Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homekeeping Tips

A couple of homekeeping items today. My meals tend to make leftovers - this is completely intentional. I love leftovers. We use them either for lunches or, my very favorite, freeze them for later meals. Having something in the freezer that I can pull out, defrost and make a meal from helps to keep my sanity. I do love to cook, but I don't want to have to make something from scratch every single day. Plus, I've noticed that, towards the end of the month, the food budget tends to get a bit skimpy. I'm still working on figuring out a balance since we switched to all organic, homemade, real food and started shopping at Whole Foods and the farmers market more than Trader Joes.

Sometime during the week I create a menu for the following week. I try to take into account what we have in the fridge that needs to be used before it goes bad or starts growing things (corn tortillas in this week), what we've had the prior week, how busy my days will be and how much we have left in the checking account. Also, how inspired I'm feeling. If I'm craving an easier night (or week), I peruse my freezer spreadsheet as well (more on that below). I keep the menu on my 'To Do' notebook next to my computer so I can reference it easily. It's also completely flexible of course. This week we had so much leftover polenta from the short rib ragu on Monday that I'm using it in two meals this week in order to use it up. Luckily bolognese over polenta with melted cheese was a hit since we had it Tuesday and we're having it again tonight. The bolognese was a frozen leftover from making lasagna sometime last year.

In order to keep my leftovers in order and remember what is actually in my freezer, I keep a spreadsheet (geek!) on my laptop that lists the item (chili, stew, sauces, etc) and how many I have on hand (this I do just by making an 'x' for each one). When I take something out, I delete an 'x', when I add something to the freezer, I add it to the list. The hard part is remembering to do delete or add. A couple of times a year, I'll take a freezer inventory to make sure everything is current.

We have three freezers, the one in the house I use for frequently used or random things (flax seed, nuts, or pieces of meat and cheese rinds saved for soup). The side by side in the garage is used exclusively for leftovers. The large freezer (21 cubic feet) is the one we use to store our grass-fed beef order from Leftcoast Grassfed and pork from Early Bird Ranch. If D ever catches a fish (keep trying honey!), we can vacuum seal it and store it in there too.

Our meat storage
 I was using Ziploc freezer bags to store my leftovers until I started reading about the specific toxicity of flexible plastic bags. Plus I started really thinking about the waste of throwing them out after each use. Not very cost effective and horrible for our planet. I now use these plastic containers  for freezing all my leftovers as well as my stocks and I love them! I simply write what's inside on the lid along with the date and freeze. I've had great success washing and reusing them after each use. I don't put them in the dishwasher or microwave though.
It's a system I've developed over the years and it works pretty well for us. It's helped end those nights where I have absolutely no clue what to do for dinner and we either order in or D picks something up on his way home. If nothing else, chili and rice makes for a quick and delicious meal.

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