Where growing, making & good living come together

Using expensive freezer real estate efficiently

Posted by on Thursday 2 September 2010 in cooking, frugal | 4 comments

I’m all about space efficiency.

Our last house was so filled to bursting by the time we moved out that we had to be efficient. Shelves everywhere. Storage units/boxes everywhere. Sometimes I think the cats were lucky they weren’t attached to harnesses and hung from the ceiling to save floor space. We nearly cried when we moved here: cupboards can be opened without all their contents spilling out, there are shelves that are empty save for an ornament or two, and each room has space for me to dance the tarantella with the cats (the closest I get to spinning them around) – but there are still a few spots where space is not so cheap & plentiful. The kitchen in general is pretty packed – it’s the smallest room of the house (save for the understairs cupboard) and since we cook, bake & preserve, we use it a lot for a lot of different purposes. However, it’s the fridge and freezer where we feel the squeeze the most – two small under-cupboard appliances – which are always crammed full.

A few weeks ago, some of our favourite ice cream was on buy one get one free but we couldn’t get any because we didn’t have any freezer space. It was then when we realised we weren’t making particularly good use of our precious freezer real estate. One of the drawers – nearly a third of the total space – was filled with a huge lamb joint we’d got super-super cheap, some cheap burger buns bought on BOGOF and a bag of ice which someone brought to our party at New Year, which we’d barely touched. The first two items were themselves bargains but had both sat in there for weeks; the ice was just taking up space — and all three things were costing us money to store and stopping us benefiting from other bargains.

We now have a new usage policy regarding the freezer: we’re not regarding it as a deep freeze for long term storage any more. We’re using it as a way to extend the life of something fresh by a few days – a fortnight at most – but not for storing things for longer than that (with the exception being my small pots of chillis and spring onions – bought in bulk, sliced up and frozen they don’t take up much room but save us buying fresh all the time). Aside from bagels (which freeze well and are a great emergency-lunch bread), we’re not freezing bread and no more buying things – whether bargains or not – especially for the freezer unless we have a specific exit plan for them, ie, we’ll eat them within a fortnight. We’re also not storing any more than a tray of ice except in exceptional circumstances (namely, a big party).

It’s early days in the new policy so I’m not sure how it’ll pan out – we’re brilliant at forgetting about things in there – but it’s worth a shot. I think the most important thing is to be aware that it can be a black hole for food, and the longer food stays in a freezer the more likely it is to end up as food waste, because of freezer burn, it acquiring that cardboard-y taste or changes of taste.

How do you use your freezer efficiently? Do you have any tips for maximising the limited space? Is there anything you just won’t freeze – or anything you obsessively do keep in there?

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Summer decluttering – the hidden (?) costs of hoarding

Posted by on Friday 6 August 2010 in anti-consumerism | 3 comments

If spring is for cleaning, summer seems to be the time for decluttering: a number of unconnected bloggers I read have been having clearouts of late. I guess it makes some sort of sense: in the winter, you want things around you to make a cosy nest but in the summer, you want to pare it down, strip it back, carry the bare minimum with you. Tidy cupboards are the household equivalent of hotpants.

Like Damn The Broccoli and his good lady, John and I are many-hobbied hoarders. John’s lucky in that a lot of his hobbies take place on the neat containable space of his laptop but mine spill out everywhere. For example, on my desk, my work desk where I’m supposed to work not play, I currently have: five bags of sawdust for smoking food, some broad beans I’m saving for seed stock next year, ribbon, gaffer tape, felt (from making a rat costume for drama), patterns for said rat costume, my sewing box, a tshirt I dyed, Ramie top for spinning, cabbage seeds, two books, some drawing pens and a staple gun (lasted used for lining homemade wooden planter with plastic compost bags). I’m not kidding, look:

(The eagle-eyed will notice John’s desk is largely clear save for an ice pack (??), work things and a shiny silver kazoo.)

I like having a lot of different, varied hobbies – especially since nearly all of them are productive in some way, shape or form – but they do result in a lot of clutter. We also keep a lot of quote-unquote waste materials for reusing & upcycling – I’ve got box files upstairs filled with flattened drinks cans & reclaimed wire for crafting, glass jars are stacking up in the kitchen for jam season and (mostly due to John’s dad not us) there are a couple of stashes of salvaged building supplies around the garden – all very good from a green & frugal point of view but at the same time, it’s more stuff just hanging around.

Since moving house last autumn, we’re lucky to have, by and large, enough space to put things (we’re just too distracted to do it sometimes – hence my desk stash) but as we try to remind John’s dad when he carries concrete paving stones down the garden, hoarding things has a price.

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