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Brand new chest freezer -- what would YOU put in it?

TorontoJo Aug 14, 2010 10:12 AM

Just plugged in my very first deep freezer yesterday and I'm looking forward to filling it up with goodies that I can pull out when I'm craving home cooking, but not in the mood to cook. I also bought a vacuum sealer, since it seemed like a natural pairing. I just used it to seal up a couple of chicken carcasses and tossed those in the freezer for future stock making.

So...what would *you* make and freeze? I think a double batch of Marcella Hazan's ragu bolognese is first on my list.

  1. mels Aug 14, 2010 11:51 AM

    I just had my freezer-bolognese last night for dinner! Lasagna and pastitsio are also currently in the freezer awaiting thawing for a quick dinner. I make large batches of pesto and marinara, freezing in portions for the months when tomatoes and basil are out of season.

    Other than some pre-cooked meals I have made, I usually stock up on meats when on sale (vacuum sealer comes in handy).

    1. boogiebaby Aug 14, 2010 12:18 PM

      I also have a chest freezer and foodsavor combo. Mine currently holds pork chops (2 in a pack), chicken breasts (4 in a pack), 4 packs of frozen roti prata, 3-4 boxes each of TJ's chicken tikka masala, paneer tikka masala, and channa masala, a bag of lentil-sausage soup, 2 bags of dal, a big box of White Castle cheeseburgers (for the kids and those late night snacks), and a big box of Crystal Light popsicles. Oh, and I also have a few bags of frozen TJ veggies.

      Basically all the stuff that I don't have space for in my regular freezer.

      1. l
        LauraGrace Aug 14, 2010 01:05 PM

        +1 on pesto and bolognese.

        chili, beef stew, bean soup, etc. (I don't freeze anything with potatoes in it, though)

        fresh, seasonal fruit (freeze on a sheet tray first and then package for longer-term storage)
        stock, either in zip-top bags or ice cubes

        any sauce or seasoning that's a paste -- harissa, pesto, red pepper spread, mashed roasted garlic, etc.

        showmethecurry.com has a great bulk recipe for masala, basically the ginger, garlic, chilis, onions, tomatoes, and spices that make up the beginning of a few dozen Indian dishes, precooked and then packaged in quart-size ziplock bags and frozen.

        along those same lines, if you have a food processor, you can prep commonly-used veggie components (mirepoix, for instance) and freeze them in 1-cup portions to cut down on prep time when you need to throw together a quick dinner. You can even caramelize onions and freeze them for later use.

        Just a general tip -- fill it up and keep it full! A full freezer runs much more efficiently than a half-empty one. :)

        3 Replies
        1. re: LauraGrace
          TorontoJo Aug 14, 2010 02:57 PM

          Ooh, nice tip on the mirepoix and caramelized onions! Does the texture suffer on the onions after thawing and using?

          1. re: TorontoJo
            l
            LauraGrace Aug 14, 2010 03:02 PM

            Since the caramelized onions will most likely be reheated and the mirepoix cooked, it's not a problem! :)

            1. re: LauraGrace
              r
              ronnielee33 Sep 6, 2010 04:24 PM

              Use them frozen, don't thaw them first.

        2. Hank Hanover Aug 14, 2010 10:46 PM

          I would make sure I had plenty of chicken and beef stock frozen in ziplock bags in 1 cup sizes. I would also have glace made from beef stock.

          After that I would fill it with sale priced meat like pork chops, steaks and roasts.

          You are going to find out that it is limited and valuable real estate so u won't want to put just anything in there.

          I would definitely get a black marker pen and a foodsaver. The foodsaver will prevent freezer burn and the pen will keep your stuff identified, preferably with a label, date and weight.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover
            darklyglimmer Aug 14, 2010 11:55 PM

            +1 on the stock, which has the extra added bonus of taking up a considerable amount of space. LauraGrace is right, you'll want to fill it up with something -- anything -- fairly quickly. We actually had to have a nearly-empty freezer serviced once for some sort of failure to operate, and after it was fixed the guy said that if we didn't fill it up he'd see us again in a week or so. We didn't know any better.

            So yep, stock and bolognese and - for the time being - ice cream and frozen veggies. Space in there will indeed become valuable but as that happens, you can edit out the filler.

            1. re: darklyglimmer
              m
              Mistral Aug 15, 2010 02:04 AM

              S0 glad you mentioned ice cream!
              Thought I was the only one with an addiction.
              All that space will be most useful!!

            2. re: Hank Hanover
              Bada Bing Aug 19, 2010 06:01 PM

              +1 on the stocks and also the marker labeling. I need to do better with labeling. I have a few things in my freezer that I literally cannot identify until I thaw them...

              1. re: Bada Bing
                c oliver Aug 19, 2010 06:07 PM

                Yep. I recently thawed what I thought was a piece of pork shoulder but it turned out to be boneless leg of lamb :) Thank you, darling husband of mine!

            3. mcel215 Aug 15, 2010 04:59 AM

              I freeze most everything I can. I store my flour, bags of chips, etc in the freezer for longer shelf life. Freeze breads, crackers, bagels also. My freezer is just like my pantry. My pantry hold canned goods, while anything and practically everything else goes in my freezer when I have extra room. It's also good to keep the freezer full, so another reason to stock it up with extra items when on sale. I always have a bag of chicken carcass', ham bones, to keep for months until I am ready to make stock, or soup. I don't can anything, so I put up summer veggies/fruit in the freezer also. Pesto freezes great too.

              My extra freezer started so I could buy meat on sale and store it. And now I have expanded it to hold most everything and been very happy with it.

              As you go along, you'll never know how you lived without your extra freezer. :)

              1. jen kalb Aug 15, 2010 05:07 AM

                My freezer is half full of bread. Since most bread reheats so well in the oven, this enables us to have great italian (and other) breads every night without having to drive and shop for it.

                It also has a shelf of frozen vegetables, and a lot of nuts and specialty flours..

                Decide what you are going to use this freezer for and dont let it become the tomb of unknown food packages. YOu can waste food by letting it degrade in the freezer just like everything else.
                The fresh flavor of that ragu will not last forever. Pesto might however, its a very good freezer item.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jen kalb
                  TorontoJo Aug 18, 2010 04:45 PM

                  I was at my local Costco the other day and saw boxes of Ace (a local bakery) frozen, par-baked demi baguettes for $8.99. This was for a box of 18, when the usual price at my local grocer is somewhere around $4.50 for a bag of 3. Woohoo, into my cart and into my freezer they went!

                2. TorontoJo Aug 15, 2010 05:29 AM

                  Thanks for all the ideas, especially the "keep it full" tip. I'm going to fill some empy 2-liter bottles with water for now to help fill up the space.

                  1. g
                    gordeaux Aug 15, 2010 05:44 AM

                    Aside from meats on sale when they pop up as already mentioned, here's what I do every year in late fall. Smoke up a TON of chickens using a neutral rub, portion them out however you like. Vaccuum seal them. They freeze beautifully.

                    1. f
                      fourunder Aug 15, 2010 06:37 AM

                      Taking advantage of meat and poultry sales is the obvious choice in my chest freezer, but I also use the same tactic when frozen dessert treats go on sale as well. There are a few times during the year Haagen-Daz pints go on sale for a dollar each and I stock up accordingly . Also, I tend to freeze an extra couple of quarts of Sunday Gravy or Soups that I have made at any given time for prepared foods, for when I'm not in the mood to cook or for that unexpected visit of family and friends and I need to prepare a meal. If you are a baker, freezing holiday cookies in advance, eases the time you have to devote to other chores during the hectic seasonal holidays.

                      Freezing friuit that is ripe is a great way to incorporate fruit smoothies into your diet and not feel like you wasted your money on uneaten berries, peaches and bananas......speaking of the latter, stick a popsicle stick in them and freeze them on a tray...you can enjoy them as is or coat them in chocolate.

                      I would add a word of caution.....don't go crazy stocking too many things in your freezer though. Unless you create a system that rotates the foods, you can forget what's in there. There are threads that address creative ways to store, label date and rotate.....I suggest you search them out and acquaint yourself with the useful information and experience of others.

                      1. s
                        Sherri Aug 18, 2010 03:17 PM

                        You've already received a lot of excellent advice from posters. I would hate to contemplate life without a freezer and keep two of them pretty well-filled. As others have mentioned, sale meats, seafood and poultry as well as grains, nuts, bread, flours and fruit are high on the list of foods-to-be-frozen. Right this minute, I have U-12 Gulf shrimp, soft shell crabs, a whole beef tenderloin, duxelles, a stuffed veal breast, several racks of lamb, pizza dough, cookies and several chocolate cakes and 5 pounds of veal meatballs that I made. This list is from memory and does not pretend to be a full inventory. I like to have some of our favorites stashed in there as well so I usually make at least a double batch of Tikka Masala, Bolognese and keep many pints of stock.

                        When I first began to keep house and acquired a large freezer, a dear friend gifted me with a book called "The Wonderful World of Freezer Cooking" by Helen Quat. It's chock full of tips, recipes and good information of all kinds. I've used several recipes from this book and have been pleased.

                        1. LindaWhit Aug 18, 2010 03:31 PM

                          > Meat sauce for spaghetti
                          > Chicken-corn chowder (I see you've already got the chicken carcasses for stock :::grin:::),
                          > I stock up on stewing beef, ground beef, or chicken on sale
                          > Blanched fresh corn stripped from the cobs. The summery taste of fresh corn in the dead of winter is just wonderful.
                          > For the upcoming fall season - APPLESAUCE!
                          > Haagen-Daz or your favorite ice cream when on sale.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: LindaWhit
                            LindaWhit Aug 18, 2010 03:39 PM

                            Ooh - forgot something.

                            I strongly suggest you start an Excel spreadsheet of everything you've got in there and keep it on the side of your upstairs fridge, crossing it off when you use it. I have a quantity column and an item column (which also includes a portion size, if I have different portion sizes), and I separate out the types of meat or "other" items. So it'll look something like what I've posted below.

                             
                            1. re: LindaWhit
                              TorontoJo Aug 18, 2010 04:43 PM

                              Brilliant! I deliberately bought a very small chest freezer, since it's just the two of us, as I had visions of dehydrated, 5 year old steaks going unnoticed at the bottom of the freezer. But it's still big enough to lose track of stuff. And as any of my chow friends will tell you, I'm a big fan of spreadsheets. :)

                              I definitely need to get some local summer fruits and corn (I love that idea!) in there soon.

                              And can I just say how much fun I'm having sealing stuff up in my Foodsaver?

                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                k
                                karykat Sep 24, 2010 12:08 PM

                                Great idea. I just started a spreadsheet for mine.

                            2. c oliver Aug 19, 2010 04:18 PM

                              I make quadruple or quintuple batches of the bolognese! It takes all day but last for ages. I don't freeze assembled dishes. My new, only 4' tall, upright freezer is getting homemade burgers, chicken stock, sausage, chickens. Next time I find 7-bone chuck roasts on sale, I'm buying a bunch. For make ahead, I have done quiche. I will now have room for turkeys. The fridge I have is great - French door with bottom freezer but if I put a turkey in there, I wouldn't have room for much else. Looking forward to a couple of small turkeys.

                              Oops, I forgot that I've been cutting white corn kernels off the cob, freezing on baking sheets and then Food Saver-ing.

                              1. r
                                Rick Aug 19, 2010 04:29 PM

                                We're a house of two and often make extra servings for dinner to put in the freezer. Marinated lamb chops (not cooked), polenta, stuffed peppers, soups, burgers, spaghetti sauce, cooked pork shoulder, taco meat, chili, oatmeal, pizza, baked goods (brownies, zucchini bread and banana bread in the freezer now). About the only thing we don't freeze is already cooked seafood, doesn't reheat very well. I've stuck just about everything in the freezer, with the vast majority of it re heating just fine. Quick tip to defrost is put it in a well sealed zip loc bag and put in the sink filled with water.

                                1. DuchessNukem Aug 19, 2010 05:27 PM

                                  Ooooh, enjoy!

                                  When we first got our chest freezer, I brought hubby out to the garage and said, "Mess around with a girlfriend all you want, but just remember, I've got cold storage for two now."

                                  I can't second HankHanover and LindaWhit enough: LABEL (foodname, full date) that food with Sharpie, and have at least some rudimentary tallysheet of what's in there. You don't want to look at a container and wonder, chili? bolognese? cherry tomatoes that were going soft? leftover Bloody Mary mix?

                                  We're in an eatdown phase right now because we're brimming. Until you're full, frozen water is a good space filler (a gallon jug or two are useful in Texas power outages, less a problem in your climate).

                                  Summer corn,

                                  1. DuchessNukem Aug 19, 2010 05:40 PM

                                    Ooops, LOL.

                                    Summer corn kernels, seeds for sprouting, bananas going soft (peel, drop into baggies, use in smoothies and breads), bargain buys of meat (portion before freezing), lunch-sized soup portions for work, cooked chicken in dinner portions. Saved whey, for soup (don't use for lactofermentation, freezing kills/inhibits the bacilli, a big DUH! lesson for me).

                                    I know some folks freeze cheeses for cooking with, but I haven't enjoyed when I've tried it.

                                    Bottle of vodka. ("Hello, the 80s called, they want their Stoli back!" Yes, it's dated and lame, but still, a {nicer than Stoli} chilled vodka is useful. Wrap bottle in bubble wrap if it's not wodged safely into a corner.)

                                    Space for quick-chilling a couple of beers for when loved one wants a bit of ice-cold pampering.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: DuchessNukem
                                      TorontoJo Aug 20, 2010 09:53 AM

                                      I always have a bottle of vodka and a bottle of gin in my freezer! Have you tried Stoli Elite? Insanely smooth (and insanely expensive).

                                    2. c oliver Aug 19, 2010 05:54 PM

                                      Not to criticize your choice of a chest freezer, but in case others are considering a purchase, I got the upright (very small, closet size) because my opinion (only) is that things don't get "lost" as easily in an upright.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        TorontoJo Aug 20, 2010 09:55 AM

                                        Yeah, I really wanted to get an upright freezer, but the reviews I read said that they don't maintain a constant temperature as well and don't stay as cold. Who knows if that's true or not, but I decided to be safe and went with a small chest freezer.

                                        1. re: TorontoJo
                                          ZenSojourner Aug 20, 2010 10:01 AM

                                          It's true. For long term storage (more than a week or two) you're way better off with a chest freezer.

                                          1. re: ZenSojourner
                                            r
                                            Rick Aug 20, 2010 10:45 AM

                                            I LOVE my upright freezer. Haven't had any problem keeping things in there for 6 months. As c oliver said, things don't get "lost" as easily in an upright.

                                            1. re: Rick
                                              ZenSojourner Aug 20, 2010 11:50 AM

                                              Honestly I've never lost anything in a chest freeze, and we had a big one when I was a kid.

                                              Sour cherries packaged for pies and other fruits at the left end, meats on the right end, and staples (like flour and yeast) and frozen veggies in the baskets. A place for everything and everything in its place.

                                              YMMV, to each their own. :D

                                            2. re: ZenSojourner
                                              s
                                              Sherri Aug 21, 2010 10:26 AM

                                              ZenSojourner, I have two large upright freezers. I just checked the closest one, in the kitchen, which is going through its defrost cycle right now. The electronic temperature readout is +2 degrees F. I keep this at 0 degrees F so a two degree change is not significant enough to me to warrant a change to a chest freezer. I've owned this unit for 8 years. In that time, I will admit to having some items (1/2 veal carcass, for example) for longer than a single year. It has always been perfect. I'm careful about wrapping before freezing so maybe that's part of the success.

                                              Back in the "olden days" the caveat about a chest freezer may well have been true but it is not consistent with my recent experience. FWIW, the kitchen unit I'm referencing is a Sub-Zero stand alone model. It's refrigerator "cousin" is also a Sub-Zero stand alone. Each unit has its own compressor/mechanics so keeping the temperature constant is not a problem. Yes, they each have an auto-defrost cycle. That's what is running right now at +2 degrees F, up from 0 degrees F.

                                              1. re: Sherri
                                                ZenSojourner Aug 21, 2010 11:13 AM

                                                I prefer chest freezers for many reasons.

                                                They're cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, and if you get in and out often, they're more efficient and more stable in temp (you don't go spilling all that cold air out every time you open the lid).

                                                They're also generally more reliable in operation and are less likely to have problems with "hot spots". In the event of a power outage, if you don't open them, they can keep foods safe for at least 24 hours; you're in trouble with an upright in about 8.

                                                It's true that some uprights have overcome, or at least mostly alleviated, problems with maintaining a stable, even temp throughout the freezer compartment, but many others have not. Uprights with an auto-defrost cycle are actually safer than those requiring manual defrost because they have fans that circulate the air inside the freezer compartment, which helps to stabilize temps and eliminate hot spots.

                                                Your freezer may be fine, some uprights are. But uprights as a class are spotty in performance and safety (food safety I mean). In general (as a class) they fare poorly when measured against chest freezers for food safety and performance. There are many models of uprights that still have the problems with hot spots (especially in the doors). I would consider none of the manual defrost uprights to be safe for long term storage.

                                                As I get older (a rapidly advancing process at this stage of the game) physical requirements are likely to make me move to an upright. When that happens, due to the issues of lack of consistency between models of uprights, I'll buy only something tested and approved by Consumer's Reports. In the meantime I'll stick with a chest freezer.

                                                I'm not saying ALL uprights are automatically bad, but many are. Some uprights actually outperform some chest freezers. Consumer's Reports just did an evaluation last fall which I would use as a guide if I were in the market for a freezer right now (which I'm not). You can't tell by looking which ones are good and which are bad, and even buying a self-defrost model (with fans) is no guarantee of protection against internal temperature fluctuations and hot spots.

                                                And btw, to be sure of the safety of your model, you would need to measure the temp at multiple locations over time. Just sticking a thermometer in a couple of places and checking it once or twice doesn't give you an accurate idea of the actual operating temperature range of your unit. I'd rather let Consumer's Reports staff do it for me and tell me about it, but that's just me, LOL!

                                                If you like your upright, I'm glad you're happy with it. Some uprights are very good. As I said, to each his or her own. But I have practical reasons for preferring (in general) chest freezers which are informed by the current performance of modern freezer units. No one requires you to agree with or share these views.

                                                1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                  jen kalb Sep 24, 2010 01:49 PM

                                                  Ive no problem with upright freezers and my parents lived out of large uprights for my whole growing up (im talking since the 60s and the produce of a large garden, weekly baking etc.). Vs a chest An upright is infinitely easier to manage and keep organized and is easier on the aging back as well. I bought a mid-sized sears model for not too much money last year. Would have liked bigger but my husband balked at getting yet another big white box down our front hatch. As a result I have had to manage more and I think thats all for the better.

                                            3. re: TorontoJo
                                              Bada Bing Aug 20, 2010 12:34 PM

                                              It's actually only the auto-defrost freezers that do not maintain a constant temperature, because they work by activating a heater coil to melt frost away every so often. Chest freezers are a bit more energy efficient, however, because the cold air doesn't spill out of them every time you open the door, as happens with a vertical.

                                              I had a chest freezer years ago in one apartment, and I found it tedious (impossible, in fact) to keep track of what the heck was buried down at the bottom. If I were to buy a freezer now, I'd go with a vertical but maybe not with an auto-defrost one. That would save a buck and keep your temp more solid and low.

                                              1. re: Bada Bing
                                                c oliver Aug 20, 2010 03:17 PM

                                                Mine's not autodefrost which was totally a cost decision.

                                            4. re: c oliver
                                              mcel215 Sep 6, 2010 04:47 PM

                                              Hi C,
                                              I have the upright, very small closet size and it's a SPT. It was very expensive for the size, but
                                              I adore it. I couldn't go any other way, because of my condo size and am happily surprised how much it holds.

                                              1. re: mcel215
                                                c oliver Oct 16, 2010 06:11 PM

                                                I adore mine too. A side benefit is that the freezer part of the fridge stays more organized because the big batches of ground meats, stock, corn kernels, etc. aren't in there hiding the smaller things.

                                            5. ZenSojourner Aug 19, 2010 08:17 PM

                                              Cookie dough
                                              Bread dough
                                              Pizza dough
                                              Soups/stews
                                              Meat when it's on sale or cheaper in quantity
                                              Saving up enough bones/poultry carcasses to make stock
                                              Stock once you've saved up enough bones etc to make it
                                              tomato sauces, spaghetti sauce, etc.
                                              Fresh fruits in season
                                              Flour, yeast, etc, when you buy in large quantities from a place like Costco

                                              All of the above need to be properly sealed. You can't wrap something up in "freezer paper" and expect it to be safe from freezer burn, etc, for the long term.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                happybellynh Aug 20, 2010 10:25 AM

                                                +1 on the cookie dough. Any time I make a batch, I double it, then portion it out with my cookie scoop into balls, load them onto a cookie sheet and freeze, then dump into a labeled bag. You can pull out 6 balls and cook them- still frozen!- whenever you need a special treat. I like to keep 3-4 kinds on hand.

                                                I use the cookie scoop-then-freeze method for lots of stuff- roux, pesto, etc. The labeling, as others said, is key- because frozen pesto balls look exactly like frozen double-chocolate cookies. And while both are excellent, they have very different applications.

                                                1. re: happybellynh
                                                  ZenSojourner Aug 20, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                  I like to freeze things in ice cube trays, pop the trays out and store the cubes in ziploc FREEZER bags (not all ziplocs are equal!)

                                                  You can do this with fresh herbs that are intended for soups/stews, egg yolks, egg white, whole eggs if the ice cube tray compartments are big enough.

                                                  You can layer with regular saran wrap to keep the cubes from sticking together.

                                                  You can also freeze cookie dough in a roll and slice off however much you want, even one cookie's worth at a time with a little practice and knowledge of how thick to make the roll.

                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                    k
                                                    karykat Sep 24, 2010 12:10 PM

                                                    For the herbs, do you just chop them up and freeze them in the trays plain? Or do you put water in with the herbs?

                                                    We freeze herbs in butter for the winter and that has worked great. Taste absolutely fresh in the dead of winter. But interested in new thoughts too.

                                                    1. re: karykat
                                                      ZenSojourner Oct 16, 2010 02:46 PM

                                                      Sorry for the late reply, didn't see this cuz I've not been around.

                                                      I do this mostly with 2 herbs, cilantro and neem (curry) leaves.

                                                      The curry/neem leaves I freeze without water, just toss them in a small plastic freezer bag.

                                                      The cilantro I chop up, put a bunch in the bottom of each section in the ice cube tray, just cover with water. I actually don't do this anymore because I can get cilantro any time at the grocery store. I used to have to grow it myself so this was how I guaranteed myself a constant supply. I poured the water in slowly from a cup. Bits that floated to the surface usually didn't freezer burn. I don't see why this wouldn't work with fresh basil or similar herbs. Not sure how it would work with sage? Or is is summer savory? That has kind of hairy leaves.

                                              2. GretchenS Aug 20, 2010 11:31 AM

                                                I'm so envious! Since I eat soup for lunch every day except in the hot summer months, I would make full batches (8 to 10 servings) of all my favorite soups and freeze them in individual servings so I could have a different homemade soup every day. And make salmon cakes and cod cakes and chickpea burgers and meatballs so I'd always have dinner that could be on the table in 15 minutes. If you like Southern-style collard greens (which cook for a long time), buy them when they are in abundance next month and cook a HUGE batch and portion out in your vaccum-sealer, I was so glad I did last year! I make and freeze all of these things but can't have them all available at the same time in my little freezer above my fridge -- what a luxury to have that extra space. Put a Sharpie on a string taped to your fridge so there is never an excuse not to label things.

                                                1. mrbigshotno.1 Aug 21, 2010 02:54 PM

                                                  Remember: what ever you are craving out in the chest freezer, it's always on the bottom!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                                                    ZenSojourner Aug 21, 2010 03:09 PM

                                                    Nah. You just have to allow your freezer to strategically empty over the course of the year. You need to defrost it at least once a year anyway.

                                                    LOL!

                                                  2. decolady Aug 21, 2010 04:44 PM

                                                    I have both chest and upright freezers. Both have their pros and cons. And I freeze so very many things.

                                                    Every year I plant lots of basil, so during the summer I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then pop out the cubes and store in Ziploc bags for use during the winter.

                                                    Marcella's Tomato Sauce made with butter. YUM. And it freezes wonderfully. I also make marinara during the summer when tomatoes are producing so it's always available to pull out for a quick meal.

                                                    Pizza dough. (I take that out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge for about 24 hrs.)

                                                    Alton Brown's creamed corn when fresh corn is in season. (not too sweet and seasoned with rosemary).

                                                    Roasted tomatoes.

                                                    Peaches and blackberries for pie. (I mix them up with the butter, sugar and flour and put in a Ziploc bag. Then I sit the bag in a pie plate and freeze them in shape. Remove the pie plate after they are frozen.)

                                                    Fresh picked blueberries. (Freeze on a baking sheet and then store in bags.)

                                                    Stuffed shells. (Sometimes I freeze those individually on baking sheets and store in bags, or sometimes I freeze them in bags with the sauce in the dish I will later bake them in. Remove the dish after they are frozen.)

                                                    Caramelized onions - I make a big batch of those in the crockpot and then freeze in small bags.

                                                    The trinity (sautéed onion, celery and bell pepper) to make gumbo, étouffée and other such delights.

                                                    Chopped onion and chopped bell pepper - stored separately in bags to top pizzas.

                                                    Soup bucket, as my Mom called it. Leftover veggies and broth get added until it is full. Then it is thawed out and cooked with whatever looks like should be added to make good soup. Sometimes noodles, sometimes rice, sometimes chicken. Be creative!

                                                    Leaf lard.

                                                    Grains, flours and nuts.

                                                    Chicken and vegetable stocks/broths - frozen in 1, 2 and 3 cup portions.

                                                    Fresh cooked peas. (The southern kind - crowder, lady peas, field peas, and such).

                                                    I buy shrimp and crab when I can get them on sale and freeze those.

                                                    Stuff bell peppers so they are ready to pull out and bake.

                                                    Spinach. We seem to get a lot of that during the winter in our CSA box. I cook and store it in bags in the freezer.

                                                    Two freezer bowls for the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: decolady
                                                      darklyglimmer Aug 21, 2010 05:28 PM

                                                      Wow. I want to come eat at your house.

                                                      I have a small upright freezer in the basement and a completely ridiculous side-by-side freezer/refrigerator combo in the kitchen (the freezer part is, I kid you not, six inches wide, and I swear colorfully every time I open it and the frozen peas fall on my toe), so my ability to do things like freeze stuffed shells individually is pretty limited. But I love the pie idea and am going to think long and hard about your soup bucket to see if there's a way I can make that work. Thank you so much for this post and the inspiration!

                                                      All of this discussion about freezers is kind of making me want visuals, so I can see how people actually organize their space . . .

                                                      1. re: darklyglimmer
                                                        decolady Aug 21, 2010 08:17 PM

                                                        Thanks! And you're welcome.

                                                        I had a side by side for years, but when we replaced our refrigerator/freezer earlier this year I opted for the French door model with the bottom freezer. It is SO much better, imo. If you have the tray from a toaster oven, you might be able to use that in the side by side to freeze individual stuffed shells. Of course, it is small, but the extra shells could be refrigerated until you could get them in the freezer.

                                                        1. re: decolady
                                                          r
                                                          Rick Aug 22, 2010 06:00 AM

                                                          Great tip to freeze things individually THEN package them up. I learned my lesson when I stuck a bunch of my mom's pierogies in a freezer bag all at once! Now they go on a cookie sheet individually then in to the bag!

                                                    2. TorontoJo Aug 21, 2010 05:15 PM

                                                      Thanks, everyone! I love some of the prep items ideas that I wouldn't have thought of.

                                                      I just made my double batch of Hazan's ragu bolognese, with the best of intentions to freeze at least half of it. But hubby and I just finished eating, and we each had 2 1/2 generous servings, so I'm not sure what is going in the freezer and what is going in the fridge for dinner tomorrow. Apparently I need to move to triple batches. Damn.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: TorontoJo
                                                        decolady Aug 21, 2010 08:18 PM

                                                        Forgot to say, save room for some cranberries. Buy them during the holidays and just put the bags in the freezer to have to use when fresh cranberries aren't available.

                                                        1. re: decolady
                                                          c oliver Aug 21, 2010 08:20 PM

                                                          Ooh, I forgot about that. I've only had my tiny, little freezer for a couple of months. Will definitely do cranberries. thanks for the tip.

                                                      2. c
                                                        cb1 Sep 24, 2010 12:24 PM

                                                        What to put in a chest freezer? My neighbors cat who keeps scratching up my cars by jumping on them. I kid I kid!!!!! I love cats, really I have one, but he thinks he's a dog so I love him even more.

                                                        I never knew how much we would use a chest freezer until we got one. Now I can't imagine not having one. Ours is usually full of chicken, pork shoulders, crab legs, etc.....

                                                        But as everyone has said....label everything and keep a list on the outside. Even doing that we sometimes come across lost "treasures".

                                                        1. cassoulady Sep 24, 2010 12:59 PM

                                                          I would research area farms to buy grass fed beef and look to buy half a cow butchered as well as farms that have wonderful chickens and freeze those.

                                                          1. boyzoma Sep 24, 2010 02:04 PM

                                                            I've had a large upright for over 35 years and it is still going strong. I like to buy meats in bulk, then repackage to our family size. Gotta love the vacuum sealer. Wouldn't live without one. A couple of other things in addition to some of the above is corn on the cob and homemade apple pies. The pies I roll out the dough, fill with the apple mixture, top with crust and then freeze. Then just pop out of the freezer and into the oven. I just bake them a little longer. They come out great.

                                                            1. TorontoJo Sep 24, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                              Just reporting in to say how much I love my chest freezer and food saver! It's now full of chili, bolognese sauce, chicken carcasses, ham bones, chicken roti from my favorite roti shop, par-baked baguettes, a couple of chocolate cake quarters, bulk spices for my BBQ rubs, bags of nuts from Costco and bottles of vodka and sambuca!

                                                              What I love is that it makes the bottom freezer attached to my fridge SO much more usable. It's no longer bursting at the seams and I don't have to go rooting through it to find something.

                                                              Whee!

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                boyzoma Sep 24, 2010 05:53 PM

                                                                Cheers to you TJ! Ya gotta love freezers. You will keep finding new things to freeze.

                                                                1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                  decolady Sep 25, 2010 04:58 PM

                                                                  This is wonderful to hear! I am so glad you are enjoying your new freezer.

                                                                  1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                    jen kalb Sep 25, 2010 05:13 PM

                                                                    thats super, congrats. I agree, one of the nicest things is making your refrig-freezer less stuffed and more usable. I keep hoping that I will get through all the bits and pieces there so that it is truly a convenient and usable tool rather than a place that leftovers go to become unidentifiable and finally garbage.

                                                                  2. rabaja Oct 16, 2010 04:56 PM

                                                                    Love this thread. I just put a chest freezer into my gargage last weekend and I am amazed at how much room I have now in the regular freezer. I can keep my champagne glasses in the freezer now it's so empty!
                                                                    I am trying to fill it up with useful things, not junk, but am concerned about leaving it half- full or less, especially after reading these posts.
                                                                    I got it in part for when I do large catering jobs and need to hold doughs and/or ice creams, so it won't ALWAYS be full. Do I really need to worry about a half-full freezer for a week or two?
                                                                    I could totally go get five bags of ice to fill it more right now. I'll end up using that when I transport the ice cream anyway!
                                                                    I love having the extra room and am really looking forward to making big batches of ragu and stock, etc. now that it cooling off here in Northern California.
                                                                    Thanks for all the great ideas!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rabaja
                                                                      ZenSojourner Oct 16, 2010 06:06 PM

                                                                      Nah, not for that short a period of time. Mostly its just more efficient to keep it full. Also takes things longer to thaw if you lose power. Hopefully you won't lose power in the next couple of weeks.

                                                                      Ahhh, a freezer to fill - what an adventure!

                                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                        d
                                                                        divadmas Oct 20, 2010 07:37 AM

                                                                        unopened ice cream seems to keep well. but i got some klondike bars individually wrapped in tin foil and they quickly went stale. garage and kitchen (and bath) are on gfci circuits and can be temperamental, and a problem at one will knock out power downstream. i think they make an alarm that warns if power is off, could save a lot of work and money.

                                                                    2. n
                                                                      normalheightsfoodie Oct 20, 2010 11:26 AM

                                                                      Your worst enemy, until the coast is clear, then bury them in the yard and plant a tree. Remeber to dig the whole first.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie
                                                                        ZenSojourner Oct 20, 2010 01:27 PM

                                                                        EEEP! LOL!

                                                                        1. re: normalheightsfoodie
                                                                          rabaja Oct 21, 2010 05:35 AM

                                                                          Don't think I haven't thought of that.

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