At the beginning of the year, my daughter-in-law told me about her friend who spends the month of January using up the items in her freezer. It wasn’t a challenge, but I accepted it anyway – mostly because getting the freezer opened and closed was starting to become a problem. The goal was to use up everything in the freezer that had been sitting there a bit too long.
These are just a few of the items taking up precious freezer space:
- Seven whole frozen bananas.
- A gallon-sized Ziplock bag of frozen whole tomatoes.
- A three-pound package of chicken wings
- Four Ziplock bags with one cup of shredded zucchini that I planned to use for bread
- Six packages of walleye that John caught.
- Two quart-sized Ziplock bags of diced celery
The bananas were a no-brainer – I’d saved them for banana bread so that’s where the first three bananas went. There are still four left waiting for use. There are so many options when it comes to rotten bananas!
The chicken wings were used for a crock-pot wings recipe for “Appetizer Night” with our small group.
The original purpose behind saving the shredded zucchini was bread. I LOVE zucchini bread, but there were all those tomatoes to be dealt with, not to mention the celery, so I came up with a different plan. Years ago, my friend Carol Lund shared her recipe for the tomato sauce she makes to use for chili, spaghetti sauce, and any other recipe that needs tomato sauce. When she recited the recipe to me, I noticed that her “ingredients” were more of a “put in whatever veggies you have in the garden” rather than a “you need these exact vegetables” kind of recipe. So, with that in mind, I made my own recipe that pretty much changes every time I make it. This helped me use up the tomatoes, some of the diced celery, and the shredded zucchini (though I could have saved myself all that shredding time had I realized their eventual use). If you’d like to try my recipe here’s a general guideline, but if you have a veggie in your refrigerator just past prime, throw it in the freezer and add it to your next batch of tomato sauce.
Tomato Sauce from Scratch
(This makes enough sauce for at least two batches of spaghetti sauce, and it’s perfect for people like me, who prefer fruit over vegetables.)
- Tomatoes (whole) – about 9 – adjust as you see fit.
- Onion – I used one large
- Carrot – a couple if you have them. (I just scrubbed them but didn’t peel them- no one will know.)
- Zucchini – I used 2 cups of grated zucchini, so use a comparable amount of zucchini chunks.
- Celery – about a cup or more
- Any other veggies you have that you want to use up.
Cook the above ingredients in a large stock pot for 3-4 hours on low. I usually add about a 1/8 cup of water.
When the veggies are easy to fork-tender, move a few cups into a blender and puree. Repeat until all the veggies are blended. I do small portions. Carol recommends waiting until the veggies cool, but I’m not patient like that. I just hold the lid on to keep the mixture from exploding.
Once you’ve pureed all the veggies, add one small can of tomato paste to thicken it if desired.
For spaghetti sauce:
Add enough of the sauce to match the amount of meat used.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon white sugar to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- Generously sprinkle with basil flakes
- 1 scant teaspoon salt to taste
Adjust your recipe to fit your taste buds. Honestly, now that I’ve made my spaghetti sauce this way a couple of times, I may never go back. So please, feel free to drop off your home-grown tomatoes (or any other veggies) this summer should you need to get rid of a few.
See how fast my freezer is getting empty? Now there’s just the fish to deal with, which doesn’t sound hard to most of the 5.7 million Minnesotans who love walleye. But it’s a little more of a challenge for me. I’ve put fish on the menu once a month, but honestly, if I need to rearrange my menu plan because something comes up, the fish is the first thing to get moved forward to another week (or month). But we’ll get there.
For now, I can retrieve things from the freezer without dread, and most weeks, I look forward to what’s for dinner. Now, if I could find someone who loves to cook to come in and take over that job, we’d be set!
Is your freezer in the same shape mine was, or is there another area of the house that needs some purging? I encourage you to develop a plan and stick to it, even if it takes months to get the job done. If you get to put on your creative thinking hat in the process, you just might find it fun. If creative thinking makes you crazy, call for reinforcements. I know you have a friend who would love to help.