Many of you have mentioned that it can be hard to keep up on cooking healthy meals for your family. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I am with you there and freely admit that my own tiredness, circumstances, or disorganization has at times prevented us from eating as well as I would have liked. However, we do not need to be a slave to circumstances!
There are certain practices that will greatly help a busy cook keep up on a busy life while still preparing nourishing meals for her family. Today, I would like to concentrate on utilizing your freezer. Because I cook so many dishes with fresh veggies that won’t freeze well, I find that I often don’t use my freezer for meals. But there are certain things I find it absolutely necessary for.
What Type of Freezer?
First things first, how much room do you have? This will decide how many plans you can have for it. We have the half freezer above our refrigerator, as well as a medium size chest freezer (which I actually do fill for the three of us at times). If you have only a small space, that’s fine. It can still serve you. But if you have the money and space, getting an extra freezer will open up a lot of opportunities for you.
What’s in my Freezer
When berry picking season is at hand, I either pick berries myself, or buy them for a good price from a pesticide free local farmer. I bag them up, and freeze them, and we have delicious organic, local berries all winter long. We use them in smoothies, ice creams, pancake toppings, and put them in baked goods.
Broth’s are a cinch to make and really stretch your dollar while giving you very valuable nutrients (like calcium and other important minerals). I like to portion out 8 and 4 cups and freeze them. I can easy defrost it to make a simple soup.
Lard and Beef Tallow
Since I render my own fat (and yes, I will do a post on this sometime), they are preservative free. I freeze it to make it last longer. That way I always have high quality fat at my disposal.
A Quarter of a Grass Fed Cow and Half of a Grass Fed Lamb
This is a huge money saver. I buy from a farmer who butchers his 100 percent grass fed cows at certain times of the year and sells them by the quarter. Not only is it much cheaper per pound than any organic meat that you could buy in the store, it’s much better for you as well. I also love that I am supporting a local farmer. And by the way, a quarter of a cow, will take up a large portion of a smaller freezer! We also bought half of a grass fed lamb at a huge cost cut from what’s at the store. I split it with my mother, and we’ve both had delicious, nutritious lamb to eat. It’s really worth scouting out a direct source for meat, so I encourage you to look into some local sources.
When I buy my beef, I will also pick up a box of bones to make beef broth with. Some will just give it to you for free! Once made into a broth, this will nourish your family very cheaply.
I don’t actually always have room for them, but I also like to buy pastured chickens directly from a farmer. They are large and flavorful, and very high quality.
When in season, I also roast and puree pumpkins and freeze small portions of them. I am able to use this for muffins, and to add to other baked goods.
If you peel bananas and stick in a freezer bag, they will freeze wonderfully and give a sweet taste and great texture to smoothies. You can also defrost and mash to use in baked goods.
When making pancakes or waffles, make extra because they freeze very well. They make an easy breakfast in a hurry, just pop them in the toaster. If you are making a favorite recipe of muffins, double it and freeze the extras. I bought an extra set of muffin tins, just for this purpose. Bread also freezes very well. Make four loaves and freeze some of them. You can freeze them whole, or sliced.
I will also try to double recipes, so that I can freeze half of it for later (or to give away). Good choices include beef stews (will share a recipe soon) and bean soups. Leave out cream and noodles, if you plan on freezing a soup (you can add them in when you are reheating it). I also like to make up curries, and other sauce like toppings for rice and freezing them. Then all you need to do is make up some rice and heat up your sauce, and dinner is made.
If you have just a single serving of a meal that would freeze well, then take out a little Corningware container, fill it up, and pop it in the freezer for an easy freezer meal for a lunch. Works great when packing lunches for a spouse.
What to Freeze In
Finally, what should you freeze it in? Your choices include glass jars, plastic freezer baggies or plastic containers, or stainless steel containers. Obviously, plastic is not the best choice health wise, but definitely the most accessible. I will be honest and say that we still use a lot of freezer bags in our freezer. Someday I hope to move all things to stainless steel, but that will be a slow process, since the stainless steel containers are not that cheap. If you do have to use plastic, then make sure that everything is completely cool before packing it up. Also make sure that you freeze it flat so that it’s easy to move around in the freeze, if using baggies.
Glass is cheaper, but can be quite frustrating to use in the freezer. Yes, it can break! If you do use mason jars or other glass containers in the freezer, make sure you do the following. Leave plenty of headroom, so that as it freezes and expands it doesn’t break the glass. Put it in a spot in the freezer where it won’t be knocked around. When defrosting, avoid sudden temperature changes (so that means no running hot water over it!). You may even want to defrost it in the refrigerator to play it save.
If you are interested in stainless steel containers, The Tickle Trunk has some for a good price. If making freezer meals, of course, glass casserole dishes work well.
So that’s how I utilize my freezer at this point. I would love to hear how you use yours! This post is part of Lindsay’s Nutritious Freezer Meal Carnival (check it out for more meal ideas!) and Kitchen Tip Tuesday, and works for me wednesday