Sunday, June 19, 2016

Emptying the Freezer #2: Things I Have Learned

It's been two weeks since I bought groceries as part of my Zero Food Budget Challenge and my Emptying the Freezer Challenge.  I haven't always been happy-happy-joy-joy with the available choices from the freezer but I haven't been uncomfortable or hungry either.  Overall, I would say 85% successful.

My family never kept a freezer and I haven't either up until two years ago, so I'm just experimenting with something that is essentially new to me to find out what works best for my needs.


What does NOT work?

--Frozen stuffed tomatoes.  Really not successful at all.  Gooey.  Wet.  Yucky. But the contents are usually okay.  Kinda odd.  Never again.  Seriously.

--Excessive amounts of soup.  I feel like I have been swimming through soup.  Truthfully, I warmed up a bowl of soup for lunch yesterday and Just. Could. Not.  It was still sitting on the kitchen counter an hour later because, after a single spoonful, I could not make myself eat it.  The soup is headed to the compost bin.  As a general rule I love soup of all sorts but it seems that I have simply made too many servings in the interest of using up stuff--mainly it's nothing but cabbage and carrots.  There has to be a better way.

--Unsliced loaves of banana bread and fruitcake.  These foods are great staples to have on hand.  But I need to remember to slice before I freeze.  It's wasteful to thaw an entire loaf when I really only want a couple of slices and then the rest is too much for one person to consume within a few days.

--A whole lot of very oddly-sized containers.  I use whatever comes to hand as a cost-saving measure.  However, I have discovered that being unable to stack and store things with a reasonable degree of order wastes a lot of precious freezer space.  Square and rectangular are better than round.  I need to be thinking of a solution for this little problem, and that probably means a shopping trip to the dollar store--sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

What DOES work? (my recipe links included!)

--Veggie Upside Down Cake.  One of the wonders of the Vegetarian universe.  (Hey, Omnivores love it, too!)  Freezes beautifully in single servings.  Easy to heat up.  Completely satisfactory.

--Lentil Burgers.  I want to make more soon!  The recipe I have is not perfect and the texture leaves something to be desired (recipes can always be tweaked so it's no big deal) but for a satisfactory sandwich filling, these lentils are hard to beat.

--Tomato Dressing.  My all-time favorite comfort food.  I have been making this for literally decades.  It is the most brilliantly adaptable recipe.  The tomatoes can be replaced with squash, eggplant, or cucumbers.  A variety of different cheeses may be used.  (The trick, though, is to use really good bread for the filler--do not skimp on this!)  It freezes nicely.  It bakes beautifully in the oven and the top crisps up nicely. 

--Pretend Ratatouille.  This recipe was born out of pure desperation (in other words, a vast excess of eggplant and a very low food budget).  And I am glad that it was.  I have been making it ever since.  And I plan to do so again.

--Barm Brack.  Yeah, it's fruit cake.  Don't make that face!  Fruit cake is wonderful if you do it right.  Barm Brack is easy; it's tasty; it's even sorta good for you.  Excellent with a mug of tea.  And it very politely freezes nicely.....but it's lots nicer if you remember to slice before you freeze.

--Red Gravy.   My mother's recipe for Italian tomato sauce.  There is simply nothing better.  It doesn't have oregano in it, and strangely it doesn't need it at all.  Little containers of this stuff can rescue a variety of boring meals, not just spaghetti.    I want some right now!  It is just so good, so easy, so inexpensive.  Small serving-size containers of this stuff are a joy to find in the freezer, and they have salvaged my sense of humor more than once during the past fortnight.

--My Mother's Very Best Bread.  Sorry, no link for this one.  It's a recipe that I haven't shared.....and may not.  I guess it's my little secret for now, since I seem to be one of the very few people who has her recipe and quite certainly I am the only one who makes it.  This bread was always the heart of our home (we almost never fell to the sin of purchasing store-boughten bread), and this bread still has my heart even now.  I make six loaves at a time and freeze them.  It truly is the Very Best Bread.  Ever.  If I have this bread, I can cheerfully do without nearly anything else.  


Although I have not quite managed to empty my freezer yet, I will be buying some fresh food this week.  It's time, and I need a change.  But I will continue to try to empty the freezer so I can defrost it and give it a good clean.

So, there you have it:  another step on my journey.  I'm gonna keep on walking this road to see what else I can learn.

Life is good.

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