Frugal Toolbox: Freezer Inventory

refrigerator-1809344_640.jpg

I buy lots of loss leader meats. When it’s on sale, I buy it–usually in the large “family pack” serving, although there are only two of us at home. Most of the time I bring it home, plan weekly meals around it, and freeze the excess. What happens when the freezer’s full?

I took inventory today. Long overdue…I should be doing this monthly, but the last few months of full-time work and evening graduate school kept me way too busy. But I’m not busy now, and here’s what I found in my freezers…(we have a fridge with a freezer compartment, but we also have a chest freezer which saves us a lot of money on good meat deals.)

When I took inventory today, I found some things I’d forgotten: some frozen meatballs I bought buy-one-get-one-free. I love to make my own pasta sauce, but sitting on my pantry shelf I have some ludicrously cheap spaghetti sauce I picked up on sale. Voila! Spaghetti and meatballs, and the pasta jars can be repurposed to hold my future batches of homemade pasta sauce.  I also have a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters. We will barbecue, have friends over for dinner, and do all kinds of cooking with those chicken leg quarters. Some steaks I bought on sale which will be wonderful for Father’s Day and for those days when we feel deprived and want a treat but don’t want to blow the budget by going out to dinner. We’re stocked!

My inventory isn’t at all complicated. I just list the item and the serving size. I like to update it once a month or so.

The good news? I won’t have to shop for about a month–and when I do shop, it’ll be for add-ons to my main dishes. Some rice, maybe some beans, refill my cumin stash, some buy-one-get-one-free pasta. I have plenty of food to last us for a good long time.

How about you? What’s in your freezer?

Weekend Cook-Ahead: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce

pasta-329522_640.jpg

Okay, so it’s more labor intensive than opening a jar–but it’s also far, far richer in flavor, more nuanced in seasoning, and it will fill your whole place with an incredible aroma that will leave you hungry long before it’s ready.

This spaghetti sauce will be used to make lasagna tonight (about half of it, anyway) and then the rest will go on pasta for a quick meal this week. Bonus score: the leftover lasagna makes an excellent lunch or re-heat for Refrigerator Review.

Best news yet: no preservatives or weird chemicals. Be sure to compost the onion skins and garlic peels, if you use fresh garlic.

Mange’!

Recipe: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce

2 TBS Olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 LB ground beef

¼ LB sausage

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced OR 1 tsp garlic powder

2  28 Oz can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (or  1-28 oz can of each)

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried oregano

1 TBS sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Peel and dice onions, add to the oil, and add garlic. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the meat and brown it in the garlic/oil for about 10 minutes, or until all pink is gone. Drain the excess oil.

Put the meat mixture into a slow cooker (or, if you wish, use a very large pan on the stovetop for one-pot cooking). Add the tomatoes/tomato sauce and the spices. Stir to mix and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you’re cooking it on the stovetop, check it and stir it every hour or so to be sure it’s not burning or sticking. If it’s in a slow cooker, don’t open it!

Enjoy it with pasta, in a meaty lasagna, as a stuffing for ravioli or stuffed shells, or strain the meat and use the tomato sauce for chicken parmesan, reserving the meat and some sauce for super-meaty pasta.