the idea of consuming unhealthy convenience foods, rest assured, that frozen foods have experienced a glow-up. They’re no longer about microwavable ham-and-cheese pockets or frozen pizza. Of course, if you don’t want to give up this freezer staple, there are countless ways to make frozen pizza better.  

A variety of options in the freezer section

Specialty frozen items allow consumers to try new foods. For example, frozen acai berry packets act as a base for smoothies and bowls and individually wrapped lean proteins like fish and poultry can aid portion control, minimize waste and save time.

Frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh, without compromising nutrition. Flash freezing after harvest maintains freshness and nutrients, sometimes better than fresh produce that is exposed to the elements.

Frozen foods can be a nutritious and convenient choice for many. Many frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen, preserving their nutritional value. Additionally, frozen options often provide a longer shelf life — some foods can be frozen for  up to a year — while reducing food waste.

Krystal Dunham, MS, RDN, LD and owner of The Mother Road Dietitian, LLC

Fun Fact! Did you know that Clarence Birdseye — yes, that Birds Eye — spent much of his career working for the USDA and was taught to ice fish by the Inuit? The indigenous traditional methods of food preservation to preserve taste and texture inspired him in his own business. 

Tips to help save money with frozen foods

There are some ways to be sure you’re on the right track at the grocery store. Here are some tips to help you save money when buying frozen foods. 

Read labels

One thing consumers may not be aware of is that grocery stores like Kroger and Publix don’t manufacture their own branded food items; they purchase from larger corporations. So, when you’re out shopping, pay particular attention to food labels. 

You may notice that some of the ready-to-eat foods contain the same ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. Some generic or store-brand frozen fruits and vegetables may even indicate that they’re made in the same facilities as the more expensive branded alternatives. 

Get creative with meal planning 

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to save money when shopping, and swapping out fresh for frozen can easily stretch your budget. Whether you choose single-serving frozen items or buy in bulk, pre-planning is key.

Buying in bulk and sharing costs with family and friends is one way to cash in on savings. Invest in a vacuum sealer to preserve these items for longer. Or, if your household is a bit smaller, take advantage of individually frozen poultry or fish packaged in individual servings to help minimize waste.   

Shopping sales is another way to save money with frozen foods, especially during National Frozen Food Month. Check grocery store fliers for BOGO deals and reduced prices during March. 

Forget what you thought you knew 

Frozen foods, especially vegetables, don’t have to be boring. Of course, you could just warm up that bag of frozen peas and serve them alongside some grilled chicken, but challenge yourself to think about incorporating frozen foods in new and exciting ways. 

Add those frozen peas to some Alfredo sauce and top with chopped bacon over spaghetti squash for a low-carb carbonara. And those bags of frozen tortellini and mixed vegetables transform into a tasty dinner that can be whipped up in no time at all.  Food blogs, social media posts and old-fashioned cookbooks can be a great source of inspiration if you’re in a cooking rut. 

For years you’ve likely heard that shopping the perimeter of your grocery store is your best bet when it comes to avoiding heavily processed foods. That perimeter extends to the frozen food section of your store, and as you now know, the options are endless. 

National Frozen Food Month is a great time to stock up on staples, experiment with new ingredients or take advantage of nutrient-dense, great-tasting foods from the freezer aisle while saving money on your grocery bill.   

Michele Brosius is the creator of Midlife Healthy Living where she expertly combines her love for cooking with budget-conscious nutrition strategies. Through her blog, she encourages women to embrace a healthier lifestyle with simple recipes and wellness tips.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The content presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary changes. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

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