Whether you are trying to work through the hidden gems in the back of your freezer or hoping to manage items you recently stocked up on–it’s helpful to have a clean and well-organized freezer. Closed up and hidden until we need something, the freezer tends to get overlooked when planning meals but chances are there is a lot of value in your freezer. If you’ve found yourself with a little extra time on your hands it may be time to investigate what’s in the freezer.
We all have the need to keep busy now but there are only so many Zumba or yoga classes that you can do. Even I have found that there is a limit, and as my friend Fran says, “We will all have buns of steel.”
Cooking also seems to be on everyone’s mind, judging from the lack of availability of many things in the store. But flour–especially regular all-purpose, bread, gluten-free, sorghum–you name it and it’s in short supply. I bet that there are people now well-stocked in flour who barely know where the kitchen is, let alone what to do with that flour.
And tofu? Why does there seem to be a tofu shortage right now? Really…how many people like tofu and know how to cook it? You, of course, know because you already eat plants and plant-foods every day. But so many people don’t, or haven’t. Maybe this is the “big shift”.
Don’t get me started on why stores are limiting potatoes, bread, rice and the foods that WE eat. Why let the meat-eaters even buy those foods? Let us buy as much as we want. My truth is that I live in a small town, shielded from a lot of the insanity, where we still can’t get toilet paper, but I can buy as many potatoes as I want. Can’t find rice but potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash are all here. And if I am willing to pay $8 to $10 for a bunch of organic broccoli, I can buy that, too. I am NOT kidding you… and it grows here in California where I live. My sister said that it’s less expensive on the east coast. WHAT???
So now, back to the freezer. Each day on Facebook someone wants to know how to cook something that they have just discovered in their freezer: a rice mix, a grain that they can’t identify or they find stale cauliflower tortillas and turn them into something else- see creative reuse below (yes, you Hannah Kaminsky).
Freezer Organization Techniques
I just went from a side by side refrigerator freezer to a French door top and pull out bottom. I lost a bunch of freezer space and it could be more organized so this might be a do as I say, not as I do. I had to figure out how to fit it all in which has been challenging, but I did do a freezer clean out, too.
- Know if what you want to freeze can be frozen. Most plant foods, except for cooked potatoes and the foods that they are in, freeze well.
- Know how long the food can be stored. Most plant foods can be easily stored without loss of integrity for 3 months.
- Label and date everything. I joke that when you put the black beans into the smoothies instead of blueberries, it will change your day. The same goes for cilantro instead of parsley.
- Label and date everything. Yes, I already said this, but it’s very important. Use masking tape or write on your zippered bag but be sure you know what you have. I often will keep a label from whatever it is and tape it to the package. An example would be a rice blend that calls for cooking for a different time than what is usual. I keep the label and attach it. Or anything that you bought that you want to remember what it is and how to use it.
- Look in your freezer every so often, as in once every week or two. I have been cooking most days which means that I have enough food that I won’t have to cook for about an entire week and we can still eat. Each time I make beans, I make a double batch and put half in the freezer. Husband wants chili? I first look to see if I have it (I can’t even remember what day it is anymore, certainly I might not recall having made chili) and if not, I pull out the beans. I look to see if they are soaked and uncooked or cooked. (This is where labeling really makes a difference.) Then chili can be easily made. (See that beefless Trade Joe’s stuff in my freezer, that is for my husband’s version of chili. I like mine all beans and veggies.)
- Don’t let your freezer stress you out. Think of it as an extension of your pantry. It will help you use the precious ingredients that you have. This is not a time for food waste which leads to my last tip.
- Creative reuse is important but not necessary. Have just a cup of frozen cooked rice (yes, I freeze it often) and another of quinoa? How about turning it into dessert, like rice pudding by adding dried fruit and plant milk and cinnamon and cooking it? Or turn them into a savory casserole or one-pot dish by mixing with cooked vegetables and seasonings. Or “fried” grains with bits from your frig. Make them into soup, turn them into burgers. I could go on but won’t.
- If you are super organized you can make a list of what is in your freezer. I can almost guarantee that you will not find me with that kind of list.
Looking for more freezer tips and hacks? Check out this post to see how I use an ice cube tray to reduce food waste in my kitchen.
And if your freezer isn’t your friend, forget all of this and just get into the kitchen and cook with what you have. Make it simple, or not. It’s up to you but get cooking with plant foods, the best that you can. Want oatmeal for dinner, it’s OK. But shhhh…don’t tell too many of the others. I am afraid that “our secret” has gotten out.