There are a lot of reasons to like local food: less environmental impact of transporting food, keeping dollars in the local economy, fresher tasting food, etc. One of the most important could be the nutritional quality of the fresh produce you are buying. We eat […]
‘Tis the season to defrost the freezer. Wait, what? It’s actually the traditional time of year (January) when many recommit to eating healthy and I am with you on that journey. I spent some time in the last few days asking myself why my efforts to eat healthy and lose weight aren’t successful. I boiled it down to two main reasons. First, I’m often too tired, too hungry and unprepared to fix a “healthy” meal at the end of the day so I go for the quick thing which rarely translates to a balanced meal. Second, you can’t make good choices if good choices aren’t available. Let me repeat that. You can’t make good choices if good choices aren’t available! To complicate matters, often the not so good choices are available, visible and convenient.
So how do we change that? I’ve been on a meal planning rant this week, really believing that meal planning is the key to being organized and proactive with healthy eating and cooking. I’ve tried a menu planning service in the past with some success but mostly felt I had to modify it a great deal to fit my individual preferences.
So back to the freezer. A key part of meal planning is knowing what you have on hand. It’s also a key to saving money on the grocery bill since you don’t let food go to waste (i.e. the unlabeled mystery food that might be 3 years old in the back of the freezer). Since the low was 3 degrees this morning it was the perfect time to defrost the freezer!
I started by putting everything from the freezer outside the back door and turned off the freezer.
You can use boxes, shopping bags, laundry baskets, coolers or anything you have to get it out side. The freezer defrosted completely in 2.5 hours! It didn’t take that long. I didn’t have inches of ice to begin with but there was enough frost on the shelves that items didn’t sit flat. After a quick wipe down, I shut the freezer, restarted it and let it cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile I gathered some boxes (you might have some boxes from online gift orders that haven’t made it to the recycling bin yet). Mini milk crates, plastic food storage containers, etc will work as well. You might check out the dollar store if you just can’t find an alternative. Then I created the broad groups and labels for each box that I wanted to use. Here are my groups:
Ham and Pork
Bacon and Sausage
Soups and Beans
Chicken and Fish
Butter and Lard
Stocks and Bones
I would recommend getting a box big enough for what you would like to keep on hand. You may only have one package of ground beef now but if you usually want to have 6 on hand, get a box that will hold 6. While the freezer was cooling for 30 minutes I found the boxes and made several short trips out the back door to organize the food. After 30 minutes the freezer was about 20 degrees and I put the boxes and food back in the freezer.
I ended up putting the soups and beans in the door since I have them in single serving containers and want them super accessible. Of course the labels don’t stick to the plastic baskets so I’ll have to find another way to label those. Everything doesn’t have to be in a box or basket! Even if you just sorted your meats it would save time figuring out and finding what you have.
Perhaps you aren’t able to use every inch of freezer space by using the box method but there are several benefits.
- Your food is organized.
- You (and other family members) can find food in seconds instead of digging through the entire freezer. You only need to remove one box and look through it for a specific item or inventory.
- If you need to move things around to make space for something you can shift the boxes instead of multiple smaller items.
- If you do need to look through a box you can remove it and look through it with the freezer closed instead of searching while the freezer stands open.
- Food items that are stacked high or aren’t perfectly flat don’t tumble out of the freezer resulting in broken containers or bruised toes.
- The boxes can provide a structure and spaces to contain other items that may not stand up or stack easily.
- You may not need to keep up a freezer inventory since you can quickly and easily see what you have by peaking in each box. If you beef box is half empty, time to start looking for a sale.
- It is easy to rotate the newer items to the back of the box when you come home with a purchase instead of re-stacking everything-huge!
I use this same method for the freezer that is part of my refrigerator and it works equally well. In general I try to keep raw food, grains and ingredients in the deep freeze and cooked meals, fruits, ice cream in the kitchen freezer but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Eating well means preparing healthy meals and that process is easier, less stressful and more budget friendly if the foundation is there. You can start at 5 pm by opening the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and try to figure out what you can make for dinner when you are tired and hungry (why do we do that to ourselves?) or you can plan what to make, have it on hand and be able to find it and maybe even prepare a little in advance.
I hope this helps, tomorrow I’m going to organize one shelf in the pantry!
Oh how I hate chiggers! If you haven’t experienced them, they are nearly invisible bugs that live in grass and brush during the summer. Their bite, while not technically a bite, leaves a red itchy welt but you don’t know right away that you have […]
Once vilified as the epitome of bad fats, lard is making a comeback! Lard and other animal fats are showing up on natural food store shelves and coolers at premium prices. These are $9.99 for 11 ounces! There is still controversy surrounding the health risks/benefits of […]
Freezing drizzle has been falling since last night. A light snow and bitter cold are on the way so of course this is the very last opportunity to add another layer of plastic to the greenhouse if I want to save the plants inside. I have a 4×6 foot “lean to” greenhouse. The greenhouse has three sides and it is attached to the back wall of the house which creates the 4th wall. Someday I hope to write a whole series on managing a small greenhouse but for now, I’ll just share this story.
I like to do things ahead of time but this year, for various reasons I was operating on last minute deadlines. Our first frost was almost a month later than average so much of the garden closing didn’t get done until quite late, if at all. I have a lot of plants that I bring in to the house to overwinter and I wanted to try very hard not to bring in any insects with them. One year I had terrible aphids on my orange and lemon trees (still waiting for my first orange). So of course, the night before the first frost, I put those plants in the greenhouse, knowing it would buy some time before I had to bring them in the house.
This year I also have several new fig trees and had to decide if I’ll try to overwinter them in the greenhouse or a cold dark garage. The garage has no daylight and will be consistently cold, but won’t dip down as low as the green house temperatures.
The plants that need to be indoors for sure have made their way into the house by now and the fig trees are in the greenhouse so far but as our temperatures were predicted to fall below zero I worried about the temperatures in the greenhouse. While the snow would provide an insulating blanket our forecast also called for wind and the snow might not settle on the roof of the greenhouse in any measureable amount. So, I retrieved the plastic sheet from the garage marked “greenhouse” and recruited help from the taller member of the family to get that extra layer of plastic added to the outside of the greenhouse. The plastic is added only to the roof and front of the greenhouse with binder clips from the office supply store. Last time we also had to add a bungee cord across the top because of the winds.
We headed out the back door, taking baby steps on the icy deck and around to the greenhouse. Of course the bungee cord and binder clips which are used all over the garden during the season for such things as bird netting, shade cloth or row covers, are stored inside the greenhouse and the door was frozen shut from the freezing drizzle. A cup of hot water and a cloth to dry the track worked great to release the frozen door and I retrieved the clips and bungee cord as quickly as I could so as not to let too much cold air into the greenhouse.
We soon had the plastic up and cold hands (you can’t really manage binder clips with mittens on) and were back in the house warming up. That day we got less than 2 inches of snow and over night the temperature dropped to -4 degrees. The temperature in the greenhouse got down to 14. A few days from now (one week after that storm) we might have a day in the 60’s. Welcome to Kansas!
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What could be more fun than having a fresh, living, edible centerpiece for a holiday table? It’s even more fun if you grow your own with microgreens. To make this center piece, start with a 4 inch plastic plant saucer. They are available year round at most […]
It seems that no matter where you end a path or a step the lawn or area just beyond it become a trampled soggy mess during rainy periods. It also seems that over time we have replace all of our old concrete down spout diverters or splash guards with the accordion type tubes that direct the water further away from the foundation. That leaves us with several concrete down spout diverters to dispose of and at the same time we needed to find a solution for the muddy area at the bottom of the steps.
We originally thought we would have to buy some paving stones but realized that if we turned the down spout diverters upside down that the back side was just a flat concrete surface. Since the curved top was now the bottom, we started to dig out a bit of the dead, muddy grass and discovered that at one time there was a brick landing that had an inch or two of dirt and grass on top of it.
We rescued the bricks, added some sand and arranged the bricks with the flipped over concrete down spout diverters and whoala, a new landing. This would also be good for an area in the garden.
I loved being able to repurpose those concrete splash guards instead of hauling them to the dump! Have you found a way to reuse concrete splash guards?