Earlier this week I wrote about Zero Waste Week, encouraged you to do 'One More Thing' to reduce waste in your own lives and also made pledge of my own for it. This was my pledge:
“To sort through my freezer, actually eat all the leftovers that are stored in there, and find new ways to use up spare food lying around in the fridge”
I'm still working on a post to cover the second half of my pledge, so today I'm going to share how I did with the first half - the dreaded freezer sort-out! Now I don't know about you, but the state of my freezer goes in cycles. It starts off tidy enough, but then as time goes on it gets more and more crowded with all sorts of random odds and ends until trying to retrieve something from it becomes something of a fight, with frozen bits and pieces falling on my head and the thing I'm trying to find invariably hiding right at the back under everything else. To make matters worse, the freezer then starts to get more and more frosted up which only makes it harder to get things in and out of it! I then have a big sort out, throw a load of stuff away and the cycle starts again. This time though, I was determined to sort it out properly, and to throw nothing away - no waste - everything needed to be used!
All week I had my pledge in the back of my mind so I tried to keep the food shopping to a minimum and kept rummaging around in the freezer to find things to use up in our meals. I managed to use a batch of frozen home-made chilli con carne, a packet of frozen sausages (in this gorgeous pasta recipe, which also allowed me to use up several other store-cupboard ingredients), a bag of frozen prawns (which I added to a quick stir-fry) and some frozen spinach in this one-pot spicy rice recipe, but that didn't really make much of a dent in my freezer stash.
I then decided that the situation called for a plan, so here is how I did it! First of all, I dug out a couple of cool bags to hold the frozen food whilst I cleaned and defrosted the freezer. I then pulled out a notebook and sorted through the food, writing a list of everything there as I went. I tried to put everything back in some sort of order - meat, vegetables, bread products etc in separate draws. Just in case you're feeling nosy, here's what I found in my freezer:
1 pack sausages
500g beef mince
400g lamb mince
400g stewing steak
1 rump steak
460g chicken breast
260g cod fillet
½ bag mixed veg
1 bag peas
¾ bag spinach
2 bags mixed fruit
¼ bag mixed berries
1 frozen banana
1 bag blackberries
1 bags blocks of fruit puree (left over from making ice lollies)
2 English muffins
2 hot cross buns (left over from Easter, whoops!)
1 bag bread crusts
1 tub vegetable chilli
1 tub vegetable curry
small pot tomato sauce
bag of lamb kebab meat
small bag of meatballs
3 baby-sized portions of chilli con carne
Other odds and ends:
2 pints milk
2 boxes frubes (yoghurt tubes)
2 yorkshire puddings
Once everything was put neatly back in the freezer I found that I already had a lot more space in there, but I had pledged to use it all up so it was time to start planning what to do with it.
I started by making a freezer lunch for the boys and for myself. I defrosted the tomato sauce and 2 of the bagels and made bagel pizzas. Once they were assembled I had a little of the sauce leftover so I used one of the English muffins too. To make the pizzas, I split the bagels and muffin, spread with the tomato sauce and topped with grated cheddar cheese. I also sprinkled over a couple of chopped spring onions from the fridge that needed using up. I then grilled the pizzas until the cheese was melted and bubbling. These pizzas are a great way to use up leftover bread products - if you don't have any tomato sauce to hand then a dollop of tomato puree works just as well. Cooled down, they are perfect for lunchboxes too and make a lovely change from sandwiches.
I served the pizzas up with a homemade smoothie, which helped to start using up some of the fruit - I used the frozen banana and the blocks of pureed fruit (strawberry and kiwi), added orange juice and a fresh banana and whizzed it all up in a blender. The smoothie was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us - even Small Baby had a bit (which he consumed with much smacking of lips and mmmming!).
I heated up the hot cross buns in the oven and we had them after our evening meal, so that was one more thing saved from the bin! There is still a lot of food in the freezer though, so I've planned out as many meals as possible based on what I found in there, hopefully saving a fair bit of money in the process. Here are some of the meals I have planned for the next few weeks:
- Tortilla Lasagne - to use up the beef mince and bread crusts (which I'll whizz up to make the bread crumb topping)
- Lamb Kebabs with pitta breads and salad - to use up the lamb kebab mixture (originally made from this recipe)
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew - to use up the stewing steak
- Jacket Potatoes with leftover Vegetable Chilli & Salad
- Jacket Potatoes with leftover Vegetable Curry (neither the curry and chilli are large portions, but enough for a jacket potato topper for all of us)
- Lamb, Spinach & Potato Curry - to use up the lamb mince
- Chicken Pilaf - to use up the chicken, some of the frozen veg and some of the frozen spinach
- Brocolli, Pea and Mint Soup with crusty bread - to use up some of the frozen peas
- Balsamic Roasted Sausages with Veg - to use up the sausages
That will keep us going for a while at least! I'll also use up what remains of the various bread products and the frubes in Small Child's lunches, make lots more smoothies, cancel the milkman one day next week and defrost the milk to use instead, and feed the meatballs and chilli to Small Baby as and when he needs quick meals. The steak and Yorkshire puddings will no doubt be demolished by Mr Amazing next time we are away, which just leaves the cod fillet! I'm sure I'll come up with something for that by the time I get to it, but feel free to chip in with your ideas!
Even though this is the end of Zero Waste Week I'll be back again in a day or two with a leftovers ideas post, after all, there's no reason not to try to reduce waste the whole year through! Did you make a pledge for Zero Waste Week? If so, how did it go?