I thought I'd start my Miserly March Thrifty Thursday tips with the thing I do the most to save money ...... and that is to use my freezer to it's capacity.
Any freezer works best and uses less electricity if it is as full as possible. If you have huge air spaces that is what you are paying to freeze ..... air, and you can't eat air. The minute you open the lid or door you let all your nice frozen air escape and let new room temperature air in so when you close the lid the freezer has to spring to life to chill it all down again. So it really makes sense to have your freezer as full as possible all the time.
If you don't have much money to fill the freezer all in one go, think how you can fill the space. I always keep all my freezer blocks in the freezer ready for use. If the freezer was pretty empty I would put my freezer bags in there too, then they are always nicely chilled for when you need them to take them shopping or on family days out.
If you want to fill your freezer with edible things, buy lots of cheap loaves and work your way through them in the order you buy them, double wrapped they will last a few months and not lose any freshness. I always have a sliced loaf in the freezer even though I make my own bread usually, sometimes I just really fancy my favourite seeded commercial made loaf. Because I only have it now and then when I buy a new loaf I open the bag, loosen the slices slightly then refasten excluding all the air and then pop it in the freezer. Because the slices are not so tightly packed I can take one slice at a time out whenever I feel the urge.
The first three photos show what I do when I find offers in the supermarkets, I buy in bulk and then as soon as I get home, repack into individual portions. Although there are two of us I still package everything singularly, after all sometimes we may have different meals or one of us may be away, sometimes we have guests and so would need more than two portions, packed in ones you can take out exactly what you need. I use 'easy-leave' that I bought from Lakeland a couple of years ago, it has lasted and lasted, but you can help yourself to a couple of extra bags when you are weighing out your fruit and veggies at the supermarket and cut them into sheets, It is exactly the same type of plastic. If you don't like plastic use greaseproof paper or the wrappers from the insider of cereal cartons, or simply whatever you have that won't stick to your food.
Once wrapped I put everything into large freezer proof boxes and label with one of the labels cut from the food wrapper. This usually gives you all the information about the product plus an approximate date of when you froze it. The square and rectangular boxes stack nicely in the freezer (I have a large chest freezer). If you have drawers or a smaller freezer you could just as easily put all your individually wrapped items into a strong plastic bag as this would take up less room.
Something I've started doing recently whenever I buy bread rolls from the shop is to separate them and pop them all into a freezer box, that way there is never one sad roll left to go stale in the bread bin, you simply take out the number you want for any meal. Similarly we freeze crumpets and sliced bagels ready for when you want just half a bagel with your morning coffee.
It's not just big things that I freeze, any leftovers are popped into their own boxes too.
Here is half a pack of mushrooms, I'm not really keen on mushrooms unless they disguised in a sauce but Lovely Hubby enjoys them with his steaks and salads, so usually there is half a carton over when he has had a meal and rather than making him eat them meal after meal I will simply slice them and pop them straight into the freezer while they are nice and fresh. They take minutes to defrost and this is also a good way to use up a 'yellow sticker' bargain if you've been lucky enough to nab one.
Sometimes you can purposely make lots of something to put in the freezer, my regular Scone making sessions are one such event. Once I have rolled out the dough and cut the scones to size they are open frozen before being put into boxes and stacked in the freezer. Then whenever we fancy a scone and the oven is on for something else we can take however many we need straight from the freezer, brush them with milk and bake, they take about 5-10 minutes longer than baking from fresh but rise and turn out exactly the same.
I also always have a box of leftover cheeses in the freezer, why let it go off in the fridge when it can be frozen at it's best and be ready for whenever you need it. This one has lots of small portions of Stilton that I cut up from large cheeses after Christmas as well as lots of other speciality cheeses.
But the best and most economical way to freeze cheese is to grate it first. Once grated if you pack it loosely into tubs and then remove from the freezer after an hour or so to give it a shake before placing back, it will freeze nice and separately so you can remove just the amount you need for any recipe or to place on a sandwich. If you look at a one ounce piece of cheese as it is and then grated you will be amazed at how much more it looks when grated. I always have a tub of grated Cheddar and a tub of grated Parmesan style cheese in the freezer.
The other thing I always have in the freezer is also in this picture, that is grated breadcrumbs, again they freeze nice and free flowing so you can take out just what you need to top a pasta bake or to cover fishcakes etc. Never, ever throw your old crusts and half used loaves away, doing this they can make a tasty topping to many a dish, and mixed with some of the grated cheese make a doubly nice topping.
Other things I freeze are surplus crops, when it Rhubarb season I pick and open freeze as much as I can....
...the same with Damsons or any fruit you can gather for free.
Freezing your pickings means that you have them at their absolute freshest and that you can turn them into cakes, pies and meals at your convenience. It also means you can buy things like Raspberries and Blueberries when they are in season and get some really good deals at the supermarket. When it's 'Buy One Get One Free', why not have one now and one for the freezer or even one now and five for the freezer.
Something else I nearly always have is lemon and lime slices, whenever I have bought a net of lemons for a recipe or nabbed a good bargain at the end of the day I slice all the excess lemons or limes up and open freeze them, once they are frozen they are tipped into a freezer box and used for cooling down and flavouring my favourite sparkling waters or drinks. (Absolutely delicious in Pimms.)
In the freezer at the moment I also have a large stack of 'stew packs', vegetables chopped up when bought at their freshest and when on offer and then mixed to form the basis of soups and stews. I don't blanch them or anything like that, simply wash, chop and then freeze, giving the boxes a shake an hour or so after putting them in the freezer to keep the contents free flowing. I use them from frozen and simply cover with hot stock to start them cooking. (If you thaw them out before using you will find that the potatoes go a bit brown but they still taste fine.)
And of course there is my favourite tip ..... making my icecube trays earn their keep. Red Wine cubes.
Homemade pesto cubes.
You could also freeze the last of a jar of bought Pesto if it is in danger of going off before you can use it.
All herbs freeze really well and usually at the end of Summer I strip any plants that will not last over Winter and freeze them, either open freezing on trays and then tipping into boxes or by chopping and placing in icecube trays with a little water.
Tomato puree, taken from an open tin.
Each cube is equal to about a heaped teaspoonful of contents.
Of course now and then I actually make ice cubes with water, but some of them will have a pretty flower submerged in the depths to prettify a Summers drink.
I guess there are lots more tips and things that I process in some way and pop into the freezer without even thinking about it, but all these are off the top of my head this morning and I really do feel I have rambled on enough for now.
So, you never know what you are going to find in my freezer but one thing is for sure it will be as full as possible. Once or twice a year we will eat our way through the food so we can defrost the freezers and while we are chomping our way through the supplies we are not spending any money on food shopping, so it's a nice cheap time of year, and yes that is this month!! I always find it is an inventive period, we eat things we may have put off eating for a while and use them in ways previously not thought of, and sometines it's pretty amazing to see what treasures have been buried from sight deep in the depths.
I hope you have enjoyed this little recap of some of my favourite freezer tips, some of you will no doubt have seen some of the tips and photos on here before, but I know that recently there are lots of you who have just started reading my Blog and I hope this post helps in some way.