When You Don't Have a Freezer
What Options Do I Have?
I live in a mobile home and have very little room for the second freezer that's beneficial for stocking up on food sales and precooking meals. I'm sure others deal with the same predicament and have possibly arrived at a few solutions utilizing other ways to store food or stock up on "meal fixings" that don't require a second freezer.
Try Various Types of Canning
One answer could be to take up home canning. Before freezing became commonplace this was one of the main ways that people stored food long term. Water bath canning is only good for High-Acid Foods items like fruits and vegetables with no meat or jelly, jam, etc. This is the type of canning that most people are familiar with. For water bath canning you really only need the jars, two part lids, a large pot that you can immerse the filled jars in and good instructions. These are available on many websites as well as usually on the lids and jars packaging. www.homecanning.com is a good one. I also highly recommend the Blue Ball Canning Book. It has tried and true recipes for a variety of items.
If you wanted to can meat or low acid products, you must use a pressure steam canner in order to kill the bacteria that produces botulism and such. For pressure steam canners, there are different sizes and price ranges. There are basically two types: weight and gage type. The gage is usually more accurate, but more expensive. But if you plan to make large amounts, it is worth the investment. I have both and they work equally well. I started with a weight type to see if I would like doing canning first, then moved up to a bigger one.
I regularly can chili, soup, hamburger, chicken, etc. for use for quick meals. You can make large batches and separated it into smaller portions or take advantage of sales this way. And homemade jam is always nice to give as a gift. Make it in the summer when fruit is plentiful and cheap then give as Christmas or housewarming gifts!
Precooking Saves Space
One way to save room when storing ground meat is to pre-cook it. When I find ground beef on sale I will buy in bulk and then I brown my ground meat with the usual seasonings (garlic, onions, peppers), then drain it thoroughly and store it in "ziplock" style bags. These will lie flat on the freezer shelf. I place just the amount that I need for a meal and label it "Seasoned Beef". When I want tacos, spaghetti, or another dish requiring browned beef, I pull out a bag and defrost it. I also will make patties out of part of the beef. When prepared this way a lot of meat can be stored in a freezer without using a lot of space. It also helps cut down on meal prep time.
I also do creamed potatoes the same way. If I find potatoes on sale and think that they will go bad before I can use them up, I make creamed potatoes and freeze them in bags flat on the freezer shelf. Again a lot of potatoes can be stored this way.
Store Freezer Outside
When I lived in a mobile home I purchased a freezer that could be stored outside on a porch or in a shed. The freezer was one that does not automatically defrost so it can be kept just about anywhere as long as it is protected from the elements. It is a great way to stock up. Ten years later this freezer is in our unheated garage.
A Matter of Packaging
The book "Once a Month Cooking" has specific tips on cooking meals ahead even if freezer space is limited. One of their suggestions that I use is to package the one-dish meals in zip-lock bags, and stack them flat, one on top of the other, in a small freezer space.
Food Dehydrator Takes Advantage of Fresh Produce
I bought a food dehydrator at a garage sale thinking that if I really didn't use it at least it was cheap. I have found it to be a most incredible tool for taking advantage of the fresh produce at farmers' markets and the cheaper prices and higher quality. I mix different veggies and herbs together into various soup "mixes", "trail mix", and adjusts for cooking and flavorings (peppers, onions, etc). I am able to take advantage of fresh produce even when it was out of season and expensive. This won't totally solve the space issue but it does help.
Use Crock Pot Then Can
My solution to the lack of storage space to put a second freezer was to purchase a canner and can my food. Any meal I can cook in a crock-pot or Dutch oven on the stove, I can ladle into wide-mouth canning jars, can for the recommended period of time at 10 lbs. pressure. Presto! Stored food ready to heat on the stove or microwave at a later date with a minimum of fuss and no freezer required.
Check Out Frozen Assets for Ideas
I highly recommend reading "Frozen Assets" by Deborah Taylor-Hough. She uses only an above-the-fridge freezer and cooks for a family for several months at a time using freezer bags.
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