I'm interested in everyone's thoughts on ways to keep the freezer neat and organized. We currently practice once-a-month-cooking and prepare all of our meals in casserole dishes and freeze them for use during the month. Up until now we have been storing everything in disposable aluminum trays. We reuse the trays, of course, but not forever. They give out after awhile. My first thought was to switch to glass casserole dishes. I have a few and we can start phasing that in with a monthly investment in more dishes, but I wanted to see if anyone had any other better ideas for ZW in the freezer.
We are also in the process of switching to organic meats. They are so expensive that we are seriously considering purchasing a quarter beef share (1/4th of a cow). I've contacted a couple of farms in the area and they will package the meat for me, but they use shrink-wrap plastic. In this packaging the meat will keep in the freezer for over a year. Does anyone have any experience with storing meat in the freezer without using plastic?
I am hoping others have more answers and insights about freezing without plastic!
My boyfriend got us an elk back in November, and the butcher shop rapped the meat in a small piece of thin plastic and then in butcher paper. I wonder if it is necessary to keep the small plastic sheet or if butcher paper would be enough? Next time we are at the local shop I will have to ask them about plastic alternatives.
I personally struggle with frozen fish.... fresh fish is so expensive! I am frankly grossed out by the layers and layers of plastic surrounding my frozen fish fillets! Maybe I will have to cut down fish eating to twice a month and go for the fresh!
I would look for a farm that doesn't use plastic wrap. I buy meat shares a few times a year and they are in compostable paper only. They hold up perfectly in the freezer. I don't have a great solution for the plastic freezer containers. I use them in the freezer but then use another dish for cooking to try to avoid too much chemical leaching.
As you phase into more glass casserole dishes, be sure to check for them at thrift shops and the like. You might also check auctionzip.com for auctions near you. We work at an auction house and very often find casserole dishes that will freeze. I got a stack of glass ones for $2 two weeks ago. And I saw three today at a consignment shop.
I will be checking this thread to see if anyone has a good solution for freezing without plastic and/or disposables.
Thanks so much for the tip about compostable paper. The farm that I was going to use is very accommodating so I could probably provide them with my own paper. I just wasn't sure if that would work. I am concerned with freezer burn and ruining the meat. It's such an investment I'd hate to mess it up. Do you know exactly what kind of paper you used? I might have to buy it myself...
Tomorrow is our big cooking day so I'll see how may dishes I will need. Auctions and thrift stores, here I come!!! ;)
Hi Julie. I've been using glass containers in the freezer for years with no problems. Of course the lids are unfortunately plastic or maybe silicone, I'm not sure. I started with a big set of glass containers from Costco and have found more at thrift and/or discount stores. Aluminum is a no-no for anything that comes in contact with food, especially cookware.
I'm curious about your big cooking day. It sounds like a great way to save time and make meal planning easier. I'd like to prepare meals ahead of time, but we're trying to get rid of our microwave since it damages the nutrients in the food. Haven't quite figured out how to reheat most meals in the oven without drying them out. Any suggestions?
@Nia: I didn't realize that aluminum was such a problem. We've used it for years. Well, I'm glad to be making the switch then! I'm also glad that I took stock of what I have this past weekend because I packaged up 3 meals in my glass dishes only to discover that they don't fit well in my freezer. Ughhh. Well, at least now I know! Now the search is on for the perfect glass freezer casserole dish. I've been looking at the Pyrex glass lid dishes and I think I'm going to try to find something that will fit in our toaster oven. That way I don't have to heat up the big oven to just reheat a meal. We don't generally use the microwave since we like the cheese on top of the dish to get a little bit crispy around the edges. Oh, and because of the aluminum pans. What you mention about the food drying out is definitely a problem. We have to make sure that there is plenty of sauce in each dish or we have to add some water. We love the once-a-month cooking because it saves so much time during the week. Plus it keeps us away from the expensive-prepared-packaged-who-knows-what's-in-it-meals, and away from fast food. Additionally we use the oven much less and save on energy. I still cook during the week quite a bit, but it's only because I enjoy cooking, not because we don't have other options. ;)
Yesterday I went out and bought a set of Pyrex storage containers. I have plenty of food this week, so instead of making chicken soup from my roast chicken carcass, I made broth. My freezer is now full of chicken broth in Pyrex, no more buying broth in a box. The Pyrex containers do have plastic lids but they are very sturdy and should last for years. That's why I didn't get a cheaper knock-off brand with flimsier lids. I also found some original Corningware when I was organizing my kitchen, and that stuff is freezer-safe and has glass lids. It's not quite as airtight so I will use that broth first.
I confess the though of freezing glass made me nervous, but I feel comfortable with freezing Pyrex (the Corningware has Pyrex lids).
I have recycled almost all of my plastic containers now. I have one to store cheap sugar that I use for sugaring my legs and another that I keep all my cookie cutters in, I'll be keeping those. I have another in which I store bulk tea that I will be replacing with a French canning jar. I've got a smaller one for brown sugar--it gets hard over time and I worry about hacking off pieces in a glass storage container. I suppose the solution is to buy less brown sugar at a time!
I still have several eight-ounce plastic containers from parmesan and their lids and a sturdy plastic container I bought that I can't seem to bring myself to throw out. I'm promising myself that if I haven't used them in six months I will recycle them, and throw out my cling wrap and boxes of sandwich and freezer bags.
I eliminated the need to buy brown sugar by making my own. Light brown sugar is made from 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon molasses, dark is made by using two teaspoons molasses. Saves me from buying two types a sugar and having so much it turns hard over time.
Well the experimenting continues. ;) My big casserole dishes don't fit nicely in my freezer and are too big for the toaster oven. So I'm experimenting with other options. I found these dishes and bought 4 to try a recipe on:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000LNW3OC/ref=mp_s_a_2?qid=1303085268&sr=8-2 The description says that you can freeze the dishes and that they can go from refrigerator to oven. The only stipulation is that you have to thaw the food before transferring to the oven. Anyone have any experience with Ancho Hocking? I'll keep you posted on how it goes...
Well, I picked up my 1/4 share of beef last week. So excited since we hadn't had steaks in FOREVER. Also thrilled that the seller/farmer said that everything was packaged in butcher's paper. Thwarted again! Turns out what she called butcher paper was actually freezer paper, so it's got plastic on the one side. Grrrrrrrrr. Well, now I know to be more specific. It will be awhile before we need to purchase another share, but I'll definitely do it again since the quality of meat and price is FAR superior to anything else. Next time I'll know to push for compostable paper. Why is it that I must always learn the hard way? ;)
Although I kind of wrinkle my nose at couponing because most of the items in the coupons are over-processed/packaged foods I do hunt for bargains on meats. And I have a real problem storing them in the freezer. I mean: Both of my freezers are packed to the gills with chicken, pork, beef, you name it. We go through it pretty steadily, so I know I'm not a hoarder, and it's nice to know that my byweekly grocery trips are just for produce and other items. But again, I have a big problem with storage. Couldn't have enough glass containers to store all that meat, or enough room to store the containers themselves! I was wondering what kind of paper I could use to wrap the meat since it's probably a bad idea to freeze it in the styrofoam wrapper it comes in. I'm really trying to phase out all the plastic in my kitchen. So far I've tried wax paper which is reasonably priced at the grocery store and then putting it in a big ziploc bag (but then, that's still plastic!). Do you guys have any other suggestions? What about the paper that butchers use? Is it safe to freeze meat in that? and can I find that somewhere I would normally go?
Can someone ask their farmer about the compostable freezer paper? This is a HUGE issue for us and I just asked our farmer yesterday if we can get our beef shares packaged without plastic. I need to specifically suggest a product or the only likely alternative will be the plastic coated freezer paper.
Thanks! This was my main reason for joining this forum!