$5 Dinner creator cooks up money-saving strategies

Freezer meals key to stretching meat dollars

It’s costing more to bring home the bacon -- and most everything else these days. To save money, Erin Chase, creator of 5dollardinners.com, says it pays to be intentional and adopt a savings mindset -- even down to the laundry.

“I think the first thing to think about is ‘How can you stretch anything?’, especially things that you use often,” she said. “So, dryer sheets- cut them in half.”

Chase even cut out paper towels. Instead, she reuses cloth towels.

“I have not paid for paper towels in maybe like a decade,” she said.

Next, she suggests going the homemade route with what you already have in your pantry or freezer.

“You can probably make taco seasoning,” Chase said. “So, skip the packet. They’re $1.25. Skip the packet and mix up a batch. It’s a couple of teaspoons of common spices you probably have in your pantry.”

In addition to planning meals and making shopping lists based on advertised sales, she suggests buying in bulk for products you use a lot and that will last. That includes things like flour, rice, or other grains.

The trick to saving cold hard cash on meat is to make freezer meals.

“The very best, easiest way to lower your grocery bill is to buy meat when it’s on sale and turn it into a freezer meal,” she said. “It could be as easy as adding some barbecue sauce with chicken, honey mustard with some chicken, spaghetti sauce with browned ground beef.”

Instead of putting meats in the freezer when you get home from the store, she suggests dividing the meats and adding vegetables and sauces into resealable bags for freezing. That way dinner and savings are in the bag for weeks.

Food prices are not expected to come down soon. Chase says consumers have to weigh conveniences versus costs and realize that spending more time means spending less money.

“Say (you save) $5 every week. That’s $250 at the end of the year,” she said. “If you save $10 every week just by doing a couple of these things, $500 (saved) in the year.”

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.