DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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6 September 2011

Saved by the freezer

I would be lost without my freezer. Having baked goods in the freezer is another reliable way to save money. If you have those days when visitors drop by unannounced and nights when you're running late and too tired to cook a family meal, think of your freezer as your friend. If you fill it when you have time on your hands, it will safely keep your home cooked bread, cakes, biscuits, soups, stews, and much more, to be served after a quick defrosting.

Home baked bread freezes well, so does bread dough. To bake dough that has been frozen, defrost it, wait for it to return to room temperature, allow it to rise, then bake as normal.

Of course you could always buy frozen food at the supermarket, but do you really want to pay more than double what it would cost you to make it from scratch? At Coles today, a frozen pizza will cost you $6.41 for a family size (500g) pizza; 450g of bruschetta bites - that is bread with tomato, salami and cheese topping will cost $7.48! BTW, for our north American friends, 500 grams is about a pound.  And 280 grams of Malaysian chicken curry (frozen) will set you back $6.08 - that is one small serving, so if there are four in your family, your meal will cost almost $25. If you want a dessert, grab some Coles dessert strudel cake 600g for $10 or an apple and berry pie for $5.38. Any one of these food would cost you much less to make, the majority would be less than half. The biggest bonus though, from my point of view, is there will be no preservatives in the food you make at home and you will know exactly what you're eating.


So it makes a lot of sense to me to add home cooked food to the freezer when you have some time. I have fallen into the good habit of cooking double the amount whenever I cook now and as a result, I have frozen soup, casseroles, pies, cakes, muffins, scones and bread in the freezer most of the time. On the weekend, I made a plain cake, similar to a Madera cake. I used this Plain Cake recipe on the lovely Gooseberry Jam blog but substituted whey for the milk and added about two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice; the rest was exactly the same. It's a delicious light and tasty cake. I used my long bar tin, cut the cake in half and put half in the freezer. Also in there at the moment are scones and muffins. Here is a very long guide to some great freezer meals.



 Plain un-iced cakes freeze well. If you want an iced cake, ice the cake after freezing.

There are rules to be followed for frozen foods, here is a great guide from the UK.  Baked sweets and cakes freeze really well so if you want to freeze some cake, bake it but don't add any icing/frosting. It's best to freeze the cake un-iced. After defrosting, ice the cake, or add your topping, just before you serve it. The majority of bits and pieces added to cakes freeze readily - nuts, apple, coconut, choc chips. Things like fruit pies and biscuits can be prepared and frozen uncooked. They can be cooked when defrosted. Biscuit/cookie dough will serve you well if you roll it in a long roll to be sliced off as you need biscuits/cookies. Don't forget, some home made baby food will freeze well. Be guided by your freezer guide, your common sense and your cook books.

If you have the time to freeze food on the weekends, or if you double cook and freeze like I do, freezing food will save you money because you won't be tempted to buy fast food on those busy days. Take good care of your freezer, pack it well and keep a record of what you have stored, as well as the date you stored it. Stocking your freezer with food ready to go will give you a treasure trove that will save you money, time and those feelings of guilt when you buy fish and chips, pizza or burgers on the busy days when you're too tired or too late to cook.

I'd love to see your favourite freezer meals. Care to share your best frozen food recipe with us? 



40 comments:

  1. I could never be without my freezers, and it is a good habit to be cooking double batches..lately I have been trying really hard not to add to them though as we are ordering meat shortly....I can't believe how difficult it is to say no to adding goodies to the freezer.
    And yes you are right, it sure saves money and time.

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  2. Hi Rhonda - great post and so true! Alas, my freezer is tiny but I try to make the most of it!

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  3. Another little hint that I read somewhere (oh, I wish I could remember where) is that it is cheaper to run a full freezer than an empty one, so by filling it up with delicious baked goods, you are saving yourself even more money.

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  4. I really should put my freezer to better use. Thanks for the inspiration! BTW, I recently switched over to loose leaf tea- also inspired by you :)

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  5. Thanks for the plain cake recipe, Paddy has just asked for such a cake for his crouse bag (Cornish morning tea). The boys recently bought me a chest freezer and I been filling her with goodys. All the links are really useful as well, little bit of bedtime reading.

    Pippa x

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  6. Great post Rhonda! What about defrosting when you don't own/use a microwave? It's fine if you know early in the day but sometimes an emergency arises and meals/cakes are needed quick! Any ideas or tips?

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  7. Oh Rhonda, you could have taken that cake straight out of my freezer, it looks exactly the same! :) Interesting addition with the lemon juice, Thanks for the tip, I must try it.
    I actually ice my cakes before I freeze them, I also slice them up, that way they can go straight from the freezer into the lunchboxes or on the table! It thaws out in no time...
    http://gooseberryjamman.blogspot.com/2011/07/winter-wednesday-baking-to-keep-warm.html

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  8. Hi Rhonda,
    I love the food pictures, yum! What are the muffins? Would you share the recipe?
    Thanks!
    Coleen

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  9. I have two storage freezers ..one for meats and the other for misc.: milk, hard cheese, breads, veggies, pie fillings, soup stocks. The freezer in the fridge is just for items used quickly .. and ice. I tend not to make complete meals for the freezer .. but rather the components for meals. In the morning or night before I set out what will be needed for the next day. On bread baking day I make enough bread to last a whole week .. most of which goes into the freezer. Every year we buy a whole pig and have our small town butcher hardwood smoke hams and bacon .. and give us enough for the whole year. The same with local beef. I buy whole local chickens every few months when room is made in the meat freezer. Once a year this is emptied and restocked. It's like having a grocery store in my garage and is very convenient.

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  10. Hi Rhonda,
    your post today has motivated me to find out more about freezing, which I've never done much of.
    I have started freezing a serve of soup or bean stew whenever I make one. Initially this was for busy nights, but recently I came down with whooping cough - the sheer relief to find a healthy meal in the freezer was enormous!
    Wishing all a beautiful Spring day, Madeleine

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  11. We are "eating out of the freezer" this week. Like you Rhonda, I cook double when I am making a meal that freezes well and use it for busy nights. Yesterday I did a stock take and realised we could eat out of the freezer all this week. I'll be steaming extra vegies but buying nothing.

    I find uncooked pizzas freeze very well. Again when we make one, we freeze one. And curries actually improve with freezing.

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  12. Freezing is a great idea and was a godsend when I came from hospital with my third. I'd baked enough to last a week or two. Nowadays its a little harder, as although I do a double batch of cake or biscuits, it never makes it to the freezer! My eldest is a growing boy and everything mysteriously disappears. Your cake looks delicious. Must check out that recipe.

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  13. I have a small chest-style freezer, and use it for the same kind of double-cooking/freezing. One thing I've learned to do is to keep a simple sketch-map of where things are, so that when I open the freezer it doesn't take a lot of shifting things around (and "letting the cold out") to find what's needed. And there are fewer Frozen Mystery Blocks found at the bottom during a clean-out! ;)

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  14. I try to cook double quantities of items whenever I can and freeze them. It all started when I was single parenting, a long time ago, and had to stretch a dollar as far as it would go. I have a good refrigerator/freezer biscuit recipe that I'll put a link to later today or tomorrow as I don't have time to type it out of the book now.
    Thanks Rhonda for mentioning this topic as I'd forgotten about them and with the weather warming up the flow of visitors will increase and I like to have something nice to offer with their preferred beverage!
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  15. These aren't meals, but I freeze peaches, mangoes, blueberries, etc. when I get a good price on them and then use them in smoothies (the fruit can also be used in muffins and cobblers). I don't really freeze meals, but get a lot of things into the freezer like pancakes, waffles, muffins, quick breads, twice baked potatoes, etc. Hubby makes about 6 quarts of vegetable soup at a time that we freeze. I also have frozen mashed potatoes. I've read that they don't freeze well, but have found personally that any liquid absorbs when they're heated up in the microwave.

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  16. I always feel it is a waste not to have the oven full when cooking, so most of the time cook one for now and one for the freezer. Here in the tropics we can easily get weevils in our flour, and things like wheat germ and LSA can go rancid so I keep them all in the freezer. I never have any trouble keeping my freezer full!

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  17. My mum gave me the Barossa cookbook too! I love it - nearly as much as I love the hand-written one she left me when she died.

    We are avid freezer users too. DH often makes double quantities of tomato pasta sauce, lasagna etc and we still have a kilo of boysenberries from the late summer harvest. DH makes a divine Bakewell tart with them!

    I've never tried freezing cakes though - they never last long enough :))

    Greenie x

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  18. You will always find pumpkin soup, garlic bread made from stale rolls, meat balls (raw) ready to throw into pasta sauce, home made chicken snitzels just to name a few dinners in my freezer all of the time.....I wouldnt be without a chest freezer....I stew plums in Summer and to do that you need a large freezer space...my mum always froze stewed fruit, so it is just something I carried on....mmmm I feel a plum Champagne Crust from the Green and Gold cook book might be on the menu tonight!!!! Hey, lucky I have a freezer full of stewed plums!!!
    Suzanne

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  19. Hello! I love your blog. Your pictures are so peaceful, your voice in writing is so calm and your words are so very interesting. Thank you for sharing so much goodness. As far as freezers go, yes they are filled and rotated. The best surprises are the meals that were made in abundance and half was frozen for the tired times. It is the time of year to start stocking the freezer with garden sauce and berries.
    Kari

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  20. Wish we had room for a larger freezer. The small (table top size) one we have is mostly full of sausages we buy from artisan makers at agricultural shows. Must make sure there's enough space for the first pickings of sloes to frost them ready for making gin ready for present giving.

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  21. These are wonderful ideas! I have been thinking that it would be nice to have meals and baked goods in the freezer for when we need them last minute or are sick but I did not think about making my own. I want to try that cake recipe soon and maybe make two so I can freeze one!

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  22. Hi Rhonda,
    Did you know you can freeze guacamole? I thought they were crazy - but yes, it defrosted beautifully. Once or twice a year I'm given a big box of 'second' avos and this is a great way to keep them.

    My freezer is full of frozen lemon juice - can't wait for those summer margaritas :)

    Evi - to defrost quickly, we use a 'thaw easy defrost tray' they really do work!

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  23. I love my freezer!! As a full-time teacher and a mum to 2 littlies, I couldn't live without my freezer!! Mine is almost empty, so I'm glad I only have 2 1/2 weeks of school left. I'll be sure to fill it up in the holidays.

    I am still thinking about your post from yesterday. I'm loving the idea of writing in my cookbooks. I have Matthew Evans' also, but my most used books would be Jamie's Italy and At home with Jamie. I'd love to add to these for my boys who show lots of interest in cooking. Thanks for getting me thinking :)
    Kristy

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  24. Dear Rhonda, I am Haslina from Malaysia. I've been a silent reader all these while but I have been prompted to write because of the fact that you mentioned Malaysian chicken curry in your post and also because that's the meal that I usually cook in double quantities and freeze. Thanks for all your posts. I enjoy reading every single one. Regards, Haslina from Malaysia.

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  25. I have 3 freezers, a chest, upright and a small one above the fridge. They appear to be always packed full, but I do not use them to their full potential. Thank you Rhonda for this post, I am going to sort through mine and start again. I freeze just about anything...but am so disorganised in there!

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  26. I like to defrost several pounds of hamburger meat (beef mince), and add some egg, breadcrumb, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning and form meatballs, I then cook them in boiling water until fully cooked (about 10 minutes) and freeze them in the quantity I would use for a meal. Easy to add to spagetti sauce, or meatballs stroganoff.

    You could also bake them in the oven instead of boiling them, but we like how tender they are when boiled.

    My adult daughters and I also get together several times a year to prepare and freeze 4-5 meals each for our freezer. Usually things like lasagna, chili, soup, shepard's pie, and a new recipe or two. Very handy and a fun day :)

    Because it is just my husband and I home now, I will often make a full size casserole, but divide it into two smaller casserole dishes, one for supper and one for the freezer.

    I also freeze alot from the garden, yesterday I froze shredded zucchini, in the next month or so we will harvest butternut squash, cook and puree it and freeze it in meal size containers. We also freeze alot of fruit when in season, strawberries, peaches etc. This year I will freeze prune plums for the first time, I hear they freeze very well.

    Excellent post Rhonda, and I'm still reading, following along and enjoying every word :)
    hugs,
    Niki

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  27. Hi Rhonda,
    I too cannot live without my freezer. My job means that my working hours can often be extended by 3-4 hours, so a cooked meal waiting at home is always a blessing.
    Where I live power cuts are not unusual so I tend to stock only a limited amount of goods in the freezer.
    I bake every weekend.
    I put my raw meats separate to my cooked items.
    Fruits freeze very well too when I have an excess.
    In the Caribbean we also have weevils and ant problems, so I put my pulses, pasta and sugar in here as well or in the fridge compartment.

    Off topic a bit -
    I was reading an article at Simple Green Frugal Co-op to which you commented that you can propagate tomatoes from snippets taken whilst pruning them. Can you explain please, this sounds most interesting.
    I have taken up your stand against teabags and have switched to tea made from bay leaves (I have a fresh supply from a tree I planted a year ago). Most refreshing with a little cinnamon sugar :)

    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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  28. p.s.
    I have quite a bit of plain Quaker oatmeal right now and I thought that I would make some cookies for the girls with it for school. I am only finding soft cookie recipes however. Do you per chance have a recipe for really crunchy oatmeal cookies please?

    Thank you
    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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  29. Thanks for inspiring me to get back into freezing meals! I did this a lot when I had a baby and a toddler, but I haven't in a few years. Now with school, practices, my evening job, etc. I have been stressing a little about dinners. I had already planned on a lot of crock-pot meals, but filling my freezer will save me a lot of time. Soups are always great to freeze, and can easily be augmented by a good old grilled cheese sandwich! By the way, Rhonda, your picture is just lovely. You look like you are glowing from within.

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  30. miss rhonda, can you freeze whey? Espy

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  31. Vicki, there is a good recipe for a crisp biscuit on the forum, but I forget now who posted it.

    Espy, yes, you can freeze whey.

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  32. This is a fantastic idea....why haven't I been doing this?! I had bread baking on the agenda today (rather than Monday) since yesterday we were off selling at a craft fair. I am going to freeze some dough. Thank you so much!

    Also, while I certainly appreciate and require the cost savings bit of home cooking. I must say that knowing exactly what is in my food is the biggest bonus as far as I can see too!

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  33. Hi Rhonda,
    I too love my freezer, it is my best friend in the kitchen. I have had it since about 1981, an old Kelvinator, had a new seal and has survived being moved from WA to Canberra to Melbourne and then 4 moves around to where I am now.
    I use it a lot, at the moment it has lots of containers of chook food and bread for the chooks I picked up from the bread shop. As we have only been in this house a month I haven't had a chance to build up supplies yet but I always like to have 1 person serves of various soups I have made, great for my lunch when I am alone. I have a quiche in there I made the other day, its a start.
    Dayla

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  34. I love stocking the freezer, though I often neglect it. My favorite frozen meal is cream of carrot soup. It is very inexpensive to begin with, so I make a huge pot of it and then divide it into meal-sized portions and freeze. I find the soup actually tastes better after being frozen, thawed and reheated; the flavors blend and mature. Add a crusty loaf of bread and I have a solid, healthy meal in no time!

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  35. I used to do Once A Month Cooking and it saved my family so much money and added so much peace.

    2 recipes I made almost every month follow:

    Salisbury Steak & Meatball Mix
    (American measures)
    6 pounds ground beef (mince)
    3 packages dry onion soup mix (Lipton's or Wylers around here)
    4 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
    1 cup water
    3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

    In a big bowl, using your hands (or a potato masher like my friend does) mix all the ingredients very well.
    Using 1/3 of the mix, shape into patties (we do 6 good size oval patties). Pan fry or broil until done. Cool.
    Using the remaining 2/3 of mix, make meatballs. Arrange on cookie sheet with sides and bake at 350*F for about 20 minutes for 1 inch meatballs. Cool.

    Tip: for uniform, quick meatballs, press the meat mix into a large rectangular slab about 1 inch thick. Cut into 1 inch squares (like a grid pattern). You don't even have to roll these because as they cook, they "round" up a bit (and who cares if they are a little square?).

    Once the patties and meatballs are somewhat cool, spread them out on cookie sheets and let them freeze (this will keep them individual so they don't freeze into a blob). Once completely frozen, remove to storage containers, label, return to freezer.

    TO USE:
    Salisbury patties (steaks)- Place frozen patties into prepared brown gravy and continue to heat on med.low until hot all the way through. Serve patties with the gravy over mashed potatoes. [we use 3 cups gravy for 6 big patties]

    Meatballs- dump frozen meatballs into sauce of choice. [Italian, Swedish, Stroganoff, Sweet & Sour, etc] Heat until desired temperature. I often use my crock pot and a sauce that has been made ahead in my freezer. I just load it in the morning and let it cook on low for 6-8 hours.

    [I'm working on eliminating the packaged onion soup mix but so far, the convenience has won out]

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  36. Here is the other recipe:

    Chicken Comfort Casserole

    1 (12 oz.) package seasoned bread stuffing mix
    [or your own seasoned dried bread cubes]
    1 cup butter, melted
    1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
    3 cups cooked, diced chicken
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 cup chopped celery with leaves
    1/4 cup green (spring) onions, sliced
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    3/4 teaspoons salt
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup [10.75oz]

    Mix together stuffing, butter, 1/2 cup broth, onions and celery. Set aside. In another bowl, stir together the chicken, remaining broth, green onions, mayonnaise and salt.

    Spread 1/2 of stuffing mix into bottom of a greased 9x13 inch casserole or equivalent. Spread chicken mixture over that, spreading to the edge. Top with the remaining stuffing. In your now-empty chicken bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and soup. Pour evenly over the top. Bake uncovered at 325*F for 45-55 minutes.

    You can freeze this before or after cooking with good results.

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  37. They're great weekday meals, Jenny, thanks for sharing them with us.

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  38. Hi Rhonda,
    At the moment Avocado is in season. I found this recipe on the internet and made it last night. It is absolutely scrumptious and apparently freezer friendly as well.

    GUASACACA:

    Ingredients
    1 medium onion
    2 green peppers, seeded, deveined (optional)
    2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
    2 cloves garlic
    1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves
    1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
    1/3 cup red wine or white vinegar
    1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 cup olive oil

    I also added juice from 1 lime as well.

    Directions
    Put everything except the olive oil into a food processor and process until mostly smooth. Add the olive oil in a stream with the processor running and process until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve sauce at room temperature with meats, fish, or vegetable chips. Also good with cassava and breadfruit. If made in advance, store, covered, in the refrigerator or freezer, but bring to room temperature before serving.
    Apparently if you intend to serve it immediately you put the seed into the center of the dip after it has been prepared and this will stop any discoloration. I did not do this and have not had any issues with discoloration so far.

    video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUBVoFHHjt4

    Enjoy
    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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  39. We've been busy baking and freezing banana and zucchini breads for both for Christmas time and for the various school and kindergarten bake sales. This takes the pressure off of having to run out to get ingredients and bake the night before, whether we have the time or not. We also acquired a large number (about 200) aluminum take away tins (a friend of ours owns a restaurant) which are perfect for cooking and freezing. They stack wonderfully in the freezer and allow us to take meals out in 2, 4, 6 or even more portions. We make up things like homemade spaghetti sauce, beef bourgenion (sp??), homemade refried beans, shepards pie, taco seasoned ground beef and all sorts. We've found that pasta does not thaw very nicely but potatoes and rice do. So meals that require pasta we freeze the sauces and just boil the pasta fresh. We'll also be starting to make up cookie doughs for the freezer in preperation for Christmas. I've had the idea of rolling the dough out flat like a thick pizza and storing the dough disks stacked in the freezer. This makes them easier to store and also helps them thaw faster when we are ready to use them.

    -Tracy

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  40. The use of the freezer is a good way to have healthy meals on hand insead of buying take out food.

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