Monday, 7 January 2013

Organising my freezer

I keep reading about how food prices are going through the roof, mainly due to the poor weather affecting the growing season, which has a knock on effect to everything we eat. Livestock has to be fed to produce meat and dairy, so when the fields are swamped and crops lost, alternative feed must be sourced, usually from another part of our country, or from another country. Transport costs have to be paid for, which will be added to the price we pay at the checkout.
Some people complain that their favourite food item has gone up in price, me included, but if you break it down into individual ingredients, you can see where the extra costs come in all along the production line. I try and eat as much basic veg as I can, and try and keep away from the processed stuff. Apart from the fact that a lot of nasties can creep into food during factory processing, it's bound to cost more because of all the price increases of the ingredients. Even my basic veg is going up in price at the moment, so I have to think of ideas to stretch it out that bit further.
I thought I would show you the contents of my freezer, so you can see how I buy and organise my meals. I need to stretch every penny I spend, and make the best meals I can. I have three drawers, which gives ample space for me. I don't need to stockpile loads of food in a bottomless pit called a chest freezer. Families that feed lots of mouths might need one of those, I can only speak for me as a single person household. 
First, I have fourteen portions of salmon. I bought two bags of six a few weeks ago when Tesco had the double up promotion on vouchers. Then I had another voucher for £2.50 off, the salmon was already on offer at half price so I managed to get six for £2.50 plus voucher. So, there are fourteen meals there when added to veg, salad, rice, pasta, or bread.
I have one and a half loaves of reduced price wholemeal bread, and a single bun left from a pack of four. I know home made bread is better but it would not be cost effective for me to make it, given the price I pay for the yellow stickers. I don't want to spend more time in the kitchen than I have to, and I don't eat bread every day. It suits me to buy it cheap and freeze it.
Next I have half a bag of berry fruits. I'm not too keen on these as the pips annoy me. I shall put these in a smoothie and may not buy any more, except if the are on special offer, maybe. These is a pack of Staffordshire Oatcakes there. I like these as an alterative to bread. Make a filling and roll them up, or spread with a dab of marmite. They have a Christmas wrapper of so they were reduced.
The next drawer has nine portions of home made veg curry, stew, and soup, in different size pots. These can be eaten as a snack at lunch time, maybe with a slice of bread, or as a main meal with potatoes, pasta, or rice added. They cost very little to make, and are there as a convenient ready meal.
Third and last drawer. Three Value cauliflower cheese. I don't eat lots of these, I bought them as part of the double up Tesco voucher offer, so they basically cost me nothing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I cut these in half while they are still frozen, and add other veg to it, so six meals there. There is a big bag of Value mixed veg, to use as a standby when I have run out of fresh. Frozen is just as good as fresh, and it's convenient to dispense single portions as and when needed. I don't buy tinned veg, (except mushy peas), because a whole tin is too much for one meal.  Also in this pic is half a bag of sweetcorn, a portion of home grown runner beans, one cheese and broccoli bake, and one small smoothie. I bought the smoothie as a pack of four at a greatly reduced price. They are very nice frozen, like a tastier and healthier version of that nasty slush stuff you see in the shop dispensers. 
So you can see in my small freezer I have the basics for quite a lot of meals. My fresh veg is quite low at the moment, but I am not going to dash to the shops in a panic, I am going to eat some of what I already have.
When I was working full time I didn't have the time to be so well organised, I was too busy making enough money to live. Here's a thought, if you are running around like a headless chicken, trying to juggle family and work, and throwing anything willy nilly into a supermarket trolley, you are going to pay over the odds for your food. But if you can make time to sit down for an hour every night, and do a bit of forward thinking about what you are going to eat the next day, you could shave pounds off your food bill. A lot of people believe in meal planning, if it works for you then great. Personally I don't want to know what I am going to be eating next Thursday, I would find that quite boring. I like to eat what I fancy, so I buy cheap food which I really like, and which will keep a while. I keep a small stock in so I can dip in and out of it. Good luck with your meal planning and shopping. Investing a bit of thought and time into it is the only way to go.   

28 comments:

  1. Your freezer is so well organized. I like that you can see everything that's in there and nothing is piled on top of each other. My freezer is the pull out version (bottom of fridge) and it's a large drawer (deep) so sometimes things get on the bottom and can't be seen and I have to occassionally take stuff out to see what's in there. I have never seen "cauliflower cheese" here in the US. If I want that, I have to make it from scratch. That looks so convenient and tasty. Well, this was another great, informative post from you. Thanks

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  2. I make a plan of what meals to cook for 2 weeks, based loosely on what is in the freezer, fridge and larder. I make my shopping list but if I find a bargain i buy it and alter the plan to suit, it is not set in stone. Today we were having Yorkshire Puddings filled with casserole from the freezer, I had to pop to the shops for milk for the week and the fish pie packs were then being yellow stickered. The boy doing it must have been asleep because he reduced the lot to half price including 4 packs with 5 days life. I snapped them up 3 are in the freezer 1 is simmering to make 2 fish pies, 1 will be frozen for a lazy/busy day.

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  3. That's quite a larder, and at phenomenal savings!

    Your frozen smoothie reminded me of something I used to do that may be useful to you one day. When I was working in the woods all day I would carry a small lunchbox in my backpack. I'd make sandwiches but instead of using ice or one of those funny blue freezer packs (which are both heavy and - I think - prone to sneaky leaks) I'd pack it with a portion of ordinary yogurt frozen solid in a little container. By lunch time the yogurt would have melted enough to be like a sherbet dessert, and my sandwiches would taste nice and fresh, and no melted ice or icepack to contend with, or carry around in my backpack all day. Just a thought for your upcoming jaunts, Ilona!

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    1. Good idea quinn, I will do that when I start walking again.

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  4. I dont plan a menu out for weeks at a time, that would be boring for me also but like you I have food frozen, never have to throw anything away. After dinner every night I decide what I am going to have for dinner the following night. I bake bread a couple of times a week and have porridge every morning so breakfasts and lunches seem to sort themselves out and stay very simple.
    After years of doing this you become a real expert, right ?
    Cauliflower cheese is a very British thing but you can get cheesy veggies frozen here but none of the supermarkets here have yellow stickers or extreme sell offs on any regular basis. Most of the unsold food goes to food banks and pantries or salvage stores. Our loss leaders and sales are usually quite good though and Aldi s is amazing for a limited range of fresh veg and dairy.

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  5. Awesome post Illona, you've been a great inspiration to me. I'm loving your casual, carefree approach as you enjoy these years beyond work for money. I'm in a single person household also, with a persnickity, opinionnated cat, Ebony. She was a 3 previous owners 5 yr old when I adopted her. Didn't take long to see why she kept needed a new place. But I've come to terms with "her" way of being, and we suit each other just fine. She's 11 now and doing very well indeed. Looks like a black watermelon with a tail and ears :- )
    I've been working on not wasting anything and figuring out new ways to use up odds and ends of food. I've been good at doing it with fabric, but the food scene is new territory. Happy to say I'm getting good at it! Thanks for all the inspiration and good cheer. Hugs, Finn

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  6. I have a list of what is in the freezer and every morning we decide what we would like for our evening meal, this then gets deleted off the list (it is on email so easy to change). As and when I put something new in the freezer this gets added to the list. It is quite surprising how many meals there are in there when it doesn't look like much at all! It's almost like going to a restaurant with a long menu.... except I have to cook it myself lol

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  7. I portion up meals as well, and I also menu plan to make sure that Mr O has a decent hot meal every day; he works an evening shift so has his main meal at lunchtime whilst I like to 'forage' in the freezer at tea time. So, from my plan I know what he will be eating and therefore what I will need to replace when the items have gone from the freezer. Today he had home made meat & onion pie with some left over veggies from yesterday (daughter and son-in-law were here for tea) and tomorrow he will eat the last portion of belly pork with the rest of the left over veggies (brocolli, parsnips, carrot & swede mashed, brussel sprouts and roast potatoes). No waste this week! I also need to go and retrieve some of my frozen things from my mother's spare freezer and then we have more supplies to call on. It's also a good idea if you are catering for more than one person to construct a list of dishes that everyone likes eg, cottage pie, curry, spag bol, liver & onions etc, so that you are never having to rack your brains what to cook. But for a single person, that would be going over the top, and you eat very healthily!

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  8. Very interesting and a great idea to cut the cauliflower cheese in half and bulk out with veg. Will definitely try that if i see (reasonably healthy!) ready meals at a good price
    Ruth x

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  9. ...and i just love Staffordshire Oatcakes!
    Ruth x

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  10. Well, aren`t you the organised one! Stafforshire oatcakes sound great. I have a recipe from the Hairy Bikers but haven`t gotten round to using it yet as it needs some yeast and some time to rise. I`ve made some oaty pancakes once and filled them with creme fraich and hot berry fruits for breakfast. That`s alot quicker and tastes great, too. Your frozen stock of items make great meal basics. I`m going to re-organise my freezers in February, when we have plought through most things. I`m planning to do alot more bulk cooking and freezing this coming year. Stepson is moving out end of January, and then we shall be able to cook what we like and I will be able to re-stock freezers with meal portions that will just suit the two of us. I`m getting quite exited about the new beginning with my freezer. Time to put my thinking cap on and come up with cheap and nutricious meals that will freeze well.

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  11. Hello Ilona from Housefairy
    Good to see that we both do forward planning with food.
    I had my husband joking to son about my antics... see what she has done now!
    Over the last 2 days, I have made 3 lists on my cut up cereal box strips.
    Dinners in freezer. Menu and shopping list.
    The menu list is not in any order, it is just to tell me I have 7 dinners at least for the week.
    So off I went today to do the food shop for the week. Spent £43.20 for 2 adults, son was a separate bill as he comes and goes as he works.
    Daughter is on holiday.
    I thought that was good, due to planning and some of the frozen food will go into other weeks - bought as on offer.

    Wile I was doing my planning I was emptying the cupboards also to see what sauces and things will go with dinners. Checking on dates. Glad to say nothing was out of date this time.

    I have 1 x 5 drawer freezer that gets filled. We eat from it till there is space for more. No need for 2 freezers.

    I need to use the fruit in the freezer here too! we have blackberries and rhubarb from the garden.

    I see you have no ice cream in your freezer? we nearly always have a small tub of vanilla.

    No batch cooking this week. Like you, Ilona I cook several portions at once depending what is on offer.

    We are both set now on the food front

    Take care

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    1. Hi HF. No I don't buy ice cream for the same reason I don't buy cakes. I would scoff the lot in one go, pig that I am.

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  12. I notice you've a photo of you on a bike. I'd be interested in knowing a bit of how the bicycle fits into your lifestyle.

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    1. Hello WP. I ride it sometimes, for pleasure, not because I have to.

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  13. Hello Ilona. I'm a long time reader of your blog, maybe 4 years? The first thing I do when I switch on the laptop is read your blog. I absolutely love what you have to say and have learned so much from you. Thank you. I used to live in Staffordshire and the usual way to eat oatcakes is put cheese on them, pop them under the grill, roll them up and eat! They are gorgeous. You can add rashers too but I like them with just cheese and a dollop of tomato ketchup.Thanks again for such a grand blog. Kindest regards Maureen in Kerry, Ireland.

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    1. Hello Maureen, thank you for your comment. I was born in Staffordshire, but I can't remember eating oatcakes as a child. I agree, they are yummy, with almost anything on. I sometimes spread lemon curd on.

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  14. Aren't the "cheese and broccoli bakes" the cheese and spring onion ones? Looks like it on the photo. I looked at these this week in Tesco but didn't get them, they're horrendously high in "bad" fats. I think the total fat content was 13 g just for one bake. Too many other additives in there too, usually the problem with convenience packaged food.

    Your freezer is much tidier than mine!

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    1. Hello Jess. My mistake, yes, cheese and spring onion bakes. I don't read every ingredient label on every packet, bag, or box. I like the taste of these, and an ocassional one in a year is not going to kill me. I agree, there are too many additives in all processed food.

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  15. Hey there, new blog reader here. I just came back from a trip to Ireland (I live in the US) and was shocked at how high food prices were. I came home wondering how indeed anyone "over there" made it work. Thrugh hard work like you are doing I suppose. I'll be back for sure (to your blog)

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  16. Hello Donna, welcome. I haven't been to Ireland, but I have heard that food prices are pretty high there. It must be difficult to stretch the pennies.

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  17. You are very organised with your freezer and I am indeed impressed Illona. I have tried for several years to get the best out of the freezer but unfortunately I think I don't have the right temperament. You see I often defrost something for the following days main meal and then when it comes to it... I really don't fancy what I've defrosted and I end up cooking something else, the defrosted meal goes into the fridge and often is still there several days later when I finally put it in the bin! Very bad I know. Perhaps I need to think a lot more carefully about what I am going to freeze in the first place.

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  18. Interesting point Jane. I cook everything from frozen, but not sure you could do that with meat. I look at cooking instructions on the back of packets, and if it says defrost at room temperature, I don't buy it, for the same reason as you state. I put frozen salmon under the grill, and cook slowly so it cooks evenly throughout. I've never been ill after eating it. I put home made stew in the microwave, making sure it is piping hot.

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  19. Nice post, Ilona! I love your friendly tone, makes me feel like we're sitting and having a chat over tea :o) I like to clean out and organize my freezer this time of year as well. It's a good time as the garden surplus has dwindled to a good point and since I am also planning my garden at this time, it helps me to know what I'll need to plant more or less of.

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  20. Hi,
    I just wanted to let Kearnygirl know that you can get frozen Califlower Cheese in the U.S. Green Giant is the brand name. I used to buy it when ever it would go on sale. It's o.k., but I always threw in a little extra cheese. I also want to tell quinn what a good idea that is about the frozen yogert cup. I pack yogert in my lunch everyday, but frozen sounds divine. Ironically, Ilona I just got done organising the freezer (and fridge/pantry lol!) too. Looks like I'll be going shopping tomorrow. :)

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  21. FrugalatChristmastimeFrugalalways8 January 2013 at 17:54

    Do you think you could also show a picture of your food cupboards as I find it fascinating what other people have!!

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  22. I have to hold my hand up and say I am a meal planner because it works for me. And what works for you is the plan you should go with because I hate the thought of food being thrown away.

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  23. Love your freezer, you are so organized! I have really been trying to save/stretch food and other items as much as I can since our scare last fall. You have given me many many ideas to help me along my long road, one of these days I keep telling myself I will be out if debt! Take care and keep the good ideas coming :D

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