What’s In My Freezer?

A chest freezer is a great way to help save time and money on food. If you have frozen meals ready to go, you’re less likely to order in or go out to eat. Freezing food can also help you cut down on wasted food. I love the idea of doing elaborate days of chopping and cooking and baking and freezing to have meals in the freezer for the full month. The reality, however, is that I don’t have the patience, time, or space in my freezer for this kind of thing (though we did do this before each of our babies was born and it was a lifesaver). In July, we fill our freezer with salmon from dipnetting. In Alaska, freezer sizes are dependent upon the type of animal you plan to freeze. We have a basic fish freezer and not a moose freezer, so after dipnetting, there isn’t a lot of space left. Instead of full meals, I’ve started freezing shortcuts. Here’s what’s currently in my freezer:

  1. Fish – Frozen salmon fillets which we eat weekly as well as packs of smoked salmon take up the majority of our freezer. We do have a few halibut fillets left from a halibut excursion Mr. T went on with his dad last year.
  2. Turkey/Chicken Broth – Chicken broth is in a whole bunch of recipes we use and canned chicken broth can add up (soups sometimes call for 5 or 6 cans!). After Thanksgiving’s turkey, I make big batches of broth in the crock pot (turkey and chicken broth can be used interchangeably). A turkey can provide about 5-6 full crock pot batches of broth. All you have to do is throw in a piece of the carcass (break it up into the amount of batches you intend to make), a quarter of an onion, some celery, a few carrots, and some poultry seasoning and then fill it to the brim with water. I cook it on low overnight and then in the morning, I strain it, put it in tupperwares, label the amount and date, and freeze it. I make sure I have a variety of sizes to accommodate many different recipes. (I usually count 2 cups as one can.) If the turkey broth runs out at some point during the year, I pick up a $4.99 Costco chicken, we eat it for dinner with some veggies, and then I make more broth (Costco chickens can only make 2-3 batches).
  3. Broth Veggie Bag – Think making broth sounds like a waste of veggies? Nope. I have a plastic bag in my upstairs freezer door where I put celery, onions and carrots that are past their prime. You don’t want rotten veggies in your broth, but wilted and bruised is perfectly acceptable. If I know I’m about to make a batch of broth, I’ll also start throwing in the parts I cut off veggies (the tops of bell peppers, cilantro stems, etc.). The more you add, the richer the broth (though I find any homemade broth easily beats out store bought in richness of flavor). You really can’t mess up broth if you’re straining everything out anyway!
  4. Green Onions, Jalapenos – I used to buy green onions for one recipe, promise I would use the rest later, and then forget. Now, when I need green onions for a recipe, I buy a Costco pack of green onions, chop them all up and freeze them in tiny tupperwares. I make sure that I freeze some that are just the white part and some that are just the green part. Some recipes specify. I chop up and freeze jalapenos as well primarily because I hate chopping them. I have to get the rubber glove out, be careful what I touch, etc. So, I just buy a whole bunch, chop them all up, and then I’ve got chopped jalapenos when I need them.
  5. Rhubarb – We have an especially large amount of rhubarb this year because our plant died and we mooched rhubarb off of others, but we always make sure that we chop and freeze rhubarb before the end of summer so that we can make rhubarb cake, muffins, and pie all winter long. Mr. T makes a mean rhubarb pie.
  6. Enchilada Sauce – I’m a big fan of Mexican food. Enchilada sauce is so versatile. I make up big batches of this Mexican Enchilada Sauce from Food.com and freeze it. I use 4 cups as the measurement of “one can” of enchilada sauce, so I make sure I have some tupperwares of 4 cups, but I also have varying sizes because I like to throw a little bit in with some beans and onions as a taco filling. And throwing it into a crock pot with some tomato sauce and chicken and broth makes a great soup (everyone’s favorite around here). About an hour before you’re about to eat, throw in some rice, corn, and black beans. Serve with chips and avocados. Yum! My favorite actual enchiladas are Whole Foods’ Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas. It’s a vegetarian recipe! (PS – I use my frozen enchilada sauce instead of the green sauce the recipes uses… if that wasn’t obvious.)
  7. Cooked White Beans – One of the ways we save money on groceries is by not eating a lot of meat. Dry beans are cheap. But they’re annoying to cook. It takes all day and you usually have to rinse them and make sure there are no rocks mixed in with them. So, I do this all at one time. I cook a giant pot of white beans (we like the white because they don’t have a strong flavor by themselves, so they easily soak in the flavor of the recipe) and cook them in flat, ziploc freezer bags in 1-2 cup increments. If a recipe calls for meat, we often replace all or half of the meat with cooked white beans from the freezer.
  8. Vegetables About to Go Bad – Veggies that can be used for more than broth but are threatening to go bad, I freeze. When onions or bell pepper start to go bad, I chop them up and freeze them (you don’t even have to chop the bell pepper first – just be aware that thawed bell peppers aren’t crisp). When sweet potatoes start to go bad, I chop them, steam them, and freeze them.
  9. Random Edibles – We have other frozen stuff in our freezer as well: frozen meat (including a turkey for Thanksgiving… bought on sale and saved), corn, peas, green beans, shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese (these both freeze really well and because they are shredded, it’s easy to use them even when frozen), fresh ground whole wheat flour, bread (we make two loaves on Sunday and freeze one of them until about Wednesday when the first loaf runs out), ginger (best kitchen hack ever: freeze your ginger and then grate it when you need ginger. The frozen ginger grates really well and the peel stays on one side of the grater while the ginger goes into the other side. It’s a miracle!), hashed browns (not usual… it was a treat!), and frozen berries for our oatmeal.

What’s in your freezer? How do you use it to save money?

freezer

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18 Comments

  1. I froze quite a few CSA fruits and vegetables this summer. Part of me wants to enjoy delicious, seasonal produce all year. And part of me feels guilty for letting things go bad. I’ve tried to label my freezer bag with dates to encourage me to use them sooner. Also, we’ve got a ton of CSA meat in our freezer! Whole chickens, ground beef, pork chops, etc. We need to start cooking them before we run out of space.

    • MaggieBanks

      I wish we had a good CSA up here! There is one that ships up from Seattle, but it’s so expensive. And there is apparently a local one but it’s just carrots, potatoes, and greens (the best growing Alaskan produce). Awesome!

  2. So….I would love to have you cook dinner for me sometime! Everything you listed that’s in your freezer sounds right up our alley & so delicious! Can I just say that crock pots are absolute lifesavers as well? Since moving to our new apartment, our freezer is pretty small for the time being (apartment came furnished with all appliances). Currently we have frozen berries & assorted fruit (added to oats & cottage cheese for breakfast), frozen chicken that’s been prepared to turn into chicken broth, hash browns (my fiance’s breakfast treat!), and bananas that were turning quickly (we use them to make 1 ingredient frozen yogurt in our blender!). These are some great tips that you have, I’m going to have to start using them – especially about the ginger, that’s amazing!

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh, I LOVE frozen banana blender treats (I always add cocoa and peanut butter because I HAVE to, obviously). And didn’t I say we were basically the same person? 🙂 I love the crock pot. Random fact: we got 9 crock pots for our wedding. Yup, they were that popular even in 2005!

  3. Your freezer sounds a lot like ours. We usually keep a nice stockpile of veggies for dinner, fruits for smoothies, and homemade waffles and pancakes for the kids’ breakfast. Earlier this year, we had about six months worth of beef from a grass-feed cow we had butchered. Also had some ground up wild boar for a while.

    One quick question about dipnetting that you may have already addressed before: if someone were to catch a bunch of salmon, could they have it fileted and shipped CONUS and would that be cost-effective?

    • MaggieBanks

      Only people that have lived in Alaska for at least one calendar year are allowed to dipnet. You can rod and reel fish, but the outo f state license is much more expensive and you’re only allowed 3 salmon a day (as opposed to the 65 our family could catch in a day). It’s definitely a local perk.

  4. This is a new category of self-revelation. Shall we call it freezer porn? 😉 LOL

    We keep a lot of the same stuff — broth, veggie odds and ends, some fish. We also keep bananas that passed their prime (peeled), for smoothies and banana bread, as well as chili, sauces, cooked beans, and bread. (We have to buy gluten-free bread, so buy massive quantities when it goes on good sale — since it’s so expensive otherwise!)

    • MaggieBanks

      This ended up in Spam… maybe because you said “porn.” 🙂 Yes, I do love to find out what’s in a freezer! I geek out over taking inventory of what’s at the bottom! More enchilada sauce?! Score! Oh, and we also keep the occasional bag of Costco truffles in the corner. 🙂

  5. J

    I really want to steal your freezer now. Maybe even just the enchilada sauce. 😛 I’ve tried cooking in batches and freezing food in the past but sadly, it wasn’t a complete success. We tend to either forget what’s inside the freezer or end up not wanting to eat what we packed anymore. So, our strategy for now is to minimize waste by only buying/cooking what we can finish. Sometimes, we also buy meat on the night/day of cooking so we don’t have to freeze and then defrost them. But I still dream of having a chest freezer one day! And I hope it comes loaded with salmon too! 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s definitely something to which to aspire. 🙂 But the no-waste thing is also a great goal!

  6. I love that you freeze green peppers, too! Once we started really getting into gardening, we realized that there are so many more fruits and veggies that can be frozen than we had previously thought. I also freeze cheese. Otherwise, my husband it all in one sitting. Usually, freezer meals work well for us. Except I made an awful meal with freezer burned chicken yesterday. First dinner I ever threw out. Whoops!

  7. I’ve recently been experimenting with freezer cooking so right now I have a few batches of meatballs and a lasagna in my freezer. I also made a few batches of enchiladas to freeze, but those we so good that we already ate them 🙂

    I wish I had a chest freezer so that I could freeze more. As is, my freezer is having a hard time keeping up with all the stuff in it. But I agree that having stuff in the freezer is a great money and time saver – and also a way to eat healthfully when you are short on time!

    • MaggieBanks

      I struggle freezing whole enchiladas as well. They take so long to put together that I just want to cook them up and eat them right away. The enchilada sauce batches has solved this problem for me! 🙂

  8. Hooray for freezer food! I only started really using my freezer this month, although I was at least doing the veggies-for-broth bag thing before. My frozen fish is probably pretty different than your frozen fish, seeing as how I get mine from the supermarket, but it’s still a great idea and still delicious.
    I have to say that I had never heard of freezing beans like that before! But it sounds like a great idea. I’ve been buying beans in cans mostly — I know it’s more expensive but, as you say, cooking them yourself is time-intensive. It seems like this could be an excellent solution. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Frozen beans really helps you cut down on meat consumption. You cook the beans, so then you feel obligated to use them. Moreso than canned beans, I find.

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