Lat week I wrote about the conversation we had in my neighborhood regarding grocery budgets and where everyone thought they fit in. We’re a little bit of an outlier in that conversation because we have a freeze dryer.

The main purpose of our freeze dryer is to keep a stash of emergency food on hand – that means long-term in case something unthinkable were to happen, and short-term like a power outage in a winter storm. Now, like everyone else, we tend to have several small “emergencies” a week.

For example, it’s Sunday night and we’ve been so busy that we didn’t get to the grocery store, and probably won’t be able to until Wednesday. Or, it’s Thursday night and we completely forgot we had a homeowner’s association meeting and therefore have zero time to cook. Or, my favorite, it’s Saturday night and we have absolutely no desire to cook or get dressed and go out. For a lot of people, those are all good excuses to order pizza or pick up fast food. (Years ago we gave up fast food as a weight loss experiment and found that after three months without it we couldn’t even stand the smell any more.)

We tend to happily dive into our freeze-dried stores on these occasions.

We do like to cook when we have time. Nothing fancy, but I prefer my own lasagne recipe and we have our favorite go-to comfort foods and our favorite go-to healthy meals. We have fallen into the habit of making a double batch of these recipes. That means we happen to have things like our favorite lasagne and our favorite healthy quinoa, oatmeal and dried fruit breakfast on hand at all times. When lasagne noodles or marinara sauce are two-for-one at the store, or we find blueberries are especially delicious at the farmer’s market, we load up.

The ability to take advantage of extra produce in season (like the mounds of zucchini that seem to migrate to our porch in the summer), or a sale on a staple at the grocery saves us money. Then, we also save money by having quick, tempting meals on hand in our pantry. We buy exactly zero convenience foods.

I’d probably say that we’re foodies to some extent. We also lean toward organic food. However, we fall into the low end of the USDA grocery budget spectrum because we’re able to stretch the food that we buy, take advantage of sales and overstocks, and we’re never tempted to pay more for food in a time crunch. And, we’re not suffering or watching every penny, either.

Until the neighborhood conversation happened, we took all of these things for granted. I love our freeze dryer for the peace of mind it gives us, but now that I’m conscious of how it saves us money with no real effort on our part, somehow my reconstituted lasagne tastes better than ever.