In our last article, we started discussing one of the items in the Holiday Planning Checklist about “inventorying your pantry, refrigerator and freezer and stocking up on non-perishables.” In our last article, we mainly focused on your pantry and organizing it. As promised, in this article we are going to cover the refrigerator & freezer.
Organizing & getting ready for the Holidays:
Quite honestly, the tips included in the pantry article mostly apply here. When it gets down to the bonus tip on a specialty shelf is when we can start getting into some interesting ideas you may wish to think about. One shelf in our fridge is designated for nothing but leftovers and we have plenty of rectangular & square containers that we use for this. (No circular ones, that equals wasted space) Generally, we either bring them with us for lunches or have a weekly “left-over” night before anything goes bad. (Waste Not – Want Not)
Like most refrigerators & freezers, ours has numerous shelves & drawers in it. As we mentioned above, one shelf in the refrigerator holds leftovers & is where we defrost anything we need to cook. One drawer in the refrigerator & a shelf in the freezer are reserved for my wife’s goodies, snacks, etc… (Yes, I use it also – but we know whom it really is for.) The “meat” drawer in the refrigerator & another drawer in the freezer are reserved for the kid’s lunches, snacks, etc… I do not know if your kids are anything like mine, but they will just sit there with the door wide open daydreaming trying to find something. By having everything in one place for them, that has dramatically cut down on the refrigerator gazing occurrences.
As we all know, it takes a few days for a turkey or ham to defrost & leaving it out overnight in a sink of water is not a good idea. What we do is plan our meals a few days before that time to help eliminate all the leftovers & other oddball items in the fridge, so we do not have any issues with defrosting or leftovers. Seriously, is not preparing that meal & dealing the entire family stressful enough – why add to it by wondering how to fit the turkey in there, etc… (As a reminder, any time you are defrosting meat in a refrigerator – it should be done in a container or on a plate)
Keeping the food fresh:
As many of you may remember, nutritional values & flavors begin to erode as soon as the food is harvested or shot, so it is important to stop or delay that process as quickly as possible. Generally, one does not have to worry too much about pre-packaged food if you follow their directions, as they seemingly put more than enough preservatives in there.
When you start getting into foods that you prepare, buy from a local farmer, grow yourself, etc… it starts to get a lot harder. For example – Peanut Butter; when writing the last article I checked a jar of Peanut Butter that my kids like. It does not require refrigeration (even after being opened) & is good through 2012. On the other hand, the ones where you make it yourself at a Trader Joes or the new Earth Fare store in Huntsville should be refrigerated & used within a month or two.
- For foods requiring refrigeration: They should be kept around 35°. Some might say 32° to 38° but I have had issues with products freezing at the one end (for good reason), and going bad quicker at the other.
- For foods that should be frozen: Colder is not always better, unless you like freezer burn & rock hard ice cream – our freezer is at 1° (some reason 0 is not an option)
- Other foods, fruits, vegis, etc… generally do best in a cool (not cold), dry, dark location
- Vacuum pack & / or canning your food is a great option as it removes the air from the product which is what allows bacteria to grow & food to lose its natural flavor (for some items it can extend the shelf life by a factor of 2 or more)
- Setting food out: PLEASE keep in mind as soon as you pull that turkey out of the oven, or the food out from the fridge, the clock starts ticking & it is a cumulative clock – it does not reset itself
- For more great advice, how long most items will last at what temperature, etc… you might want to check out this article & chart from the Virginia Cooperative Extension
Tricks for dealing with all that leftover Turkey, Ham, Potato’s:
It is as regular as clockwork – the day after Thanksgiving, the news shows, radio, etc… are dealing with the “what do I do with all these leftovers” question. A few days later and the kids are ready to bolt if you mention the word turkey just one more time. While I hear a few people go “that isn’t a problem in my house” it is in mine (seriously babe, there are only 10 of us here this year not 30…)
- The first thing to remember is that the food needs to be refrigerated right after the feast – in order to speed up the “cooling” excuse – clean the meat off the bones / carcass
- If you have a large portion of breast meat left – put enough of it in a zip lock bag & freeze it for a full meal come January or February
- Make some lunches for work – as you may recall from above we utilize some square containers for storing leftovers in. Well what I like to do is add some turkey into a few, some mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy – for a nice quick home cooked one-dish lunch. The best part, you can freeze some of them, so that you can enjoy them come January when all you co-workers are eating Ramen noodles because they overspent for Christmas.
- Take a picture of it all, so you can remind your significant other, that yes we had more than enough last year
Bonus tip: Seeing I am a day late on this article and by way of an apology, let me suggest you actually cook more than you need. For example, when I ground up hamburger for a meal, cook enough for a few & place the other portions in individual containers in the freezer. Another great one is spaghetti sauce – I will generally double the recipe & place half of it in the freezer for later. This will not only save you energy, but also make life easier for you when you are a little rushed or behind.
With that said, I hope you have enjoyed this addition to the Holiday Planning Tips, Tricks, & Checklists and hope everyone enjoys the upcoming holidays. As always, comments and other tips are always welcome.