There are still several more weeks of farmer’s market harvest shopping left, but I’m almost out of room in my freezer. I would say the best lesson I’ve learned is to label everything. You might think you can tell just by looking, but it’s better to know for sure. It also helps if you have to pull everything off a shelf to find one little thing, that way when you reorganize, you can categorize them in a way that makes sense to you. When I’m putting a load into my freezer, before they are frozen, it’s easy to squish them if you don’t lie them flat. So, I usually clear off a shelf to make sure the new additions freeze flat. Then, after they are frozen, I might have to change the order in which they are in the freezer.
I’d say my second biggest lesson that I did differently this year than last year was to split things up by serving size, not by item. For example, usual meals are 2-4 people, so it’s unlikely we’d consume an entire squash in one meal. I’d cut a squash up in fourths, clean and chop it, and load it into 4 different bags along with whatever else will be prepared with the squash (bell peppers, onion, garlic, etc.). That way, you have 4 side dishes ready to thaw and go, rather than one huge bag of squash that you still have to split up, chop other vegetables, and season before you cook.
The third thing I’ve learned was to add seasoning where possible. While most items are at their lowest price, I’d buy extra and go ahead and put the seasoning in the bag – not for all of them, but at least a few of each vegetable. I’d center the seasoning around a particular style that gets cooked often, so I’d have an easy side dish ready to go when the time comes.
Irish/American – carrots, celery, onion
Asian/Indian – chili peppers, garlic, fresh ginger
French – shallot, garlic, mushroom (some have lemon instead of mushroom because some of us don’t eat mushroom!)
Italian – bell peppers, garlic, onion
Tropical – pineapple, coconut, chickpeas
If you go ahead and add the aromatics, it’s just less that you have to remember to buy (at full price!) later when they are out of season. Some of these items were canned (pineapple, chickpeas), and the coconut is the dried unsweetened style, so they can be purchased anytime throughout the year, but I find it helpful to add them to the freezer vegetables for a shortcut when the time comes.
I had reached the point with certain items where I knew I had way more than we would reasonably consume this winter, and I wanted to save some freezer space for some items that I still wanted to add, so some freezer bags I gave away.
September is here, so hopefully you have some saved for gift card season … starting next month, there will be greatly discounted gift cards available that will help you a lot with your holiday shopping.