Saving Money in the Grocery Store's Frozen Food Aisle
You may need a sweater the next time you head to the grocery store to find deals. More and more of us are realizing we can find some pretty big savings if we spend just a little more time in the deep freeze aisles.
"The frozen food aisle is the most exciting part of the supermarket these days. I couldn't say that 10 years ago - but it is, lots of innovation."
Supermarket Guru Phil Lempart says contrary to what you may think, buying fresh isn't always better.
"The quality of frozen foods is enormously better than they were just a few years ago. Also, here's the most important thing - a lot more convenient and a lot less expensive," said Phil.
Frozen is now a year round, healthy and affordable option. Even, prepackaged frozen meals have come a long way from the old "tv dinner" days.
"These products are made to be tasty, quick and inexpensive. So, forget about going out to lunch for $10-or $15. Just head right here and for $2 - $3 you can have more satisfying meal and you know all the ingredients, unlike when you go to a restaurant," said Phil.
But what exactly do you look for? Phil says not all freezing is the same.
"What you really want to look for on a package is either flash frozen or IQF - what that basically means is the product is brought down to the lowest temperature very quickly," said Phil, "That translates to better taste and also keeping all those nutrients of all those fruits, and vegetables and sauces right in place. Look for steaming technology, look for microwavable ready trays, it's really come a long way."
"Keep in mind steaming technology;" said Phil, "What happens is in the microwave it actually steams inside the package. so that way it cooks thoroughly - so the piece on this side is going to cook the same as the piece on that side."
Phil says one concern for people has been preservatives, but not anymore.
"One of the biggest misnomers about frozen foods is they are loaded with preservatives. Let's not forget, freezing is the preservatives. Freezing actually keeps that product as fresh tasting and hold in the nutrients as much as possible. Read those labels; make sure you know what you are getting."
It's not just about the meals. Think about frozen produce to save.
"First of all, they are between half and a third, less expensive. You get more, and when you go to the produce department and the produce is out of season. They've actually had to pick that produce before it is ripe and fly it in. It could be 3,000 miles or 10,000 miles away - what that translates too is picking before it's ripe which can mean less taste and less nutrients. When you look at the frozen fruits and vegetables that are behind me, these were picked at the peak of freshness - that translates too better taste and better nutrition."
"Broccoli is a perfect example. I picked this up in the produce department - half a pound of broccoli was $2.80. In the frozen department where it's already cut, washed, more convenient- and it's only a buck!"
We found similar price comparisons for Corn, peas and spinach and especially berries.
"I love strawberries but I hate strawberries when they are tasteless - not as ripe as they should be. Right now, 16 ounces, $5. Right here in the frozen case, these are 16 ounces but will only cost you $3.79," said Phil, "Fresh blueberries are $4.79 for 11 ounces, produce of Chile. $4.29 16 ounces, product of USA and these are going to taste better because they were picked when they were ripe."
One other savings tip: generic frozen produce is typically just as good as brand name versions but, usually costs less, so feel free to economize.
The biggest news on the frozen food front has to be great quality of today's frozen seafood. Forget any grade school fish stick memories. Thanks to flash freezing techniques, most seafood is now frozen on the boat right after its caught. Phil says that means the frozen fish in your store's freezer section is most likely superior to what's in their seafood case.
"You don't want to go to the fresh seafood department; you want to come right here to the frozen filets. For example you've got pink salmon 40 ounces, each filet is individually wrapped. This is a bargain because over in the fresh seafood department where most seafood has already been frozen. It's going to cost you between 20 and 40 percent more."
When shopping for frozen seafood, look for vacuumed sealed packages that do not show signs of frost or large ice crystals as those are signs that the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.
"The one thing you want to look for on seafood is country of origin. By law they have to tell you where the fish came from."
Frozen foods do not last forever. No foods last forever. Yes, even frozen foods have expiration dates. To prevent wasting, Phil recommends keeping track of when you buy things.
"Every time you buy frozen foods, what I do is, I have a sharpie, I write the date I put it in the freezer. Keep in mind the peak of freshness and nutrients frozen foods, even frozen veggies keep them three months max. Your responsibility is to check the temperature. It needs to be at zero. Make sure the freezer is not so loaded, the air flow doesn't circulate. The air flow doesn't circulate it won't be as cold."
For more money saving tips from Phil check out his website: