Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freezing in the middle of spring.

...a post in which I will describe the contents of my freezer
Sounds interesting enough, yes?

Way back in this post I talked about how I save quite a bit of money by making large-ish batches of recipes (not weird recipes, normal ones like soup, stew, pot roast and such), and separating them out into two-serving ziplock bags (the quart sized bags, which as I mentioned before, I consider one of man's greatest creations. They hold two servings of just about anything.) But before I go on, let me back up and share with you what I feel is one of my most poignant realizations as of late.

We over-fill our plates. And by we, I mean I, because generally I dish our plates up.

How do I know this? because frequently we don't finish what's on then. Where does that food go? you guessed it - the trash. According to the food guide pyramid, one serving of meat is roughly 2-3oz, cooked. Meat shrinks about 10%, depending on fat/moisture content, so that's 4oz raw, Or thereabouts. To get an idea of what this "serving" looked like, I did an experiment. I purchased a value pack of raw chicken breasts (aside: did you know that the fresh-raw chicken breast is actually cheaper per unit than the frozen stuff? The frozen stuff is coated in a glaze-salt-solution that makes it weigh more. Buy frozen chicken and you're paying top dollar for saline) I pulled them out and weighed each LARGE chicken breast on my food scale. To my SHOCK, each one weighed over 8oz.

that's TWO servings! So, what did I do? I cut them in half and put two pieces into each ziplock before freezing. Now all I have to do is pull out one bag to thaw and I know I have enough meat for one meal. "but why cut them up and waste ziplock bags when you may want to make a "large-ish recipe" with more than 8oz of chicken," you may ask? Good question! Because, quite frankly, We do a lot of grilled chicken on our george foreman. If I think I might make a "large-ish recipe" with chicken, I'll just buy another value pack at super-saver. When I have the time to prep food for easier usability, I USE IT!

Ok, now back to the topic at hand. So my freezer is FULL of one quart and one gallon ziplocks. Some hold two portions of soup, stew, slow cooked pinto beans or black beans, pot roast, raw chicken, etc. Others are home to baby food cubes (a topic on which I will eventually write an entire post). Still more have goodies - cookies, brownies etc which I pull out on a whim when company arrives.

Do I sound like I have it "all together"? because I SURELY DON'T! I'm as disorganized as the rest of society. I just have a special place in my heart for freezer storage. Don't you dare go looking in my closet... or my pantry for that matter.

I lied (just a little bit). Those cookies and other goodies that live in my freezer live there for more than one reason. Not only do I not have space for them atop the refrigerator, but if I kept them there they would soon disappear. And I alone would be to blame. That's right, I have a nearly insatiable sweet tooth. Thank the Lord it is also paired with a weak jaw that cannot deal with hard or chewy things. Frozen cookies meet those criterion.

Ahem. where was I? Oh yes, bags. Lots of bags of many things live in my freezer, but along with them are things we buy in bulk. Bread, for example. Rotella bread goes on sale for .99 a loaf at Hy-Vee about every 4 months. When it goes on sale I unabashedly buy 20 loaves. Frozen vegetables (one of the few convenience foods we frequently eat) also tend to go on sale at our local grocer for around .77, occasionally .66 per bag. So I generally have tons of those. We also buy and freeze milk when it dips below $2 a gallon (yes, you can freeze milk), and 8oz bags of cheese when they're .99/bag.

Last but not least there's jam. Good grief, I have a lot of jam. But it's great jam, and it's homemade jam, and it's low(er) sugar jam, and it contains a TON of elbow grease, so you won't hear me complaining.

Admittedly, the HARDEST part of using ones freezer to "stockpile" with a money-saving goal is in actually using what you bought. I've found the easiest way to win this game is (going back up to the top now) to put things into bags which hold an amount we'll use in one sitting. If I pour all my left-over soup in a bag and freeze it, it will inevitably never get used. I will look at it week after week and become overwhelmed at the prospect of thawing the whole thing without making a mess, and then using it over 2-3 different meals. Simple works best for me.

Well, that's it. That's all I've got. So, what are your freezer strategies? Do you have any? Do you wish you had some?

- Melissa
p.s. That BIG bag of ice in our freezer... I keep it because I don't want to push my luck. it's left over from when our upstairs fridge/freezer went out on us THREE TIMES last summer. This deep-freeze, which we bought on craigslist for $80 has been a tank.


shhyouaretired said...

It always weirds me out to see our frozen milk with that sort of green-ish tinge to it, but when it thaws it's white as snow again. We need to buy more frozen veggies, it sounds like!

Elizabeth/Lindy said...

oh how I wish I had/had room for a deep freeze - I am jealous. It just burns me to pass up amazing sale prices on stuff we use all the time just because I have no room in our tiny little fridge top freezer. A quart of ice cream and a pot rost and it's already almost full. grrr.