So, I think most people who know me know I have trouble throwing things away. (You should see the state of my craft room.) Usually this habit isn’t much of a problem, because I’m able to find ways to use the things I’ve been able to save, but sometimes things get away from me and then I wind up with a way more stuff than I know what to do with. But that is for another post. (Seriously, you should see my craft room. Or, more like, scary-stacks-and-piles-of-stuff room.)
But, because of this trait, which I’m pretty sure I inherited from both my parents, who got it from their parents who survived the Depression by scrimping and saving and “making do,” I have found ways to cut out a lot of waste food going into the trash or compost bin. These are things that I use regularly enough that I never get too far behind. Instead, by saving these things, I’ve cut down on how often I need to buy them.
Here are the six things you’ll almost always find in my freezer.
Yep. Sexy huh? But seriously, I can’t believe more people don’t keep their bread in the freezer. It never goes stale in there! And you only need to let each slice sit on the counter for a couple of minutes for it to thaw. I’m pretty much the only one who eats bread regularly around here, and it can sometimes take me two or three weeks to go through a load. When I buy bread now, I just immediately put it in the freezer.
In the morning when I make toast or — my favorite breakfast these days — PB&J, I just take out what I need. It stays soft and delicious and never goes bad. Plus, once it’s frozen, you don’t have to worry about it getting smushed.
Milk & Juice
Did you know you can freeze milk? Yep! I hate tossing out spoiled milk. It seems so wasteful, considering the environmental cost of milk in the first place. But aside from that, it’s nutrient-rich food that many people can’t even afford.
I usually go through a half gallon of milk each week. I have a small glass of milk with my PB&J, and occasionally a small amount in my tea or in something I’m cooking. But sometimes because of various reasons, I have some left over by the time our Friday shopping trip comes around again. So, I just pour it into a jar and keep it in the freezer. Once I get three or four jars, I have enough to skip buying milk for a whole week. I just let the jar thaw in the fridge (it takes about 24 hours) and give it a good shake before drinking. It tastes just as good as fresh milk.
The same goes for the juice. I like to drink tangerine juice (it’s sweeter and less acidic than orange juice) in the afternoons when I take my iron pills. But I can’t get through a full half gallon each week unless I have friends over helping me. (And by helping, I mean doing tequila shots with tangerine juice chasers. Hi Heather!) I could buy the pint, but it’s a better bargain to get the larger size every other week and just freeze half of it.
You know when you get a take out burrito and they give you chips and salsa, which you almost never eat and wind up throwing away? Well, aside from trying to remember to ask them to NOT give me those things, I’ve at least found a way to save the salsa. (And the peppers that come with Pho take-out, and those little bits of onion that are sometimes leftover when a recipe only calls for half an onion.) I freeze them and then use them when I make black beans.
It’s so perfect! They’re the ingredients I’d be adding anyway, and here they are in little plastic cups ideal for freezing for saving! I just freeze the salsa in their cups, and then pop them into my “salsa” freezer bag to use the next time I’m cooking beans.
Whenever we have bones left over from chicken or pot roast, I add them to my “bones” bag in the freezer. Once the bag is full, I make stock. It actually takes longer around here to get enough bones to make chicken stock than maybe at other houses because Eric really loves to clean the chicken carcass by picking every last morsel of meat off and eating it. I’m not kidding. When I cook a chicken, aside from the “oyster” I most look forward to eating the breast with its crispy skin. Mmmm. Eric, on the other hand, will volunteer to carve the cooked bird if he’s allowed to sit with the carcass at the table and work away at it. He gets some funny looks from our dinner guests sometimes, but if it makes him happy, I’m happy.
But even though I make stock fairly regularly, sometimes I still need to buy one of those containers at Trader Joe’s, and then only use a cup or so of it. What to do with all that leftover stock? Stock cubes! I’m very happy with my ice maker, but I make sure to keep a set of ice cube trays specifically for this purpose. Freezing the stock into cubes makes it easier to add them to little things like cooking rice or smashing potatoes. Once they’re frozen, just empty them into a bag and they’ll keep for a very long while.