The Great Freezer Challenge

I have a confession. I’m a food hoarder. Ask my husband if we are ever out of something, and his answer will be no, or barely ever. Salsa? Check the pantry. Cereal? Do you want raisin bran or shredded wheat? Cheddar bunnies, popcorn, diced tomatoes, etc. You get the picture. We have it.

But my problem lately arises with the freezer. We put a lot of things in the freezer, and with the exception of the ice cream/popsicles and gifted-casseroles, we don’t take anything out. It’s become the new abyss that was once my pantry: filled with things we “need to buy” but never use.

Now that I have a little extra time and energy on my hands, I spend a considerable amount of time meal planning. I genuinely enjoy it, and I love having the time to think about it without my office job in the way. I’ve decided we must eat our way through the freezer foods in the next two months.

We are fortunate to have a second refrigerator/freezer on our bottom floor, which has greatly relieved storage needs for the 10 casseroles I made while pregnant. However, I need to free up a decent amount of space with the extra milk I’m freezing. At the heart of this challenge is truly to make use of the frozen food that’s been forgotten to cut down on grocery bills and just because it’s not right to hoard all that food!

I started by taking an inventory of everything we have and not only writing it down by category, but also reorganizing the shelves so most things live with things like themselves. This list hangs on my fridge so I remember what’s there. This is half the battle as we often forget about things that we don’t see every day.IMG_0464

Then, while meal planning, I design about two meals a week with some of the main ingredients in the freezer and try to incorporate other items as sides if I can.

I’ve also committed myself not to add anything new to the freezer until we’ve made a dent. I’m allowed to keep certain ingredients for specific needs like the giant pork tenderloin (bought on sale) for a holiday gathering, the garlic bread for our next lasagna, and the frozen fruit for winter months when that fruit is not in season.

Here are some of the ways I’ve designed meals around our freezer stock so far:

  1. Pizza dough, pesto and chicken breasts: this was an easy one. Homemade pizza with grilled chicken and a pesto sauce. I only had to buy mozzarella and roast some garlic.
  2. Hamburger patties and buns: last week I made mushroom, blue cheese and bacon burgers with two of the patties.
  3. Bacon has been used for weekend breakfasts (BLTs and eggs) and in cobb salads over the past few weeks.
  4. Turkey sausage: today I made a sausage egg strata using all the leftover vegetables in the fridge including mushrooms (from the burgers, ha!), asparagus that I ended up not eating as a side, and green onions leftover from the last round of cobb salads. Below is the recipe.

I’m saving the peas, corn and filo dough for upcoming cool weather to make one of my favorites: chicken pot pie in the crock pot. I’m planning to eat the chicken drumsticks, okra and pork chops this upcoming week. I’ll check in soon to let you know how I fared and what’s left to go!

Are you a freezer food hoarder? Maybe now’s the time to examine what’s on your shelves and do an end-of-summer clean out with me.

Turkey Sausage and Leftover Vegetable Egg Strata

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Ingredients:

One package of turkey sausage patties (8 total).  You can also substitute sausage links or fresh sausage.

2 tsp olive or vegetable oil

Chopped asparagus, 1 C

Diced mushrooms, 1 C

Chopped green onions, 1/2 C

6 eggs

1 C milk or half-n-half

3-4 slices of bread, cubed

1 1/2 C of shredded sharp cheddar (I used white cheddar)

1tsp Kosher salt

1tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. If using frozen sausage, heat in the microwave according to package instructions to cook thoroughly. Dice sausage into small bite-size pieces.
  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, green onions and turkey sausage. Cook until vegetables are softened and all ingredients are warmed, roughly 5-7 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs lightly with the milk. Add the cheese and bread cubes. Stir in salt and pepper.
  5. Add the vegetable and turkey sausage mix to the egg mixture. Let sit 5 minutes.
  6. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until bread cubes on the top are lightly browned and the eggs in the middle are just set.

Enjoy!