I guess I’m on a roll because first I was inspired to do a big pantry redo, then I decided I could no longer stand our disastrous extra freezer, and next my husband is hinting around that I need to tackle the spice drawer. I think we can officially say spring cleaning is underway over here, and boy, does it feel good! :)
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Why an Extra Freezer?
First of all, why do we have an extra “back” freezer (as we call it since it’s in our mudroom)? We literally went out and bought this extra freezer the day we finished reading In Defense of Food (the book that inspired us to cut out processed food and start this website in the first place). Michael Pollan, the author, said, “If you have the space, buy a freezer.” And the reason is because it will allow you to stock up on good-quality frozen pastured meat (when you find a good source) and local produce when it’s in season. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it’s better for you to eat those foods, of course!
So we were good listeners and did exactly what he said – and we’re so glad we did. Not only was Pollan right about all the meat (which I’ve learned is almost always sold already frozen at our farmers’ market), but our extra freezer is also the perfect place to keep whole-grain flours fresh longer and stash all those extra homemade goodies I’m constantly trying to stockpile. Why, just this morning my 12-year-old pulled a couple homemade waffles (that I had made and froze last weekend) out of the freezer and heated them up for her breakfast. Our freezer also allows us to stock up on our favorite high-quality store bought breads whenever I have the chance to buy them.
So, in summary, this is what we keep in our extra freezer…
Whole-grain flours will eventually go rancid (unlike white flour!), but they last much longer in the freezer.
- Locally and humanely raised meats
Usually sold already frozen at our farmers’ market and also arrives frozen if you order from a good online source.
- Homemade baked goods
Such as whole-grain waffles, pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.
- Good-quality store bought baked goods
Such as whole-grain sandwich bread, tortillas, pitas – if these things are truly REAL they’ll spoil sitting on the counter for too long.
- Homemade soups and stock
Freezing these in individual portions makes it easy to pull out exactly how much I need when I need it.
- Leftover cooked meats
Such as taco meat, pulled pork, cooked chicken, etc. If we can’t eat what we’ve made within a few days, I freeze it.
Now let’s dive into how our freezer became such a mess and what we did about it!
Let’s start with what was the messiest part of our freezer! But first, why flours in the freezer? Since whole-grain flours have all the parts of the grain intact – bran, germ, and endosperm – they will eventually spoil, unlike white flours where the most nutritious parts (a.k.a. the parts that are nutritious enough to actually spoil, the bran and germ) have been removed. So to prevent any unwanted spoilage and, in general, extend the shelf life of these flours, we decided to store them in the freezer from the get go. And even though it’s not really necessary, I also store my white flour (which I occasionally use for a birthday cake or something!) in the freezer just so all “like things are together” – my favorite organization mantra.
But check out what a mess it was in the picture above on the left! Years ago I tried doing glass jars in the freezer much like how we store things in our pantry. But because the shelves are so deep, it was not easy to access. And I guess I got a little lazy by the end of unpacking the groceries and stopped transferring the flours from the bulk bins into these jars. So what we ended up with was a jumble of bags and jars, including lots of duplicates I didn’t even know we had.
I decided I just needed to embrace our non-system of keeping the flours in the bags they came in but still find a way to keep it organized. So I bought these little bins (made for the freezer and fridge!) from The Container Store. I then “hired” my twelve-year-old to do all the organizing. Best five bucks I ever spent! She’s so cute with her little handwriting on the labels. I’m not sure why she put them up higher on the bins on the second shelf, but I did not even ask – proud of the job she did as is! And now I can just dump the flour bags (or jars that still exist) into their slot and know exactly what we have – yay!
The flours we store in the freezer:
- Whole-wheat flour
- White whole-wheat flour (this is still whole-grain – just made from a lighter variety of wheat)
- Whole-wheat pastry flour
- Whole spelt flour
- Corn meal
- Masa harina (for making corn tortillas)
- Cake and white flour (for on occasional treat!)
- Misc items – wheat berries (for grinding into flour), sprouted whole-wheat flour, grits
The Baked Goods
Just below the flour section we store all our baked goods – both homemade and store bought. I usually put these in plastic freezer-safe bags since it takes up the least amount of room this way. Labeling is key here! And also using sheets of wax paper to separate things like waffles and pancakes.
The 100% whole-grain baked goods you’ll find in our freezer:
- Homemade waffles
- Homemade pancakes
- Homemade muffins
- Bread and rolls from Great Harvest*
- Flour tortillas from Earth Fare (store brand)*
- Pitas from Trader Joe’s (store brand)*
*After searching high and low these are the best quality 100% whole-grain store bought breads I’ve been able to find!
The Raw Meats
As I mentioned, having enough room to store high-quality humanely-raised meats when we find them was sort of the impetus for this extra freezer in the first place. I’ve always kept them in the bottom drawer of the freezer in the original packaging, and honestly, this section has always remained pretty organized as is!
The humanely-raised raw meats you’ll always find in my freezer:
- Whole chicken
- Ground beef
- Ground pork
- Pork shoulder roast
There are sometimes other miscellaneous items such as sausage, but the stuff on my list is what I always like to have on hand for when the mood strikes! I also store a few leftover cooked meats that we couldn’t eat fast enough, but those are on the shelf above the bread drawer as shown above. We typically purchase (frozen) meat from our local farmer’s market, but Butcher Box is a good mail order option.
The Soups and Stocks
One of my favorite parts of having our extra freezer is for the homemade soup and stock storage! Before I get into the details though, it’s important to share why and how I store these items in glass jars. First of all, the jars are freezer-safe which means they don’t have “shoulders” (for the most part – oops I see a couple offenders in the picture that don’t actually comply!). I guess we like to live on the edge a little. But the second important item to note is that you do not fill the liquids to the top of these jars if you plan to freeze them because the liquid needs room to expand! As you can see in my non-compliant jars I left A LOT of extra room in the top in those.
Okay, so back to what’s in all those jars. As soon as we cut out processed food, I stopped relying on store bought chicken broth and have honestly never looked back. It’s SO easy and much cheaper (and tastes better) to make your own from chicken bones you would’ve thrown out anyway – am I selling it enough yet?! I’ve even figured out it’s cheaper to buy organic chicken drumsticks just for the purpose of making stock (and you get to eat the yummy chicken too, of course) than it is to buy the boxed or canned broth that won’t even taste as good.
So I ALWAYS have lots of little jars of homemade chicken stock at the ready for homemade soups and such. And if I’m running low, you can bet you’re gonna see The Best Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot pop up on the dinner plan really soon.
And all those homemade soups I make with all that stock? Anytime I’m making soup or chili or stew, I almost always try to make a double batch just so I can stockpile the extras in the freezer. I love to pack my girls soup for school lunch, which stays warm for up to five hours in a thermos, at least once a week, and this is my go-to stash. In fact, we’ve gotten into a little bit of a routine where I send the soup on Wednesdays (great way to break up the week!) so on Tuesday afternoon/evening I ask them to pick out what they’d like from what’s available.
The homemade soups you’ll often find in our freezer:
- Homemade chicken stock (always!)
- Slow cooker black bean soup (in my Fast & Fabulous cookbook)
- Tomato bisque (in my first cookbook)
- Slow cooker steak chili (in my Fast & Fabulous cookbook)
- Slow cooker potato soup (in my first cookbook)
We also right now have some frozen fish and potato chowder in there! I try to restock these soups by making a little extra whenever soup is on the menu for dinner.
The Miscellaneous Items
In case you are wondering what the few random items are in the pics that didn’t neatly fit into one of my categories … I thought I’d explain! The big Deer Park frozen water jug (that we removed some of the water from first) is what we use in the bottom of our big cooler when camping or otherwise taking perishable food along with us. I think this was actually an “ice pack” suggestion from a blog reader that has worked beautifully and is something we can use over and over again!
Next to the big water is the bowl for our ice cream maker that I always keep frozen so I don’t have to plan ahead. And on the top shelf of the freezer door, we also keep pine nuts (the nuts we probably use the least so we keep them in the freezer to last longer), coconut flakes/shreds (I use these in granola and am honestly not sure why we keep this in the freezer, haha), and the best quality whole-wheat breadcrumbs I’ve been able to find (brand is Ian’s – I make them too sometimes).
I also want to mention you don’t see frozen fruits for smoothies because we keep that (along with frozen peas and corn) in our regular freezer in the kitchen that’s attached to the fridge!
Video Tour of My Freezer
I hopped on a quick Facebook live video if you prefer to watch that over the written version. I think you can access it even if you don’t “do” Facebook.
So, that is the tour of our extra freezer, and I ended up having much more to say about it than I thought! I would love to hear your thoughts and/or suggestions in the comments. :)