Brand new chest freezer -- what would YOU put in it?
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.
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).
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 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. :)
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.
re: Hank Hanover
+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.
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. :)