This month we’ll continue to tackle simplifying meals and the kitchen but change the focus from food prep to food storage and the pantry! The Essentials of a Fridge Sort helped us clean out our fridges to make meal planning and prep easier while also starting the process of organizing our food storage.
The freezer is a similar beast. At its best, the freezer is a secondary pantry to aid in meal prep and a place to store food that would be otherwise discarded. At other times, the freezer can be a place that old food goes to die a sad, frost-bitten death.
To make your freezer work for you, it’s a good idea to keep it clean and sorted. I tend to look through mine once a week before meal planning so it doesn’t get out of hand. Last week, mine was getting full so I decided to do a deeper sort. If yours tends to clutter easily, then a similar process of emptying out and cleaning might be useful every few months.
After cleaning out the freezer, divide the space into sections for revolving short-term storage, longer-term storage and then ice and ice packs. I like to store most things in glass canning jars that I also use in the pantry. I just happen to have a range of sizes and it prevents me from having to buy additional freezer storage containers or use plastics.
The revolving short-term storage (above) is where to keep frequently used items and also a place to freeze items before they go bad. It’s surprising how many things can easily be frozen and reused instead of wasted:
+ vegetable scraps for future stock-making (and/or animal bones)
+ tomato paste (there is always leftover tomato paste… I like to freeze it in small 2 tsp ice cube trays and then in a jar)
+ chipotle in adobo (puree the rest of the can and freeze into small ice cubes before storing)
+ the last wine from a bottle (in 1/2 cup jars, perfect for risottos, braises and deglazing)
+ stock (either homemade or the remainder of those tetrapaks in 1 cup increments)
+ chopped fruit
+ coconut milk leftovers from a can (great for morning smoothies, in 1/2 cup servings)
+ bread, rolls and buns
+ bread crumbs
+ cooked beans and rice
+ oj or orange juice concentrate (frozen as small cubes)
+ sauces like marinara and pesto
+ rinds from parmesan cheese (great in soups!)
+ bacon (the second half of that package)
+ herbs (I don’t actually do this... I prefer to make pestos or herb frittatas but it's possible)
Longer-term storage (bottom right) is for items used less frequently. For me that means ingredients I like to have on hand for a quick meal in a pinch like meatballs with marinara, fish filets, pizza dough or soup. It’s also where I store desserts and cooking experiments like homemade pies from excessive peach picking and a bottle of arancello. It's really helpful to label and date everything in the freezer but it’s most important for these items.
+ Frozen food will not last forever… here’s a nice visual guide for recommended storage times. Note that they are recommended in months, not years ;)
What's in your freezer these days?