When my small (apartment-sized even though I live in a large house with a ton of people) freezer looks like this, it’s time for an eat the freezer challenge. Not only can I get my freezer cleaned out, but I can save some money on groceries this week too.
One of the ways I’ve been avoiding food waste in my kitchen is to put leftovers in the freezer, not the fridge. While this has helped me waste less food, it also means my freezer fills up quickly.
Hence, the need for a freezer meal challenge.
How to do an eat the freezer challenge
If you’ve never done an “eat the freezer” meal challenge, here’s how to do it:
- Remove everything from the freezer – I like to move everything to a towel on the kitchen counter
- Throw away anything not worth saving (freezer burn, too old, etc) – maybe weep a little at the food waste, promise to do better, then forgive yourself
- Wipe down the inside of your freezer – I use a microfiber cloth, hot water and a tiny bit of dish soap
- Make a list of all the items in your freezer – place this list where you’ll see it when you meal plan
- Put things back in a more organized fashion – consolidate small similar items, put like things with like, use storage containers to contain awkward items
- Create a menu using the list you made in step 4.
I love using chatGPT (AI) to create meal plans with random ingredients.
But this time, my freezer ingredients came together quite nicely to make recipes from my head, without using A.I.
My eat the freezer inventory
- Ground beef (cooked)
- Half a jar marinara
- Half bag sliced bell peppers
- Pineapple chunks
- Bacon (raw)
- Chicken thighs (raw)
- Half bag green beans
- Half bag mixed vegetables
- Half bag peas
- Half bag Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken
- Half bag brown Basmati rice
- 2 piecrusts
- Riced cauliflower
The rest of the items in the freezer: two paintbrushes (yes I put them in the freezer so I don’t have to wash them after using!), ice packs, yeast, ginger root, ice cream, coffee beans, lemon juice.
These are all items I use regularly, so I don’t need to worry about them. They’ll get used up before they go bad, even without a plan.
There was also leftover Change Your Life Chicken. I warmed it and ate it right then, for lunch. One must have adequate fuel for planning an eat the freezer challenge. 😉
My eat the freezer meal plan:
I could have entered all the listed ingredients into chatGPT and asked for recipes, but as I said, they easily fit into categories, so I didn’t need to.
I’ll use the chicken thighs, bell peppers, some of the mushrooms, green beans, and marinara to make this family favorite. I LOVE that this entire meal is from the freezer.
If I want to get fancy, I’ll cook risi e bisi (Italian rice and peas) as a side dish, using the half bag of peas, a bit of the frozen bacon, white rice and parmesan cheese.
One of the pie crusts, the ground beef, a little of the bacon, some mushrooms and cheese (from my fridge) will go into a quiche.
I have a pizza crust mix in my pantry. I’ll top it with marinara (a jar in the pantry), mozzarella from my fridge, and the pepperoni, pineapple and remaining mushrooms from the freezer.
Orange Chicken + Fried Rice
Since the half bag of Orange Chicken isn’t enough to feed my family, I’ll make a hearty fried rice to stretch it. I’ll use the brown Basmati rice, half the riced cauliflower, and the bag of mixed vegetables from the freezer, along with an egg and soy sauce from my fridge.
After the eat the freezer meal plan challenge:
So much nicer! I’ll post another “after” pic in a couple of days as I use up some of these ingredients for the meal plan above.
I find that I waste less food when I shop more often, buy less, and meal plan just a few days at a time.
As my family and situation has changed through the years, my strategy has changed. This is what’s working for me now. What’s working for you?
By the way, if you sign up for my newsletter, you instantly get a free 30 day meal plan. It’s frugal, family-friendly and all ingredients come from Aldi.
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