How Our Freezer Gets Used

Homemade Pesto

When you cook at home, you need pantry staples and refrigerator basics for cooking healthy, wholesome food from scratch. I try and keep the basics on hand so that I’m ready to cook or bake but my kitchen is small and I don’t have much space for storing items. How our freezer gets used helps me manage the storage of these staples and I generally freeze all types of food items.

We are fortunate to have a basement with a large 14-cubic-foot freezer. The basement freezer is where I keep my back stock of baking and cooking supplies. Using our small freezer in the kitchen helps me reduce our food waste because instead of throwing food out, especially after two nights of eating the same meal, I freeze whatever is left. My goal is zero food waste, so freezing food before it goes bad really helps.

Food in Freezer
My whole wheat flour is in that big container – just waiting to be made into cookies!

This isn’t stock piling of food. I’m not a coupon shopper so I’m not buying lots of food or household items and storing them. The most I buy for storage ahead of time  is maybe 2-3 months. A few items I buy may take 5-6 months for us to use but because of the packaging, price, and economies of scale, I do purchase them. These items include flour, dried beans and molasses. I buy the larger sizes and then fill as I use down what’s in my kitchen so I don’t always have 25 pounds of flour and 10 pounds of sugar. I’m always using these items so the amount is reduced quickly.

As far as I know, the only food items that can’t be frozen are raw eggs in the shell. Because food expands as it freezes, eggs in the shell have no where to go. Many backyard chicken keepers crack their eggs into a small containers and freeze them for later use, but we never seem to have too many eggs. Either my chickens are lazy or my kids are cooking up too many eggs for breakfast or snacks. Either way, I’ve never had the “problem” of so many eggs that I’ve had to freeze them!

How Our Freezer Gets Used

– and what I store in the big basement freezer:

How to use a freezer

  • 25 pounds of whole wheat flour (from Bob’s Red Mill) – which is 100% whole wheat flour and we’re so lucky to live near the Bob’s Red Mill store. They also sell their products online. I keep a smaller container of flour in my kitchen cupboard and just refill regularly.
  • 10 pounds organic sugar (from Wholesome Sweeteners) which is not treated with chemicals or bleaching agents. Costco sells this and it’s the best deal on this sugar. I keep a smaller container of it in my kitchen cupboard and refill regularly.
  • oatmeal (from Quaker Oats) – again from Costco. We make a double batch of granola twice a month, bake cookies with it, and make granola bars. Sometimes we actually make oatmeal for breakfast, too.
  • chicken broth – anytime I cook chicken with bones in it, after eating the chicken, I make it into broth, which I then freeze.
  • fruit and berries – we pick berries in the summer and freeze for smoothies all year long or until they’re gone- in about January. The applesauce I made last month is in here, too.
  • fish, chicken, pork, shrimp – when the types of protein we eat from the farms and markets  I trust are on sale, I do buy several packages and freeze. I really like it when wild Alaska whole salmon is on sale because it’s a real value for a family. Salmon for freezer
  • bacon – we don’t eat much bacon but when I buy it, I put it in very small packages, freeze it and use it sparingly to add flavor to soups, stews, and spinach salad. It usually amounts to 3 or 4 slices of bacon which I freeze in a small container. Once I take it out of the freezer, I chop it up, first, and then cook it.
  • pesto – just made and looking so good in my freezer!
  • roasted tomatoes – freshly picked from the garden and then roasted. Now, the roasted tomatoes are ready to be made into marinara sauce or pizza sauce.
  • bread – whole wheat, no sugar added (from Dave’s Killer Bread) – again, a wonderful local company whose bakery is across the street from Bob’s Red Mill. Their outlet store sells frozen loaves of bread for $2/loaf. I like their “no sugar added” whole wheat loaf.
  • beans – nearly every week I cook 6 cups (2 1/2 pounds) of dried beans. Mostly, we eat about that amount every week – yes, 15 cups of cooked beans almost every week. (They’re so good for you, full of fiber, and inexpensive.) After cooking the beans, I freeze them in smaller containers and get them out the night before we’re eating them.
  • ice cream – what can I say? Costco sells the best vanilla ice cream and they’re in 1/2 gallon containers. You get two in a carton (of course you do – it’s Costco!) and I stash one in our downstairs freezer.

Bob's Red Mill flour

We don’t have a microwave in our little kitchen so I do have to be organized when I’m using food from our basement freezer. Meal planning helps me stay on top of what needs to come out of the freezer and when.

What helps me THE MOST is to get items out of my freezer the night before I need them. For example, if I get bread, berries, and beans out of the freezer the night before I need them for breakfast, the morning goes a lot smoother. I just have to be awake enough to go downstairs to the basement before going upstairs to bed!

How do you keep food waste down? What foods do you freeze?

Go Gingham related links

My “Love/Hate Relationship with Costco” – I love it – no wait – I hate it
Organizing food storage containers – and labeling them – yes, I have to do it!
Why I cook with pork – instead of beef – several reasons and 1 of them is sweat!
Why meal planning is the biggest saver in the kitchen – without coupons
Betsy’s best brownies – our chicken who is no longer with us
Healthy and tasty chocolate chip cookies – yes, with flax seeds and chocolate chips!
Delicious cake to make with apples – excellent cake

Sticky Pasta Solution

Readers' Questions at Go GinghamThis reader’s question comes from my Mother-in-law’s dear friend, Kim. Kim lives in Nassau, Bahamas, where life is always good and the sun is warm year round.

Kim writes, “You would think after eons of cooking I’d have most answers but I don’t. Twelve of us (the family) were coming over for pasta. One recipe of traditional Marinara and the other Putanesca. To make a long story short I went “flat line” on  how to keep the pasta from sticking together as that was A LOT of pasta. Anyhow, the answer was a large spoonful of butter and it worked like a charm. With all the cookbooks I own, I’m still in the process of learning.  I guess that’s a good thing.”

Kim is always ready with a laugh so I’m sure she handled her guests quite well.

One suggestion is to reserve some of the water you cook the pasta in. Rather than drain all the water off of the pasta, pour 1-2 cups in a glass colander. This makes a nice addition to pasta sauce or pesto that’s too thick. Keeping a little water on the pasta until you add your sauce help keep it from sticking. My other suggestion involves switching to whole wheat pasta.  Whole wheat pasta doesn’t get as sticky as regular, white pasta. We made the switch several years ago here and the whole wheat pasta is much firmer and doesn’t get mushy. I just use our store’s bulk, generic pasta. The ingredients are simple: whole wheat flour.

Thanks for the question, Kim!

How do you handle pasta when it becomes a sticky situation?

Go Gingham related links:

What to do with honey that’s hardened
Why I cook with pork – several reasons – and one involves sweat
Just say no to baby carrots!
Go Gingham food philosophy – yes, there is one
New to cooking at home? Fear not!

Cooking with Dried Beans

Cooking with dried beans
Dried beans looking pretty dry and in need of a good soak.

Cooking with dried beans costs substantially less than canned beans and you control the ingredients (sodium, preservatives, etc) of what goes into your beans.

A 25 lb (11.3 kg)  bag of black beans for $14.79 lasts our family about 5-6 months. I cook 6 cups of dried beans once a week.  (Hey, it can’t be tri-tip steak or fresh wild caught salmon every night!) Purchasing your beans in the bulk/bin section is less expensive than the prepackaged beans.

This is an excellent article about cooking with dried beans by Danielle Centoni. It ran in the print version of The Oregonian on Tuesday, November 30, 2010, “Cooking with dried beans avoids the worry of using cans.”

Soaking the beans is key regardless of your cooking method.  Make this your weekly ritual like it is for me. If you forget to soak the beans overnight, they can be soaked for 2-3 hours in the morning.

What to do with all of those cooked beans? Make chili, soups, and hummus or toss beans into your pasta or add them to a quesadilla. They’re inexpensive and so good for you.

Cooking with dried beans is easy and inexpensive.  I really like this book about beans that I checked out from my library about beans  [amazon_link id=”B0000C2W61″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Bean Bible: A Legumaniac's Guide to Lentils, Peas, and Every Edible Bean on the Planet![/amazon_link] any question you have about beans will be answered with this book.

Do you cook with dried beans? Want to give them a try?

Go Gingham related links:

Very easy and tasty white bean dip
Spicy, homemade hummus that you make from dried beans
Corn and black bean salad – made with dried beans
Just say no to baby carrots!
Go Gingham food philosophy – yes, there is one
New to cooking at home? Fear not!

Go Gingham Affiliate link

My Love/Hate Relationship with Costco

Ready for Costco - with my list!
Never go to Costco without a list!

I love Costco. I hate Costco. I love Costco. I hate…ok, where was I?

It is hard to shop at Costco and be frugal. You really have to use all of your “money-managing-super-powers” to stay within your budget and get in and out of the store in a short period of time. For me, more time spent inside Costco generally equates to more money being spent on items that aren’t necessary.

The second you walk into Costco, you are greeted with bright, shiny new electronic gadgets. I look at those cameras and tvs and think oh, yes, we need that 52″ tv and yet we hardly even watch tv! Any Costco I’ve ever been to puts those electronics right there at the door trying to entice you to stray from your list and splurge. Be strong, be strong!

Costco also makes me nuts by charging for the privilege to shop there. This really bothers me and yet there I am elbowing a poor old lady out of the way, trying to get the last pot-sticker from one of the sample people.

At Costco, everything is big. The parking lot, the cars in the parking lot, the carts, the packaging, the bags of potato chips, the hot dogs. Everything. If you want just one of something, you’re out of luck.

So, what do I buy at Costco? The things our family needs. Contact lenses, toilet paper, tissues, coffee, vitamins, sugar, peanut butter, vanilla ice cream (yes, ice cream qualifies as a “need”) brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Our Costco is carrying more and more organic items and I love that!

You need a strategy for shopping at Costco if you want to get in and out quickly and not break the bank. My strategy? I stay out of the middle section. The middle is where you find things you “want” like clothing, videos, and books. This section is my time and money waster. Admittedly, I do sometimes venture into the middle section but I’ll call it by saying out loud, “I’m going into the middle” and tell my husband to just say “no” to whatever I have in my hands when I emerge. He refuses to even go into the middle section.  He really has money-managing-super-powers!

How to shop frugally at Costco:

  1. Put your head down and ignore all electronics as you enter the store.  Don’t even stop.
  2. Stay out of the middle section – think of hugging the perimeter
  3. Buy only items you need and what you will use
  4. Use Costco’s coupons they mail and clip after reviewing #3 above
  5. Use a list and stick to it – here is mine and I’m sharing  Costco Shopping List
  6. Time it right – leave the kids at home, arrive when the store opens and eat prior to shopping

And so, my struggle continues, love it, hate it.  If I accidentally run into you during my next visit to Costco, I apologize.  You’ll recognize me as the crazed women running with her head down, list in hand and shopping cart at break-neck speed.

What is your shopping strategy at Costco or other warehouse stores? Do you use a list and stick to it? Do you venture into the middle section?

Go Gingham related links:

Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
How we keep food waste to a minimum
Confessions of a leftover food lover – that would be me!