Easy Ways to Make Freezer Meals Frugal and Good

A Pennsylvania woman has forged an internet sensation with a blog post about making freeze-ahead meals for her family -- 46 of them, to be exact, for about $95.

Snapping up closeout deals on meat, carrots and peppers, and buy-one-get-one-free deals on potatoes and onions, Natalie assembled a mountain of raw meat and vegetables, "sucking it up and committing to an afternoon of slaving away in the kitchen," as she wrote on her blog, for the big pay-off over the next few months: "Tomato Basil Soup, Sesame Chicken, Balsamic Roasted Chicken Thighs, Parmesan Garlic Chicken, Buttermilk Herb Chicken, Pesto Chicken, Cranberry Chicken, Dijon Pork Roast, Bourbon Brown Sugar Pork Chops, hamburgers, teriyaki anything!"

(Before you go searching, her recipes all come from Don't Panic -- Dinner's In the Freezer! And while you may not be able to get such great deals on meats in your local store, there are a number of tips you can adopt as your own.)

What we can take from this post is a number of ideas on making your own convenience foods without the convenience markup. If you don't know what I mean, head to your grocery store's freezer section, choose a frozen prepared meal and compare prices by the pound.

At random, I selected Bertolli Mediterranean Garden Rigatoni And Broccoli Chicken. At my local Safeway, I can buy the Bertolli frozen meal for $5.97 a pound. But if I price out the ingredients -- a whole chicken, some pasta, broccoli, a couple of red peppers and a hunk of parmesan cheese -- even assuming I get organic whole wheat pasta, broccoli crowns instead of whole broccoli, and I use a whole eight ounces of parmesan for one dish (highly unlikely), my price is just $1.99 a pound.