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My Freezer, part 1


Well, I thought it's about time I get around to writing about what types of foods I find are necessary to keep in stock. I suppose a good start is my freezer.

Let's start with meat.

Meats I currently have in my freezer:
  • 3.5 lbs ground beef (in 1/2 lb portions)
  • 2 lbs ground pork (in 1/2 lb portions)
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 whole chickens
  • 4 chicken legs
  • 2 slices of ham
  • small portion of sliced pepperoni
  • clams (from a can)
  • 1 lb sole fillets
  • 1 box breaded fish fillets
Now, let's go over these (and others I'm out of)



Beef
  • Ground beef is probably my number one frugal freezer filler.  There are so many things you can make with it and the only thing cheaper is pork (we'll get to that next).  I buy family-size packs when they are a good price (at $2/lb I will buy close to 10 lbs if possible)! We also occasionally purchase our ground beef from a local butcher. The meat is better, fresher, and still a good price (usually around $2.50/lb though last visit we got it for $2.10 when we mentioned local stores had it for $2/lb).
  • I occasionally splurge on a roast beef, but it rarely winds up in the freezer since it's so rare for us to have one nowadays. Usually we cook it up the day we bring it home.
  • Stew beef is also handy. Because it's often still too pricey for me, it's not exactly an essential lately. Though it is easy to freeze and I love to make a delicious beef stew. 

Pork
  • Pork is cheap. Very cheap.  Ground pork can be found for as low as $1/lb! When I spot this sale, I'll buy a big pack (usually about 6lbs) and freeze it in 1- or 1/2-lb portions like the beef. I don't often use the ground pork on it's own (except maybe for sloppy joes and yakisoba), but I often combine it with beef (meatballs, meatloaf) to stretch my dollar! 
  • Then you have roasts. Cheap, bone-in shoulder roasts can sometimes be found for $1/lb - they make for amazing pulled pork. Then there are the delicious tenderloins. If I can get pork tenderloin for $2/lb I'll stock up, though I won't mind spending $3/lb for a good one.  About once or twice a year our grocery store sells very large boneless pork tenderloin (around 7lbs) for just under $2/lb. I buy two, then cut them up into smaller roasts and pork chops.  So that leaves pork chops, if I can find those for around $2/lb I'm very happy.
  • Then there's ham. Occasionally I can get a nice little toupie ham for $5. They are probably 2.5lbs. I cut them into slices (ends are cut into cubes) and I freeze them in smaller portions.  If the slices are frozen seperately on a cookie sheet, then put into a freezer bag, they don't stick together.  I like to take a couple of slices out, defrost them, then fry them up with some pineapple for a quick dinner for the kids and I (the husband is NOT a fan of ham).  The diced pieces are great for pizzas or quiche or even omelettes perhaps.
  • I should also mention salt pork. I keep a small portion in my freezer for making delicious beans or pea soup.
  • Pepperoni. I buy a whole pepperoni (no name, about $3) and slice it myself. Lay out the slices on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they're solid, dump them into a freezer bag and you're good to go! Great for pizzas, calzones/pockets, or to spice up a casserole.
  • Sausages. I love having sausages around. They make any pasta sauce amazing. They are also delicious in my stuffed green peppers, borscht, or good for a quick almost-jambalaya. I'm currently out, but I always stock up when I can get them for $2/lb. A family-sized package has 12 sausages, which I freeze in packs of 4, and costs about $6 or less at this price.
  • Finally, bacon. I am out of bacon. However, whenever we can scrape together the nearly $50 or so we buy a 10lb box from the local butcher. This is frozen into smaller portions and enjoyed for many many months.

Chicken
  • I have a few basics with chicken. First, there's whole chicken. I grab them when they are 2/$10.  I freeze them separately and they can be easily thawed and roasted.  A roasted chicken is good for at least two, sometimes three meals.
  • Next, there's chicken breast. Boneless is becoming a bit of a luxury with us lately, as it is rarely below $3/lb.  However, when I can get some, I freeze them in 1-lb portions.  They are good for dozens of different recipes.  Of course, it is cheaper to get them with the back (this week, for example, I can get them for $1.76/lb - which is pretty amazing). 
  • Third, there are the bone-in chicken legs. I recently bought a large pack at $1/lb (got 8 legs for around $6).  They are very easily cooked in a crockpot and the meat can be used for a lot of different meals (you'd also end up with stock, but remember to skim off the extra fat). To save on freezer space it might be wise to cook the chicken legs, then freeze the meat.

Fish
  • We're trying to incorporate more fish into our diets.  Usually for fish we use canned tuna or salmon. However, last month I found plain fozen fillets for $2/lb.  
  • I also enjoy keeping fish sticks and assorted breaded fillets around for quick/lazy dinners.

Now, regarding vegetables. I find it important to reserve plenty of room for frozen veggies as well. I'm personally not a fan of canned vegetables. To me, frozen is nearly as good as fresh.  As for which vegetables I keep, it usually varies.  I always like to have on hand: peas, corn, and a stir-fry variety mix. I also like to keep green beans (or with carrots & yellow beans mix), broccoli (or w/cauliflower mix), and spinach.

I will also freeze my own veggies, when I can get them cheap (or if I get too many in my CSA box).  Freezing your own is not difficult, but remember that most of them need to be blanched before freezing (you can consult charts online for cooking times, but they are usually 1-3 minutes)
  • Carrots - I can get a 10lb bag for $1-2 in the fall. While most of them will last through the winter (kept in a plastic bag in the fridge), I find it handy to chop and freeze some of them. 
  • Zucchini - So cheap in the summer/fall, and one of my favorites. Freezes fine, with blanching.
  • Onions - Don't need to blanch! Like the carrots, it's easy to get a giant cheap bag in the fall. If kept in a cool, dark place they should last for months. However, if you have a hard time keeping them you should be able to freeze some. It's been awhile since I froze onions, however, since I found a good spot to store them.
  • Peppers - Green, red, yellow peppers. Just chop and freeze, no blanching needed, still great for casseroles, quiche, chili, etc.
  • Celery - Also freeze-able! If I find I have some getting limp I will wash, chop, freeze some for soups & casseroles later. (They won't be crunchy once frozen, but they will still flavor dishes pretty well).
  • Veggie scrap bag! I save scraps (ends of onions, carrots, peels, etc) for using in veggie/chicken stocks. Waste not, eh? :)


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