BEST FROZEN FOOD BARGAINS
March is Frozen Food Month, when the National Frozen Refrigerated Foods Association and participating brands promote all sorts of foods in the freezer section. Shoppers can take advantage of frozen foods' long shelf life and stock up on sale items. To get the best deals, combine manufacturer coupons with in-store discounts. Download grocery store apps and utilize manufacturers' online communities to find more savings. Brands participating this year promotion include Tyson, José Olé, Atkins, and more. But some frozen foods are better buys than others.
A stockpile of frozen fruit can be used in smoothies, muffins, and much more. In some cases it may be more nutritious than the fresh alternative: Fruits (and vegetables) frozen at peak ripeness maintain higher levels of vitamins and other nutrients. A coupon from Dole shaves $1 off the price of a package of frozen fruit through the end of March.
While fresh fish and other seafood can be expensive, buying frozen can cut costs significantly. Fish that's flash frozen right after it's caught may actually taste fresher than the offerings at the seafood counter. The freezer aisle also harbors wild-caught fish, which many consumers prefer for health or environmental reasons. Trader Joe's sells frozen cuts of wild-caught cod for less than the price of most fresh, farm-raised fish.
Pizza is one of the stars of the freezer aisle. It's quick, easy, and cheaper than delivery. A coupon good throughout March offers $1 off a Newman's Own Thin Crispy pizza. One brand participating in Frozen Food Month, Totino's, did not impress panelists in a blind taste test of frozen pizza by Cheapism.com, due to its artificial taste. The tasting panel preferred the more complex, well-balanced flavor of Freschetta frozen pizzas.
FROZEN DIET MEALS
They may not be the most healthful option, but frozen entrées are easy to heat up for lunch or dinner, and they typically have lower prices and fewer calories than takeout. The top picks in a Cheapism taste test of frozen diet meals were Weight Watchers Smart Ones Ravioli Florentine and Safeway's Eating Right Chicken Enchilada.
Diet or not, it's always nice to have some ice cream in the freezer. In a 2015 Mintel survey, 90 percent of respondents said they had purchased frozen treats from a store in the past six months. Kroger store brand ice cream sandwiches, Klondike Original ice cream bars, and Nestlé Drumstick novelties took the top spots in a taste test of cheap ice cream treats.
Breadsticks, garlic bread, and self-rising dinner rolls are good frozen foods to stock up on. They help round out a meal, save time in the kitchen, and keep much longer than fresh bread from the bakery. One of the brands behind Frozen Food Month is Pepperidge Farm, which markets Stone-Baked Artisan Dinner Rolls, Texas toast, and garlic bread.
Getting enough vegetables in your diet can be a challenge, but frozen vegetables make it easier. Some consumers may even prefer the frozen varieties. For example, fresh corn is often genetically modified, but many frozen corn options are non-GMO certified.
DON'T BOTHER: VEGETABLES IN SAUCE
Frozen vegetables packaged with sauce or cheese are typically loaded with calories. Trim the fat -- and often the price -- by buying plain frozen vegetables and spicing them up yourself.
FROZEN BREAKFAST FOOD
Although it's most likely cheaper and healthier to make a quick breakfast yourself, many consumers rely on premade products from the freezer section to get their families out the door in the morning. Participating brands include Kellogg's Eggo, Bob Evans, and Jimmy Dean.
DON'T BOTHER: FROZEN PANCAKES
Hotcakes, flapjacks, pancakes -- whatever you call them, you probably already have the ingredients on hand, and they're so easy to make from scratch that it doesn't make sense to buy the frozen ones. Instead, make a big batch on the weekend and freeze for breakfast during the week. Or, forget Frozen Food Month and celebrate National Pancake Day on March 8, when IHOP will be serving free short stacks.