Preserving From the Discount Bin

Think you can only fill your freezer and take out the canning pot at the height of the late summer harvest season? If your local grocery store has a discount bin, think again – you can stock the larder whenever you find a fantastic deal.

One of my favorite local grocery stores has a discount bin where their put produce that is just at, or a day or two past, it’s peak freshness. Lettuce that is ever so slightly starting the wilt, cauliflower with a touch of brown, things like that. Sometimes they just let go of overstock at bargain basement prices, and that is always an incredible deal. Use your best judgement when pawing through the bargain bin, and know that you’ve got to act fast – this isn’t stuff that’s going to keep for a week in the fridge.

Here’s an example of some of the stuff I’ve found recently, and what you can do with it to get some serious bang for your grocery buck –

Lemons – a few weeks ago I found a couple of bags of organic lemons for  just $1 each – they normally sold for $5. There was just a little bit of brown on the stem ends, otherwise they were perfect. I snapped up two bags and used them to make a home made lemonade concentrate to store in the freezer. If I had been smart, I also would’ve zested them and dried the peel to have lemon zest or candied lemon peels for cooking and baking, but I honestly didn’t think of it at the time. You can easily do this with any type of citrus you might find.

Mushrooms – my store had 4 boxes for $1 – usually they’re $3 each so this was a super deal. They looked perfect too, so just overstock. I didn’t get them at the time, but I should’ve – dried mushrooms are about the easiest thing in the world to make, and are great to have on hand to add to soups or skillet dinners.

Peppers – I got two bags of organic sweet peppers for $1, and diced them and froze them. They’ll be great in chili and stir fry. You could also dehydrate them or pickle them too.

Bananas – my store has incredible deals on overstock bananas pretty frequently – you can usually get a paper grocery sack full for $1! After you’re done gorging yourself on fresh ones for a few days, you can roast the rest in their skins (until they turn black – it intensifies their flavor), mash them up and then freeze them for use in banana bread or other baked goods.

Greens – they’re a little bit harder to deal with unless you want to have a big salad for dinner the very day you buy them, but some preserve better than others. Spinach and kale can frozen fairly well, especially if you use them in soups or sauces and freeze the finished dish for a quick meal – one of my favorite easy ones to throw together is a bean and sausage soup, with chopped greens mixed in.

 Cauliflower/Broccoli – freezing is the best way to go for these. Just cut away any darker spots, chop it into bite-sized pieces and freeze – it’s great in stir-fry, roasted in the oven or simply steamed as a side dish.

So don’t turn up your nose at the discount cart – you might find some great produce to tuck away for future meals at a rock bottom price. Just be smart about the quality of the items you choose, and make the commitment to put it up as soon as you get it home.