If you've been to my house and seen inside my freezer, you know it is always a conversation starter. For those of you that haven't been to my house -- Let me tell you - My freezer is memorable. Between the pantry and the freezer, someone definitely knows that I am a wee bit obsessed with food, cooking, and feeding crowds. I used to be embarrassed by how stuffed the kitchen is but I've come to embrace it. It's just what I do. I've always done it this way.
It's usually stuffed to the brim with a variety of things. I am constantly making meals that are entirely out of our freezer and pantry. I go through my kitchen -- what produce did I buy too much of? What do I need to use up before it goes bad? Sometimes that answer is to cook something right away like a Frittata to use up all the leftover produce, but other times I freeze with the intent of using it later.
Before I dive into what I am freezing, let's talk about one key [in my opinion] thing you need if you are going to get serious about using your freezer for more than packaged foods.
Keep a list.
I can't stress this enough. You need an easy way to remember what is in the freezer or you be putting things in the freezer that you are likely to never use again.
I recommend keeping your right next to the freezer. We've had lots of luck with a magnetic whiteboard that I've attached to the side of our fridge and has a list of everything we have in the freezer. I reference this list when I am in need of a last minute meal or meal planning for the week or a dinner specifically.
3-4 times a year we pull everything (Yes. EVERYTHING. No glamour shots of that scene, for sure. Just wait though -- it might make it's way to my insta stories next time) out of the freezer and re-organize and remake the list. This is a great reminder of something that I put in there far too long ago and either need to use or throw out.
Complete Honesty - Some things get thrown out.
I definitely use way more than I throw out, but one or two things always get thrown out when we do our clean out. Generally, something had been sitting in the fridge for far too long and those leftovers I had the best intention of using but didn't like when I initially cooked them, I need to get better about throwing out right away. I save way more food than I throw out by freezing. So here we go with what the heck
am I does Michael even pack into this freezer (because let's make this very clear - I sometimes pack an unbelievable amount of things in this freezer. The only reason all these things fit is because M played too much Tetris as a child).
What Am I Freezing?
- Shrimp, scallops, individually packed pieces of cod, salmon, halibut, etc.
- Breakfast Meats
- If you are having people over for dinner, you can run to the store sometime throughout the day. However, nothing drives me crazier than throwing together a last-minute brunch for overnight guests and realizing you have to go to the store at 8 am on a Saturday for just a couple of things. I love to keep breakfast sausage or bacon in the freezer at all times.
- "Meal Portions" of Raw Meat
- I buy most of our meat in bulk or in family size portions. I open and repackage to freeze in just enough meat for one dinner using our FoodSaver. For, us that would be 1 pork tenderloin, 6 chicken thighs, 2 chicken breasts, etc. If I am having guests over I will take out more than one package. By breaking out those larger packages I am never having to take out way more than I need just for a dinner for us.
- Buy meats on sale
- I currently have about 5 T-Bone steaks and 2 racks of ribs in our freezer. Both were on sale and I stocked up.
- Marinated Meats
- Everyone once in awhile I will double the marinade for something. Split the meat and marinade into two bags and freeze 1/2 of it. This way I have a meal that is ready to.
- Shredded Meats
- Whenever I make a batch of shredded pork, chicken, or beef in the crockpot I make it an extra large batch. I shred and freeze into individual portions. This makes a later batch of enchiladas, fried rice, shredded pork sandwiches or fast tacos a breeze.
Vegetables + Potatoes
- The Frozen Vegetable Section is your Friend
- I buy corn, peas and stir-fry vegetables in the frozen vegetable section. Corn is great for my last minute mexican street corn recipe on taco night. Peas for pasta or soups. Stir-fry vegetables for a last minute meal OR to stretch the vegetables I have fresh in the fridge for a last minute meal.
- Usually, the frozen food section is also my friend here. Frozen Hashbrowns from the freezer section. A lifesaver in many a last minute breakfast situation. Even better -- cook them in the oven for the easiest brunch side dish ever.
- With that being said, every once in a while I have a bag of potatoes that have been sitting in the pantry for a bit too long. I will cube them up, bake them just like I would breakfast potatoes and freezer. These are great for hash, breakfast potatoes, mix-in to frittatas
- Blend with olive oil and freeze leftovers
- Buy those pre-frozen Dorot cubes from your grocery store or Trader Joes.
- When we have leftover soups, stews, pasta, meats I individually freeze them into single serving packs (Are you tired of hearing about my Foodsaver yet?). One route would be to freeze them in a big container, but generally, we just want to take out one serving for lunch.
- Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches
- Frozen Burritos
Nuts + Flours
- I don't do this very often, but every once in a while I will freeze nuts. I tend to buy nuts in pretty small quantities, but if you are buying the Costco size bags it is probably smartest to store them in the freezer, or at least a majority of the bag since nuts can go rancid rather quickly.
- I don't do this with all-purpose flour. However, say I buy some sort of specialty pizza flour. Great to keep it in the freezer to ensure it is fresh when you go to use it.
- I don't currently prioritize my freezer space for this one, but it's genius. Making a batch of cookies? Flash freeze half the batch or let's be honest, double the batch and freeze that second batch either in cookie logs that can be cut and cooker OR flash freeze individual cookies and transfer to bags. Anytime you need a last minute dessert pop a few cookies out of the freezer and straight into the oven.
- This is a must for me. I buy butter whenever it is on sale (sometimes 6 boxes at a time) and keep in the freezer.
- Leftovers save until you have enough for croutons or save fresh loaves by freezing and make a panzella salad, french toast or garlic bread down the road.
Pasta, Rice, Grains
- At this point, I pretty much always have packets of frozen pasta and rice in the freezer. Grains happen pretty regularly too. The pasta and rice are great not only for last-minute meals, but also for M to pair with individually frozen packets of ragu, spaghetti, and meatballs, stirfry, etc. He grabs one of the pasta/rice packets and an entree and has lunch.
- These are also great for last minute dinners. Mix into pasta salads, fried rice or a big grain salad with very little effort.
- I make double of some of my favorite sauces - pad thai, peanut, marinades, herb + tahini dressings and freeze half to quickly top a last minute meal.
- This also works great for leftover sauces that you aren't going to use before they go bad - teriyaki, dressings, curries, etc.
Leftovers Liquids -- Tomato Paste, Coconut Milk, Lime Juice, etc.
- Ever open that can of tomato paste only to use 1 tablespoon and have the other 90% of the can go to waste? Scoop the extra into silicone ice trays and freeze. Pop out after frozen and stored in storage bags. Before I open a new can of tomato paste, I always check the bag in the door of my freezer first.
- This works great for any tomatoes, coconut milk, the last bit of any non-dairy milk, the end of coffee, the other half of the lemon/lime.
That's it, my friends.
Let's note that I don't have all of these things in my freezer at all times. This is an overview of the various things that I keep in there pretty regularly. I really do try to put things in my freezer that will be eaten in a timely manner so that it is one big rotation.