The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Managing the freezer: All set to learn a new craft

Photo:Fridge magnet message

Photo:Fridge magnet message

For years Danny and I ate traditional Sunday lunch at suppertime. A large joint with roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and sometimes Yorkshire puddings (made by me). Sunday roast is Danny’s department. All I have to do is chose the joint and listen to the bustle in the kitchen every Sunday as the cottage slowly fills with the smell of roasting meat that I know will be cooked perfectly under his expert direction.


But this January we decided to change everything.
“We don’t even need a Sunday roast every week anymore.”
I was alarmed.
“We need to save money and a roast is expensive. I’d be happy with spaghetti Bolognese.”

I must admit, I didn’t believe Danny. So we tottered through a few weeks of no Sunday roast. Danny off the lead in the Rat Room and me toiling over a hot stove. It wasn’t just that I wanted to reclaim my Sunday evening. I realised that with a bit of canny management we could probably turn every roast into a range of tempting meals.

The problem is that I’m prone to bouts of ‘Roast Jointitis’. I love the roast and perhaps another meal a couple of days later using some of the leftover meat. Then I never want to see that joint again. Our freezer is full of these refugee joints. Small slabs of meat that are too good to feed to the dogs but not tempting enough to be cosseted into providing another meal. In fact, getting the sausage making attachment at Christmas was a way of having a really good mincer. We could make rissoles and pies – budget, leftover cooking at its best.

Our foray down the “how to make a free range chicken stretch like rubber” was a real eye opener. And I enjoyed every meal. But chicken is something that I could happily eat most days. Rich pork, free range succulent lamb and even beef would have me running for the cover of a veggie sandwich in a couple of days.

But if I froze other meat sensibly. We needn’t eat pork, lamb or beef four times in a week. All it takes is good management. The Penultimate Paramour bought me a small notebook. He attached a string to it and carefully wrote the title of the tome on the cover “Freezer Journal.” It hung on the side of the freezer in the barn for four years with just the one inaugural entry. Perhaps a biro on a string would have been a good idea as well? But to be quite honest when it comes to fitting food into the freezer it’s often a game that needs time and patience. By the time that’s done all I want is a good cup of tea and an appreciative hug.

Over the last year or so I’ve realised that the PP’s idea was a good one. If you know what’s in your freezer you can manage it well and get the best out of the contents. Rather than wonder what could be in those bags that have languished so long that even the date has rubbed off. Over the past couple of days I have spend a good two or three hours looking for a pack of venison that I was 99.99% certain had been lurking in the freezer for a couple of months. I unearthed some jubilant surprises, a lot of dross and no venison. A handy guide to our freezer would have saved me hours and the possibility of secondary frostbite and, at times, real unbounded rage.

Now where is that notebook? Could it have fallen behind the freezer…

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  1. Kate, it’s necessary for hubby to check the freezer in my household. Feminine vanity means glasses are not worn and prawns from 2009 are the worst example I found and meat and veg well time expired. 75% of the contents for food waste, that is a waste. Anyone know of a good booklet on freezer management?

  2. kate (uk)

    Small joints- cook in a lidded roaster, keeps the moisture in and the joint won’t shrink so much.
    Well, Fiona the difference between Danny’s useful supermarket finds and Martin’s not so useful is simple- Danny cooks, Martin has not a clue!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Thank you everyone for your tips and ideas!

    Hello Michelle

    Your idea is ingenious. Thank you so much!

    Hi Belinda

    Thanks for the inspiration. I have a real soft spot for Jamie Oliver.

    He is a truly good man and has put his neck and money on the line time and time again (School food/and his restaurants – Fifteen – offering apprenticeships to disadvantaged youngsters.)

    He also has a lots of charm and a great smile 😉

    Hello Joanna

    I’ve always been told that a big roast tastes better. That’s why people flock to carveries in the UK. Our joints are not that big but hefty enough not to make the meat shrivel away to nothing.

    But there must be a way of producing smaller joints, that taste good. Cn you help? I’d be so very grateful/

    HI Z

    You are very wise. It seems obvious now you have said it. But I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. Thank you!

    Hello Rachel

    You are so right but as with the comment above, a small joint often just doesn’t taste as good as a bigger joint. However, I‘m sure that a small joints can be roasted perfectly. And I’d truly love to hear how!

    I also live with a true carnivore. He has to put up with no meat/less meat all week so I give like to give him a fix on a Sunday. But I might eat two slices so the leftovers after the feasting are a waste.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Danny brings back hunting ’finds’ most evenings until I say STOP the freezer is full. A lot of these are finds make me think about new ways to prepare meat or fish. Many are coked as the starter that didn’t exist on the menu before he pushed through the door bearing thin plastic labelled bags that are so tempting that I have to add a starter and probably enjoy it more than the main course!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Soft fruit is my downfall too. I have a whole drawer dedicated to our soft fruit. Gathered at the high point of ripeness and flavour.

    Hello Casalba

    Waves of relief are sweeping over me. You’re a good cook and don’t have an up to date freezer book.

    Hello Kethry

    We freeze before meals and this seems to get us over the hump. Although we ate a homemade lasagne from frozen tonight and it was delish!

    Hi Sam

    Great move. I think that I’ll do this every now and then. Usually I just say ‘It’s freezer meals for the next two weeks’ and don’t look beyond the first three layers.

    Hello Diane

    Good points. Our extra freezer is the size of a small fridge (top loading). I‘d love a proper chest freezer but reading your comment realised that this could end in tears. Thank you.

    I reckon that storing stuff for months on end can’t be great. So thanks so much for your tip.

    How about oven baked Pumpkin soup or naughty deepf ried pumpkin crisps?

  4. We don’t/won’t have a chest freezer because electricity is too expensive and we have had some lengthy outages. I’d hate to loose that much stuff. Also our fridge freezer gets out of hand so I know we couldn’t cope with a big one. We do handle meat leftovers pretty well, though. Bones are collected in plastic bags until there is enough for stock making or until they get in the way. Sometimes we do another bag of vegetable trimmings. Chopped up meat gets saved to put in soup. Berries go in smoothies. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the roasted and pureed pumpkin.

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