We finally bought a freezer! After searching around, we decided to buy one from the Sears outlet store. When it was delivered, it wouldn't fit through the laundry room/storage door, so we took the door off the hinges, Nathan pried off the molding, and we got it through. The molding went back on perfectly and I was very pleased, b/c we're not exactly handymen.
We don't have an outlet for it right now, so we have to pay an electrician to install one. This room is unfinished, so it shouldn't be a big deal. In the meantime my freezer looks beautiful and I've already arranged stuff back around it.
It has movable dividers and two sliding baskets, so it should be fairly easy to keep it organized. I chose a chest freezer because they use less energy and retain cold better when you open the door. It's 14.8 cubic feet. I'm really excited to start filling it, as I bought 40 lbs. of potatoes last week and I want to make more stuffed potatoes. I froze 10 lbs. of stuffed potatoes before Christmas.
We're still maintaining a low grocery budget. I reviewed the budget and upped my grocery limit to $75 over the holidays, so I could buy all the fun baking stuff and participate in potlucks, but now I'm trying to stick to $50 again. We did have a few things that helped recently. Nathan was in CA for a few weeks, so I was only feeding me. Also both sets of parents gave us some yeast, nuts, rice, and instant potatoes, of which they had excess.
Despite these budget helps, I still find it odd that the amount of food in our house seems to remain the same. I do see some empty spots that weren't there before, and I know some of my buckets contain less, but overall it seems like nothing has changed. I thought we'd be blowing through food storage after that much of a budget cut.
My freezer is packed, as always. The new one will be such a blessing. Right now it holds a lot of broth (beef, sausage, turkey, chicken), pumpkin, cream cheese, turkey, and stuffed potatoes, plus other random stuff.
I've gotten used to cooking with the frozen eggs. We did a turkey dinner last week with friends and I used the frozen eggs to make stuffing, cherry cobbler, and pumpkin pie, as well as two pans of lasagna that I stupidly prepared on the same day as the turkey.
I'm also pretty adept at using powdered milk. When I did all that Thanksgiving food, I used only powdered milk for the pies, onion rings, and cream of mushroom soup. I occasionally buy milk so Nathan can enjoy cold cereal. Powdered milk works great for baking and makes some awesome milkshakes (thanks to a tip from Hillbilly Housewife), but it isn't something I'd want to drink, even with chocolate syrup. It just tastes funky, even though it's not past the recommended use-by date. We aren't milk drinkers, so it's not much of a sacrifice.
Bread recipes don't scare me, so I'm doing just fine making bread, rolls, biscuits, cinnamon swirl bread, etc., and turning any leftovers into bread pudding (also using powdered milk and frozen eggs) or stuffing. I guess I forgot to mention I made whole wheat hamburger buns a few months ago, and they were so good. I hate cheapo white store buns. Danna - I'll email you the recipe.
The frozen veggies are working out great. I've used the frozen celery for stuffing and soup. The green peppers have gone into stir-fry and random mexican dishes. The first 40 lbs batch of potatoes are almost gone and I bought another 40 lbs. when they again went on sale for 10 lbs/99 cents. I bought sour cream and cheese during the holiday sales and I'll freeze 20 lbs. of stuffed potatoes and probably 10 lbs. of hash browns. I still have 1 lb of carrots in the fridge. They aren't pretty anymore but they work just fine in cooking. If I had the space at the time, I would have frozen most of the carrots.
When Nathan lost his job and I was still in panic mode, my sweet friend shared with us some past-date canned tomatoes and corn that her family was given but couldn't use quickly enough. We were a little nervous but they are just fine. The tomatoes just taste a little more metallic. They don't make good salsa but I can't taste a difference when using them in recipes.
I'm stuck in this constant mental battle between using what's cheap (and easy) and controlling the ingredients we eat. My newest goals of things to try making are ravioli, sausage, and BBQ sauce.
I promise we're doing fine financially! We're not dipping into savings (other than to buy the freezer), we're not accumulating debt, we're eating relatively healthy and tasty food, and we're not starving. I just like living frugally and this is a new challenge for me.