Our chest-style deep freezer was overdue for a defrosting and inventory check, so I’d been keeping my eye on the forecast, hoping for (while also dreading) one more really cold day so the freezer contents could chill outside while I tackled the frost. I had to wait awhile, given the unseasonably warm winter, but I finally got my chance last Thursday (note to the weather, thanks for the cold day; now bring on spring!).
I unplugged the freezer and hauled all of the food up the basement stairs and out the back door. Once empty, I attacked the frost with a plastic dust pan (note to self: a windshield ice scraper would be a good tool here). The freezer has a drain opening, but the freezer is not located particularly close to the floor drain in the basement, so instead of letting the ice melt, I chipped it off and then scooped it into a 5-gallon bucket. (Note: Apparently the manufacturer does NOT recommend my “chipping the ice off” method, but I was careful — using plastic, and not metal, to scrape — and this method was so much faster than letting it all melt that it’s probably what I’ll do in the future.)
My method proved relatively speedy and efficient, and next thing I knew, I was plugging the freezer in again. By this time, I was overdue for my morning snack, and I was sorely tempted to just throw all of the food back into the freezer, but I took the time to inventory the contents of the various cloth bags and pillow cases that we use to “organize” (ha!) the food, knowing I would thank myself later.
Our freezer is not a huge, “there’s definitely a dead body in there” size, but at 15 cubic feet, it’s fairly big, and having a list helps us make the most of our frozen food: using the oldest food first, planning meals around items that we have in large quantities, and avoiding food waste.
We use a high-tech organizational system involving a large white board and a variety of “bags” (which include extra canvas bags, old pillow cases, and anything else sturdy and bag-like we can find) to keep track of what we have where in the freezer, and it works fairly well. In the past, I’ve tracked what is in which bag (e.g., green beans in flowered pillow case), but this gets messy quickly when bag contents change, so I’m trying a new system that’s more of a straight list. I try to keep bags with older, “use first” items toward the top for easy access.
Now I am looking for ways to use plums and broccoli, as well as the priority older items, before we start freezing 2017 goods. Frozen broccoli is not my favorite ingredient to work with, but friends have chimed in with some helpful suggestions, and I’ve already reduced our broccoli count by two bags by making a broccoli-rich version of lemon-egg soup. The best uses for frozen broccoli seem to be soups or casserole-type dishes, and I like partially thawing it and pulsing it a few times in the food processor first.