Everybody needs at least one spare freezer. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a family of two, or a family of twenty. Only having one, teensy-weensy freezer is costing you time and money. It might be preventing you from being able to afford to eat healthier, too. I know there’s lots of excuses why not to….starting with the cost. But typically, you can find a freezer for as cheap as $40, used. I guarantee you’ll make up that money in no time. Currently, for our family of 3, we have one upright freezer, and two fridge/freezer combos. The second fridge/freezer isn’t always necessary, but we’ve made good use of it, especially as I pick up produce and stuff for my mom, often.
So, what’s so great about a second freezer? Essentially, it enables you to simplify your life, and cut back on your expenditures. Let’s take a look at some of the main ways it does this. Bonus benefit: you can always find space for a bucket of creamy, incredible homemade ice cream. I don’t know about you, but I’m not saying no to that one!
A lot of people avoid hormone free/grass fed/etc. meats because of the price tag. I know it’s different from area to area, but where we live, buying in bulk enables me to get our meats significantly cheaper than I would for any of the gross stuff at the grocery store. Even Sam’s Club is carrying hormone-free chicken. If 50 pounds of meat sounds intimidating to you, see if a friend would go in with you and split. But for the record, it’s definitely worthwhile to go big and stock your freezer.
Speaking of meat, even if you don’t freeze full meals, just preparing and freezing meat ahead of time makes meal prep a snap. You will save yourself hours and tons of dishes just by having the meat all ready. For example, when we want to have grilled chicken sandwiches, all I do is pull out a bag of chicken that I cut and marinated when I bought it. Thaw it and grill. If we want wet burritos, I make a sauce, get some burrito meat out of the freezer, along with some cheese that was shredded from a 10# block, and beans from either a can or the freezer, and away we go. Simple and easy. Fajitas require getting a bag out of the freezer of marinated chicken strips, and if I’m on top of things, getting a bag of pepper/onion strips out of the freezer too. Saute everything, and we’re already done. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite recipes for/from the freezer in a later part of this series.
Having a second freezer also allows you to prepare ahead for special or unexpected circumstances. If you’re expecting, having a freezer provides a way for you to treat yourself to a nice long break after the baby’s born. Having stuff in the freezer makes 1st trimesters smoother. Planning ahead enables you to avoid Pizza Hut on the days that totally go down the drain. (Go ahead, smile and pretend you’ve never had one of those….I know better.)
Having a freezer enables you to make the most of local, seasonal produce, as you can freeze and enjoy all year long. Not only is this healthier, it’s often cheaper. I typically do peaches, strawberries, blueberries, green beans, green peppers, jalapenos, corn (not very much, because I only use it in soups), and a handful of other things depending on the year.
If you wish, you can shop less. This saves you a lot of time, and potentially gas money. I shop as needed for produce and dairy (most of which keeps for quite a while in the fridge as long as I get plenty to last us), but that’s about it, because there isn’t much else I buy on a regular basis. Everything else happens in bulk, 2-4 times a year depending on the item.
Having a 2nd freezer and being able to do things ahead or in bulk saves you a significant amount of time. If some people actually have to cook their chicken breast, then chop it, then make a casserole with it, it’s no wonder they find cooking intimidating!
If you’re going to maximize your freezer space, you’ll have to become an expert packer. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, which help out a lot. Freeze unstructured casseroles in a Ziploc bag (then wash and reuse!). Line pans with aluminum foil, layer ingredients in, flash freeze, and pop out. Finish wrapping in foil, put in freezer, and you have your pan back. If it’s a tomato-based dish, line the foil with wax paper.
In part two, we’ll take a look at how utilizing your freezer space might look on an everyday basis. In part three, I’ll share some recipes and favorite tips.