My Story: Using Your Freezer
contributed by Mary
Making Fresh Freezer Meals
Freezing Food Staples
I hate to waste food. Therefore, in the kitchen, I try to be as frugal as possible and get as much use as I can from things. In the freezer, I keep a bag for vegetable peels. (I use an old bread bag.) Every time I peel a carrot, potato, trim celery, etc., I add to the peels in the freezer to make vegetable stock. When the bag is full, I throw it into the slow cooker with water and simmer over night. In the morning, I put the slow cooker in the refrigerator and strain the broth when I get home from work. (The vegetable scraps are then composted, getting even more use of out of them.) I pour it in to a freezer bag and lay it flat in the freezer with the date and number of cups. Sometimes I have to use a baking sheet in order to get the bag of broth to lie flat. When I am making soup or want to add extra flavor to rice, I can pull the stock out. There is no added sodium or preservatives like in the store bought broth.
When there is a small amount of wine left over, I pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze. After they are frozen, I pop them out of the tray and store in a plastic bag. It is handy to have on hand to punch up the flavor when making gravies or soups, and I like to add wine to the water when I am steaming mussels or clams.
I also save the ends of bread in the freezer for croutons. When I have a good amount, I partially thaw the bread and slice into chunks. It is usually easier to cut while a little frozen. After the bread has thawed completely, I make the croutons by melting a small amount of butter, adding spices. I coat the chunks of bread with the melted butter, spread on a baking pan, and cook until crisp. The croutons make a great addition to salads, soups and even for snacking.
Leftover tortillas can be sprayed with olive oil, placed on a baking sheet and cooked until crisp for a great dipping chip.
I like to cook a little extra at dinnertime for lunch the next day. When cleaning up after dinner, I divide the leftovers into separate small containers for lunch. Then in the morning, my husband and I can grab and go. When there is leftover soup, I store it in four separate containers. We take one each for lunch the next day and the other two are put in the freezer for the following week. That way, we don't get tired of eating the same thing every day. Very small amounts of leftovers are frozen in small containers and then passed on for my one-year-old granddaughter's meals. I think this helps add to the variety of foods that she eats and helps my daughter's budget too.
I shop for walnuts and dark chocolate in the baking aisle. I find the cost to be lower than in the nut and candy section. If there is a good sale, I buy an extra bag, put the unopened bag into a freezer bag to protect it from freezer burn and place that in the freezer. It is easy to identify exactly what it is.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other small fruits can be bought (or grown) when in season and frozen for winter use. I wash the fruit, remove stems and let dry completely. I then spread the fruit on a baking pan and leave in the freezer until frozen solid. I then place into freezer storage bags. I freeze whole strawberries for making sauce to pour over cakes or ice cream and also sliced for adding to pancakes or muffins. Marking the bags with the quantity is helpful when you go to use. I also like to add the date to make sure the oldest is used first.
I only have the freezer on my refrigerator, but I hope to purchase a small freezer, so I can buy more things in bulk. Since I don't buy frozen foods, I have plenty of room in my freezer and things like the vegetable stock and bread, which are the bulkiest items, are utilized regularly, so there is turn over that makes room for the next batch.
I had frozen milk and yogurt that were coming close to their expiration dates, so I used them to make ice cream with maple syrup instead of sugar for a sweetener.
Experimenting with what freezes well pays off as you create your own convenience foods, which saves time and money and provides nutritious food for you and your family. I get great pleasure at pulling strawberries grown in my garden out of the freezer in the middle of winter. Their cheery red color adds a bright note to a dull winter day.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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