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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.

Wonderful.

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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14 Comments

  1. samantha winter

    When we want to budget a bit more in squeeze month or empty the freezer I make a list of the contenets and then we work our dinners around that. I started doing this when were about to move house and had to empty the freezer.
    We are about list everything again as the freezer is full of ‘bargain’ buys. Not so bargain if they live in there forever!

  2. dry wipe pen.. brilliant! Will try that.

    but for us, we don’t freeze finished meals (like leftover spaghetti bolognaise, for example), even if its enough for 2 people. Couple reasons. 1) it *never* gets eaten. mostly cos it just looks awful. lol. 2) i’ve found chucking out leftovers is rare because we tend to eat them for lunch the following day. 3) what i DO keep in the freezer is stuff i can make up into other meals, like, left over meat. At xmas we had a ham and a lamb joint, i put leftovers of both into the freezer. The ham i sliced some, cubed some. Michiel had the last of the sliced ham and the last of the lamb the other night when he was joneseying for some meat – there’s a tiny tiny bit of cubed ham left for a soup. Otherwise, i tend to use the freezer for bought frozen goods (frozen veg, icecream, etc) or raw meat which i then freeze, or stock. I have 4 large ex-yoghurt buckets full of chicken stock! In this way i find the freezer doesn’t fill up to the point where you’re pushing that last bag of peas in, but it doesn’t empty out completely either. A nice balance. 🙂

  3. I started a list on a piece of paper attached by a magnet – just went to have a look at it – last updated 29/08/07 !!! But a dry wipe pen – that’s a brilliant idea.

    Even worse at labelling. I think I’m going to remember what’s inside, but somehow never do…

  4. magic cochin

    I am guilty of stuffing the freezer with fruit – soft fruit harvest always clashes with a very busy time of year. I must have a sort out and make it all into jam/ jelly/ liqueurs/ compote/ etc!!!!

    On the other hand I’m more organised about the meat, fish, bread and milk and have my own un-written ‘system’ which is impossible to describe to anyone else! We never have leftover cooked meat, We do have a ‘Sunday Roast Dinner’ I suppose we don’t buy huge joints and often have a pot-roast and we don’t mind having lamb or pork for three days running: roast, cold, stew/ pasta-sauce/ meatballs/ etc…

    There’s one thing that’s absolutely certain – I’d never keep a freezer notebook up to date!

    Celia

  5. kate (uk)

    My managing the freezer tip- never,ever let any other member of the household near the freezer!
    Teenagers will root through it aimlessly just in case there is ice cream ‘somewhere’, partners will secretly add stuff they think might be ‘nice to eat one day’ picked up when wandering aimlessly around the supermarket ignoring the list they have been given, thus filling the space you have just created and destroying the order that took hours of sorting and date checking to create…yes, daughter home last weekend and husband went shopping…freezer sort day AGAIN for me today…

  6. erm, this might be a bit radical but how about buying a smaller joint so there’s less left over? Or just cooking half of it and freezing the rest -frozen raw meat somehow seems more versatile and appealling than cooked. I too get bored after 2 possibly 3 meals from the same joint but its rarely a problem with a growing boy in the house.

  7. If I freeze leftover cooked meat we never use it. It looks more dry and useless every time I glance at it. I make it up into meals and then freeze it against the days when I don’t have time to cook.

  8. Have you not tried cutting up the joints so that you have smaller portions to roast? I have got into the habit of doing this since our three kids left so we don’t waste it. We also use the meat for sandwiches as we don’t have the delights of a cooked meat counter here in rural Latvia, just salamis or plastic ham or there is the smoked ham but I am not really a fan of smoked meats.

  9. Yep, the fridge as white board! We did that until we got the new one too.

    I make a version of this

    http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/meat-recipes/spicy-pork-and-chilli-pepper-goulash

    by freezing leftover roast pork, and then when we are hankering for pork again I defrost it, dice up the meat, and then boil it up in the slowcooker (chuck the bone in too) with all the rest of the ingredients.

  10. michelle sheets

    If your freezer has a smooth surface on the outside you could try a dry erase pen and write directly on the door. I used to do this on my refrigerator door to make shopping lists (untill we got a new fridge with a bumpy surface on the door, doesn’t work so well on them!).

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