In this series of posts on organizing the freezer, I’ve written tips on labeling, containers, and thinking about your freezer as a pantry. This post is about how to use the freezer to be smart about the time you spend in the kitchen and how to easily get one or two weeknight meals per week out of this one kitchen apparatus.
These posts began with a commitment to reduce the food waste in our home after Chloe (our daughter studying environmental science in college) came home from school with what seemed like a staggering statistic – between 30 to 40% of all retail and consumer food becomes waste. That means 1/3rd of the food in our homes goes into our garbage stream. That seemed astonishing to me. As a business person, food costs are always high on my watch list, whether it’s in our business or in our home. But then I thought about our freezer. And how I wasn’t using it efficiently, and I decided to make some changes. I started labeling everything. I began using containers that would stack. And once these two things were in place, I just naturally started to use our freezer more as a resource rather than like a stuffed closet that one dreads to organize or even dare approach.
Once the freezer was organized, it became easier to keep a better watch on my refrigerator and what needed to be frozen before it went bad. In my family, it usually takes a couple of days before the leftovers are either gone or no one wants to eat them any longer. That doesn’t mean they’ve expired, it just means we got tired of them. When I see that happening, I know it’s time to move them into the freezer. These leftovers have since become treasures. Perfect for when I don’t feel like cooking, someone in the house is sick, or the day just got away from us but we don’t want to order pizza. What was a tired leftover becomes a quick weeknight meal with a few minutes on the stove.
To reheat soups and stews, I run warm water on the outside of the container for 30 seconds or so until it releases. Carefully, I turn it into a small saucepan or stock pot, add a little water, and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to medium-low and let come to temperature over the next 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and add more water if needed while you prepare a salad or the rest of your meal.
To reheat pasta dishes or pot pies takes a little more planning. Ideally, remove from the freezer in the morning and allow it to come to room temperature. Then heat in a 350 degree oven until the center is hot.
In 2015 the USDA issued a Food Waste Challenge with these 3 objectives:
- Reduce – by all of the methods I’ve been writing about in these posts
- Recover – by finding secondary sources for surplus food such as food banks and pantries
- Recycle – by feeding animals the healthy surplus and the compost pile the spoiled food
BEFORE you toss those leftovers that no one is really interested in any longer, pop them in a container in the freezer. These gems are weeknight emergency rations that make life super easy after a just a couple of weeks of this habit.
How do you save time and costs in your kitchen?