Often in a marriage, partners disagree about which grocery store best suits a family’s needs. In my marriage, my husband has carte blanche to purchase pasta, laundry detergent, fizzy water, toilet paper and bacon at his preferred shopping place. Last I checked, we had eight pounds of very well-priced bacon in the freezer.

It’s a stockpile that illustrates how we could do a better job eating out of our freezer.

My freezers – the side-by-side one in the kitchen and the small chest freezer in the basement – are the most over-used but untapped resources in my home. I mean, I freeze all sorts stuff, everything from the cheese rinds and bread heels to shrimp shells and onion peels to keep food waste at a minimum. I throw summertime berries, unpeeled plum tomatoes and frozen meat from the farmers market in there at will. And, I’m a sucker for the smell of a long-simmering stock on the stove so I’ve got gallons of chicken, fish, mushroom and beef broth in the freezer, too.

Spurred on by the recent cold snap when neither of us wanted to brave the elements to hit the grocery store, I defaulted to the freezer. In the process, we saved time, money and energy. But I must admit that it took discipline, planning and flexibility.

First, I took everything out of the freezers for a full-blown inventory.

I’m a good labeler, so there was only one package of unidentifiable meat of an unknown age that went into my We Compost It bucket. I also found a suspect container of blueberry pie filling dated 2013 whose thickening agent didn’t hold well so I composted it as well. I consolidated open bags of commercial french fries and peas; and stashes of homemade breadcrumbs, Asian dumplings and browned bananas waiting to be baked into breads. Ice packs for school and picnic lunches in warmer weather, I realized, can sit in a cooler in the garage until I need them in June. I emptied the bulky ice cube trays into the built-in ice cube holder to free up more space.

After the reorganization, the frozen food I had on hand fit into one freezer and I unplugged the deep freeze in the basement. Energy efficiency experts say a freezer uses less energy if it is stocked up with just enough space between items for air to circulate around the food, because a full freezer helps to retain the cold better than an empty one whether the door is closed or open. My meats all fit on the bottom shelf – including the eight pounds of bacon – the containers of stock on the one above that, and single ingredients like egg whites, berries and bread crumbs hold well on the shelves on the door and are in plain sight when I need them for recipes. At eye level, I stored single servings of frozen leftovers so anyone in the family looking for something good to eat, could grab it, defrost and reheat it quickly in the microwave.

With my inventory list taped to the outside of the refrigerator, I referred to it daily as I sipped my morning tea and planned the family’s meals. This list was the single pivotal step in my successfully eating from my freezer before running to the grocery store to buy more food I did not need. When I did not look at the list, pizza delivery was always in play.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at:

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