A few years ago, I convinced my husband to purchase an extra freezer. The space in our upstairs freezer (attached to the fridge) just wasn’t cutting it. So, one evening he and his friend lugged a good-sized chest freezer into our basement — exactly what I wanted.
For awhile, I was meticulous about using it and knew everything that was in there. Heck, that freezer totally saved us when our fridge died a few summers ago. But I have to admit that in recent months, I have lost track of what’s in there … and in our big fridge and freezer.
As we all know, disorganization like this is never a good thing.
Recently, I spoke with Aviva Goldfarb, author of The Six O’Clock Scramble: Quick, Healthy, and Delicious Dinner Recipes for Busy Families and creator of the online menu planning service of the same name. Her second book, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families, is due out in April. Aviva and I chatted about how to be more efficient with your fridge and freezer (and traded some favorite freezer foods — turns out we both love Trader Joe’s!).
Why does organization matter in the kitchen? “Through my own experiences, I learned that planning ahead for the meals and the grocery list cut down on the stress so much. What it also does is it really reduces waste — most people throw out 15 percent of their groceries every week,” says Aviva.
When she said that, I couldn’t help but nod a little in agreement (though we were on the phone, so I know she didn’t know that). How many times have I bought an herb and only used half of it before it turned into a gooey mess? How many times have I forgotten a spare apple or not finished a carton of buttermilk before it went bad? It happens to me. How about you?
“Sometimes people have no idea what’s in there,” she said. (Oh my, has she seen my desperate to be cleaned fridge and extra freezer?)
What can you do? Aviva says to take a good look at what you have and use it. “It’s all part of shopping and cooking with a plan and you can save yourself so much money and so much time,” says Aviva. “Your freezer should be part of your weekly plan.”
Another tip? Do plan, because it will save you money. “It’s really essential to make a grocery list when you go to the store,” says Aviva.
As for the extra freezer, she has unplugged hers. She says that by being organized, she doesn’t need the extra space. Does that mean we all should follow suit? No, not necessarily. She says the key to using an extra freezer effectively is to keep track of what’s in there with a written list. “If you are really organized about it, and I’m not, but if you are … you could shop at some of the big box stores and buy big amounts. [Then] break them into sizes that your family will actually use,” says Aviva.
The written list (or how about a spreadsheet? I love spreadsheets) idea can also help with cupboards and the fridge too — it would make it way easier to plan for the week, using what you have and buying only what you need.
Don’t forget to clean your fridge too. Aviva suggests asking for a little help. “Sometimes if you have somebody else look at what’s in your fridge, as embarrassing as it can be, it can help,” Aviva said. “Only put back what you really use.”
As for leftovers, she suggests using them all up one night as a dinner. “Save yourself $30 or $60 instead of going out to eat,” says Aviva. Leftovers really could be a great money saver instead of a weekly take-out night.
Does your fridge and freezer need a makeover? I’m tackling mine this weekend. How about you?
Psst! If you are looking for an easy way to menu plan, check out Aviva’s Six O’Clock Scramble service. Aviva let me try out her service for a few weeks to see how it all works and it’s awesome. She sends out a weekly menu plan (and it’s customizable) and you can print the recipes, learn some good tips and also print a grocery list. We tried one of her recipes (Chicken Souvlaki!) and it was excellent. Our favorite dish at a local pizza place is a Chicken Souvlaki salad and the marinade from the Six O’Clock Scramble was spot on.