Karen, you need a freezer. Why just last week Mom and I froze 25 pounds of strawberries in ours, and we'll have enough to last us until next year! With that boy of yours, you should get one.
Years ago, my Dad constantly sang the praises of his deep freeze and all the local berries he could fit in it. With a five year old that barely ate half of what I did, I couldn't see his point. Why would I need 25 lbs of berries? That was far too much. A freezer seemed like a colossal waste of space back then, but eventually, the 5 year old grew into a boy taller than me with an appetite to match and before I knew it, I was scouting out freezers because otherwise, I was cooking all the time. Well, I cook all the time anyway, but I was cooking more often because there was just no space to store anything, and I never really cook get ahead or stash things away that I found on sale. There just wasn't any room. That is, until a friend gifted me with her old but trust deep freeze, which I finally hauled home one day last summer and ever since, have proceeded to fill it. Now I don't know how I ever survived without my freezer, and all the deliciousness that is stashed away in it's cold interior.
Of course, finding the path to my freezer bliss took a little time as I experimented with what I can and cannot freeze, as well as tips and tricks to keep things from getting lost in the dark corners and ending up freezer burned. It's taken awhile but I think I've found a lot of ways to help stretch my grocery dollar and keep things organized, which has been a huge help!
First of all, labelling is a must, as it keeps you from unwanted surprises. Once a co-worker of mine took what he thought was chili to work for lunch, and ended up eating a container of spaghetti sauce instead. I keep a roll of masking tape and a sharpie in the kitchen so that I can label each container before I forget. Speaking of containers, I like to freeze things in single serving sizes so that we can take something out for lunch or dinner. Have picky eaters? On busy nights, my family often just chooses something from the freezer and it really doesn't matter if they are all different. Batch cooking has helped me save money, provide lots of variety for school lunches, and keep that hollow leg that my teenager sports full (or, at least most of the time). Many times when I'm making something that freezes well such as casseroles, I make extra and freeze one for a busy night later on in the month.
Secondly, sometimes I buy too much of something and can't use it all. Rather than throwing food away, I often freeze it for later use. This works great with some kinds of vegetables, berries, applesauce, and even things like buttermilk, wine, or tomato paste. Best of all it helps you to save money and stretch your grocery dollars even farther.
Need some more ideas?
Use those ice cube trays for more than just ice. Use them to freeze leftover tomato paste, pureed chipotles in adobo sauce, pesto (without the cheese), pureed herbs, chicken stock, or even wine. Pop out the cubes when they are solid and transfer to a freezer bag, then label. Use them to add flavour to all sorts of dishes later on!
Whir up a pile of peeled garlic cloves in your food processor with a little olive oil. You aren't going for a paste, but rather a fine chop. The olive oil helps to maintain the taste. Spoon the chopped garlic out onto a parchment paper lined sheet in about teaspoon sized servings, and then freeze. Once they are solid, put them in a freezer bag and seal. You'll have fresh chopped garlic ready to throw into all your recipes!
Often I suffer from ginger guilt-I buy fresh ginger and never use it all, then feel guilty about throwing it away. Stop throwing away your ginger! Just cut it into easy to handle portions and freeze in a well sealed plastic container. Ginger is much easier to peel and grate when it's frozen anyway, so it works really well.
When cheese is on sale, buy extra, grate it up, put into freezer bags, getting as much air out of the bag as you can. Kept this way, it's perfect to top pizzas, casseroles, add to soups and bake with.
Butter can be frozen in its original packaging, and then tossed into a freezer bag to help insulate it.
Ilovebutter has a great step by step photo series on Flickr about making freezer soup, with great tips about blanching vegetables, and temperatures.
I never use all of a can of evaporated milk when I bake a pumpkin pie, so I freeze the other half for when I want to make another pie. It works really well!
@mominsouth suggests that you make a lot of pancakes, let them cool, then freeze them with wax paper between them in freezer bags. Great breakfast idea for early mornings!
Simple Bites has a fantastic way to make up stir fry packets with veggies that will help you out with dinner on busy nights
Buttermilk can be frozen and used later on for baking. Just give it a good stir first.
Tomatoes can be cored and frozen whole, ready to toss into chilis and spaghetti sauces later on.
With a little planning ahead and organization, you can get the most out of using your freezer. I love having that reassurance when coming home from a busy day at work that the hard work is already finished, and all I need to do is tuck something into the oven, toss a salad, then put my feet up for a little me time or chat with my son.
Now that is an awesome Mom tip.