For the first time in my life I have a side-by-side refrigerator. I am finding that my freezer storage space needs to be carefully assessed because much of the space seems to be gobbled up with the ice-cube maker and water dispenser.
Defining my essential freezer storage items
By choice, I gifted my large chest freezer to a family member when I sold my home and moved to a townhome. My side by side refrigerator is all that I have, and at first I randomly tucked in leftovers and odds and ends. Then I would shop for meat or frozen vegetables, and become annoyed because I would have to remove less useful freezer storage items and try to make room for my new purchases. I found that I needed a plan and a list of items to keep on hand.
Milk is at the top of my list for freezer storage items
Why milk? I need it for my cereal, for drinking at mealtime, and for cooking, and when I run out I am not a happy camper. I don’t like to have to make emergency runs to the grocery store for just one or two items, especially in the winter, so I keep up to two gallons of milk in my freezer year-round.
I reuse the one liter sturdy plastic bottles that I get when I purchase Bolthouse Farms Mocha Cappuccino protein drink (yum), I refill the washed bottles with milk, leaving some room at the top of the bottle for expansion of milk as it freezes, and then line up the bottles (usually eight) to the back of one of the shelves.
It is important to move the milk from the freezer to the refrigerator in a timely fashion. Milk in a one liter bottle thaws slowly in the refrigerator, but you can speed up the thawing process by setting the bottle out on the counter for a few hours.
Protein is a top priority for my freezer storage
All I need to keep on hand are individually wrapped boneless chicken breasts, some packages of fish, and some lean ground beef individually packaged in quarter pound quantities. I have learned to not buy larger cuts of meat, such as roasts, or whole chickens or turkeys until such time as I am ready to actually prepare that item.
Veggies and fruits are next on my list
I keep several packages of steam fresh veggies in the freezer (without butter sauces) plus packages of my homemade roasted veggies. I find blueberries and peaches to be very useful, and I store some packages of vegetable and fruit pulp and juices that I make myself with my juicer. I don’t waste the pulp from the juicer but find ways to use it on salads, in soups, etc.
Miscellaneous staples to keep on hand
Although I don’t use a lot of shredded cheese, it is nice to have a small supply available for recipes, especially homemade pizza. Cheese generally keeps well.
I keep bags of walnuts, pecans and almonds in the freezer. They are great for baking and snacking.
I like to have a variety of sliced bread or a package or two of artisan bread on hand. I was told at the bakery recently to put a loaf of frozen artisan bread in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes to make it taste like freshly baked bread. I haven’t tried that yet, but it is on my list of things to do.
Frozen items degrade because of exposure to air; package them in containers or bags that are made as air tight as possible.
Rotate the contents of your freezer so that older items are used first.
You can tightly seal bags of soup or other soft items and then freeze them in a flat position. This way the bags can be stacked more efficiently on a freezer shelf.
With these freezer storage items on hand in my side by side refrigerator, I am good to go for most cooking efforts. I would welcome other space-saving ideas from anyone who wishes to share them.