Los Angeles, California: A Reader asked me to help organize her freezer. Well, she didn't actually give her address and ask me to stop by, but how to keep things in check and maybe not forget that pint of soup stock you know is in there somewhere... and when did I make the stock?
I am a bit OCD with my food organization and meal planning, so maybe I was not the correct person to ask? Here goes:
For decades, I have kept a menu calendar. (DON'T JUDGE.) For the past many years, I have used Microsoft OneNote - just by creating a simple 7x5 column table each month. This yields a huge searchable archive of meals - even with notes on dinner guests, table decor, flowers, and what I wore when we had a dinner party. (Remember when we could invite people to dinner?) Sigh.
There are a few advantages of using a computer-based calendar v a paper calendar planner. OneNote pushes updates immediately to the OneNote app on my phone and iPad. Changes to the menu? Don't have time today to prepare the planned item? Just cut/paste it to another day. Again, OneNote automatically updates changes.
A better person than me would definitely keep their shopping list in OneNote or on their phone, but to further confess my odd mental state, I use a paper list - only because it is so difficult for me to keep my phone in hand - and reading glasses on my nose - while strolling the grocery store aisles.... especially during a don't-touch-anything pandemic. The printable sheet, one half grocery list, one half menu plan, is available to download/print from my website. Fold it in half, inside-out, stick your coupons in the middle, go!
Anyway, at the bottom of the menu calendar page on my laptop, I keep a list of what is in the freezer. This makes it easy to plan meals, because everything in the freezer is listed for me to see below my menu calendar. Using OneNote, I just delete from the list what I use from the freezer and type-in what I put into the freezer. Right now I am over-loaded with chicken cutlets and vegetable stock, so will hopefully work with these items over the next week or two.
When I started a June 2020 calendar, the freezer list at the bottom of the calendar was cut/pasted from May 2020 to June 2020. (Side note: I also paste links to recipes that intrigue me at the bottom of the monthly calendar. Maybe I will cook them, maybe I will not. Let's face it, foodies find so many recipes to investigate, and this is a good way to clip them.)
This scenario means our freezer never needs to be purged, which is good, as I hate wasting food.
Another way to avoid freezer-black-hole is to always label everything. Everything! Even if the label states vegetable soup, I make note if the stock is veggie or chicken or whatever. Date the item. Use a sharpie on glass jars. Write the info on masking tape with a Sharpie. Use sticky notes. Just label your food.
The best way to save freezer space if to use a vacuum-sealer. (Yes, there is a small one in our motorhome.) The difference between a cup of vegetable stock frozen in a plastic or glass container, or a cup of stock frozen flat in an 6x8-inch plastic bag is quite a lot when placed in a freezer. If items are frozen flat (ground meats, soups, stocks, juices), they can be stacked on top of each other or "filed" like record albums (or KonMari) in a freezer drawer. Seriously, they fit so much easier in a freezer. It is easy to label each vacuum sealed bag with a Sharpie as well. Thawing a thin vacuum-sealed item in a sink filled with water takes minutes.
Another advantage to having everything sealed air-tight is there is no "flavor" or "smell" transfer - especially to the ice maker. (That is just the worst.)
Joan, you may have to just take everything out of your freezer, organize your foods, repackage a few things, make a list, and start fresh with a clean and tidy freezer. Just Do It.
And now back to our regular program.
Another day has passed. Another month has passed. Ground Hog Day All Over Again. Another day of no one seeing me except My Husband. How many days can I wear this black tank dress before I'm considered eccentric? Does switching-out the necklace/jewelry count as momentary lucidity?
Since it was the weekend, I made breakfast. Such excitement! There were several peppers that needed to be used, and I had a bit of feta, so Greek omelets were on the menu. I also grilled tomatoes - something my paternal grandmother would make for me - always for breakfast - in her massive electric skillet when I spent the summers with my grandparents. So many fond memories of those tomatoes, topped with bread crumbs. Did you know she lived until I was 47 years old? How wonderful to have a grandmother for such a long time. She was a good one too!
I had not baked pizza for a few weeks, but still had a ball of dough in the freezer from when the kids were here in the middle of May. Made for an easy meal tonight.
Appetizers were olives and pickles, radishes, Parmesan crackers and Oregon hazelnuts (they grown on filbert trees).
Our salad was most outstanding. A pretty composed plate with somehow-smiling tomatoes? Mini romaine (Little Gem) heads, the left-over grilled asparagus from Friday, sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, all drizzled with a creamy (a teaspoon of mayo added to a simple vinaigrette makes it creamy) tarragon dressing. After the appetizers (at 5p), the salad (served at 7p) should have been enough for our meal, but that pizza somehow came out of the oven as well.
It was super teeny, with only tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil - a classic Margherita. The pizza took on a shape of it's own tonight. Bread is alive. It does what it does.
Until my next update, when we will again do nothing, I remain, your doughy correspondent.