Cool Freezer Tip that Saves Time and Money

I had this great idea, years ago, to buy a ton of ground beef (OK, more like ten pounds) and then browned all of it—all at once. That way I could divide it up into one-pound portions, freeze it and have it all ready to go when a recipe called for ground beef. Great idea! Did it work? Well, sorta’ if by “working” you mean taking a long time, making a huge mess of my stove and kitchen and having to do it in batches because who has a frying pan that big—and basically vowing to never do THAT again.

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Last week, when I received today’s first great reader tip in my email box, I couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t I think of that? What a great idea and yes I am going to do this. Can’t wait.

BROWNED GROUND. When it’s on sale, I buy five pounds of ground beef then brown all of it at one time in my slow cooker, set on High for 4 hours. Then I dump all of it into a colander and rinse it under cold water to remove the grease. The result is perfectly browned ground beef that’s ready to go for any number of meals. I divide it between four freezer zip bags, label and date the bags and stack them in the freezer. Now I have just the right amount of ground beef for tacos, burritos and spaghetti sauce. –Stephanie, Oregon

QUICK CHILL. Wrap a wet paper towel around a beverage bottle and place it in the freezer. Wait 15 minutes and the bottle will be almost completely ice cold. Amazed? Me too, and it really works well. –Bill, Massachusetts

GRAPE ICE. Frozen grapes work like ice cubes to chill white wine, or other types of summer beverages, but without watering it down. It functional and pretty, too. –Sandee, Hawaii

FIRST-CLASS LOVE. If you are on your honeymoon and traveling by air, be sure and let the gate agents know. Your chances of getting an upgrade are very good provided you are sincere, polite and friendly. And don’t forget to ask for the agent’s name so you can send a note of thanks to the airline.  –Pat, Oklahoma

FREE-ISH BULBS. As I am enjoying the blooming daffodils and tulips in my yard this year, I get a double burst  of joy knowing just how little I paid for them (many were free!). Last year about this time, I discovered that nurseries and stores are happy to get rid of the pots of blooming bulbs they haven’t sold, that are starting to wilt. I’ve already collected several pots this year from my local nursery and grocery store and will have these blooming again next year. –Jennifer, Washington

DRIP-PAN CLEANER. I clean my range top reflector pans with oven cleaner. It’s designed for removing baked- or cooked-on stuff, which is just the right thing to get those little pans clean, too. –L.E., email

SPIN MASTER. I have my washer set on “extra spin” to double spin every load. If your washer doesn’t have that option, just hit spin again.  This makes a HUGE difference in amount of time it takes to dry a load. In fact, it takes about half as long since the clothes come out of the washer nearly dry, for all of that spinning. And that means a lot of saved energy. –Helene, email

Question: What really cool thing have you learned recently that helps you to save time and money?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Lynn

    I don’t understand Mary’s comments about the hamburger meat. She taught me about wacky beef doodle years ago. You just put the meat in a large pan of water and bring it to a boil a few minutes. The beef browns quickly, drain it through a colander breaking it up as you go. Mary even gave the right amount to put in freezer bags to equal a pound of hamburger meat. This is much faster than cooking it in a crock pot.

  • Arlene

    Please be careful about cooking ground beef in a crock pot. The temperature does not hit the same high level as cooking it on a stove. I’m afraid it might not be cooked as thoroughly and might contain contaminants. Maybe you could check with the CDC.

    • DianaB

      Actually, this method is just a pre-prep method as part of the finished dish. I would not use a crock pot, either, as it is a waste of time and can be done on the stove in a large pan of water (see my really lengthy comment above), so no contaminants involved if you would be concerned about that sort of thing. As far as contamination is concerned, do you not ever order or cook a burger or steak medium rare or medium well done? Same thing would apply here I am thinking. Not everyone likes to eat their beef done to shoe leather consistency. Crumbled hamburger in a sauce or casserole is an entirely different matter as it is of an entirely different consistency.

  • jam

    HATE TO FREEZE BREAD ?????? TRY PUTTING A DRY PAPER TOWEL OVER THE TOP OF THE LOAF.DOUBLE BAG THE WHOLE THING AND IT CUTS DOWN ON THE DRYING FROST . REALLY HELPS

    JAM

    • Emjay

      When my kids were in college and home for a holiday, I used to make them a whole frozen loaf of plain beef or turkey sandwiches individually bagged to take back with them. They loved having pre made lunches for a week at school, and I put a large piece of paper towel in each sandwich bag to keep frost moisture down.

  • CJ

    I sure hope the grease isn’t going down the drain when she dumps the meat into a colander to rinse it. Otherwise, she is going to have one heck of a plumbing bill!

    • Cattherine Pechenko

      I drain in the colander with a pan under it as I do not let grease go into my septic tank…..

  • Betty Thomas

    Wouldn’t rinsing the burger take away some of the much needed flavor? Draining the grease I get, rinsing… not sure.

  • Cath

    Regarding the freebies at the nursery: last November, just before Thanksgiving, I found a nursery giving away its decorative gourds and butternut squash. The whole nursery was full of Christmas decorations at that point. I came home with a couple of huge butternut squashes that I cubed, blanched, and froze. I’ve been eating free butternut squash all winter. I put the gourds out as Thanksgiving decorations, then cut them open and saved the seeds for this year’s garden. We’ll see what happens!

    I’ve also noticed that our Aldi doesn’t like to water their live plants. When they’re dying from lack of water, they mark them down. If I look carefully, I can usually find one or two that still have some life in them and will perk up with a good watering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sophie.lafontaine.54 Sophie LaFontaine

    Doesn’t the extra energy and time on the extra spin cycle on the washing machine equal the energy saved by the shortened dry cycle on the dryer?? Is the extra spin cycle still a good deal taking into account the energy needed to spin the drum an extra 10 minutes (or whatever?)?

    • Terri

      The short answer to your question is that you will save money by doing an extra spin cycle.

      Actually, the energy needed to do another spin cycle is minimal. Once the washer has begun spinning, there isn’t much/any additional energy required to keep it spinning. On the other hand, any appliance that creates heat, like a dryer, uses an enormous amount of energy to heat up and remain “at temperature”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sophie.lafontaine.54 Sophie LaFontaine

        Okay, I have started to use the extra spin cycle now during laundry time. :)

  • MK

    I boil my ground beef when I have a large quantity. I make taco meat using this method. The draining takes out all the fat, but there is plenty of flavor with my other ingredients and spices I add.

  • DianaB

    I agree with the posters, Lynn and MK. You can take an entire 5# chub of ground beef, separate into a few large “clumps” of meat and drop it all in a large pain of water along with some diced onion, cook it all down in the water and no real watching involved. Stir it as you go and it breaks up nicely into small amounts, let it cool down and then portion it into approximately 1# amounts in freezer containers or zip locks or whatever. Already cooked, no fryer grease all over, no flavor lost (hamburger really has no flavor on its own anyway) and ready to use anytime you are cooking something that does not involve patties or meat loaf. A real time saver for when you want to make burritos, tacos, casseroles, spaghetti sauce or whatever, and much easier to defrost than entire solid pound of hamburger. As far as draining goes, I use a very large slotted spoon to take it out of the water, leaving the grease behind. When the water is cooled, I take the whole pan and toss it out in the yard (well, I don’t toss the pan, just the greasy water) rather than pour it down the sink. I am very careful about grease going down the drain, having had my share of drain problems over the years. Hope that helps.

  • Cattherine Pechenko

    I love the burger idea as it saves time and I live alone and I love saving money and buy ground sirloin for health reasons.