When it comes to preserving food, I'm much more likely to use my freezer than to break out the canning equipment. Granted, I have a bigger freezer than most, but even without tons of space there are plenty of ways you can preserve food in your freezer to save time and money in the future. Here are my favorites:
Organic produce is expensive, and I try to use every bit. Whenever I am using citrus for it's juice, whether it be lemon, lime or orange, I first zest the peel. If I don't want to use it in the current recipe, I simply put it in a small container in the freezer for the next recipe I come across that calls for zest. That way I don't have to buy a whole new fruit just for the zest!
Ginger is one of those ingredients most people buy for a recipe, and then months later find the remaining stub in the back of a fridge drawer, dried up or moldy. No more! Simply wash your ginger well and stick it in a bag in the freezer. I don't even peel mine- you'll never notice. When you're ready to use it, simply let it sit out for a few minutes to thaw slightly, and using that handy microplane, grate the amount you need. You'll notice most of the peel will just remain on the top of the microplane anyway. The rest goes right back in the freezer. Frozen ginger will last for up to a year!
Fruit and Vegetables
When the harvest season is in full swing, I try to stock my freezer with a number of vegetables that can be enjoyed year round. My favorites are: roasted red peppers, herbs (as pesto or as whole leaves), lightly steamed edamame pods, corn cut off the cob and berries.
It is much cheaper (and tastier!) to cook your own beans than to buy cans. But who has the time and energy to soak and boil every time?!? No worries- simply cook off a large batch at once, and freeze the cooked beans in smaller portions in freezer bags to be pulled out as needed. You could freeze them in can-size portions (about 2 cups) for added convenience. You don't even need to plan ahead- if you need the beans right away, pull them out of the freezer, dump them into a strainer and run hot water until they are thawed. I usually have both chickpeas and black beans stocked in the freezer at any given time, as well as whichever other varieties have caught my fancy recently (right now that's adzuki and cannelloni beans).
It's easy to end up with leftover grains, rice in particular. Instead of letting them go hard sitting in the fridge unused, I freeze my leftover grains and pull them out the next time I want to make veggie burgers. Throw them in the food processor with whatever other ingredients you are using (beans, vegetables, cheese, tofu, herbs etc.) and you're off to a great start!
It is much easier to double a meal once in a while than have to cook every single night. I try to do this regularly, and freeze the extra portions in freezer bags, so that I always have a variety of meals to choose from when I just don't have the time or energy to cook. Right now I am stocked with: Pumpkin Baked Mac and Cheese, Tamale Pie, Beet Burgers and Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos. Also perfect for a last-minute lunch to bring to work.
I hope this post helps inspire you to put that freezer to work! If you need any extra convincing, it is true that a full freezer actually takes less energy to run than an empty one.
Relax. Eat Well.