Does every family have weird sayings that no one really remembers the origin of?
When I was a kid, whenever it was time to get our shoes on at my grandma’s house, she would croon in this goofy faux-Southern voice like Mammy from Gone With the Wind, “Get yer choos on, Lucy, doncha know you’re in the city?” For years I just thought this was one of Grandma’s quirky sayings–only recently did my husband Google this phrase and discover this was a popular song in the ’50s. I kinda wish I hadn’t found that out, actually. I would have liked to have gone on believing my grandma just had an unexplained penchant for Southern accents in the presence of children’s shoes.
My husband‘s family, though, has more obscure catchphrases than you can shake a stick at. Their code word for calling someone a moron is “rowboatman.” Why? Are they rowing the boat backwards? With fish instead of oars? Maybe someone knows, but it’s a mystery to me. And ever since we’ve been married, when someone is about to throw out perfectly good food, Anthony (my husband) has been known to say, “Uncle Kenny hates waste!” Granted, he does have an Uncle Kenny, but why does Uncle Kenny hate waste, and how did the specter of his disapproval get passed down into family lore??
Now, whenever I go to throw out food that’s going bad or I know I won’t use up, I hear in my head, “UNCLE KENNY HATES WASTE!!!” Uncle Kenny has become the Elf on the Shelf of my food usage. (And I’m already pretty conscientious about food waste–have I mentioned the spasms of guilt over Cheerios?) That being said, allow me introduce you to my friend the freezer–that bastion of refuge for foods on the wayward path. Many an extra food in our house has been saved from the trash by finding asylum behind its doors. So many times when there’s not that much of something left, throwing it out seems like the logical choice, but it doesn’t have to be! Here’s a list of foods you can freeze to preserve them instead of toss them, even if only in small amounts:
I always end up with a little extra coffee at the bottom of the pot. At some point this summer I realized that I could save it in ice cube trays to have on hand for iced coffee. It’s like someone gave me free Starbucks coupons!
Another summer-specific freezable. These early weeks of August I have seen berries and peaches on sale like they’re going out of business. How nice would it be in November when strawberries are an outrageous $4/pound to pull some out of your freezer? If you stock up now, you can! Freezing berries is super simple: just wash, separate, and place on waxed paper on a baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours. (I’ve also done this with pineapple and mango, by the way.) Peaches are a bit more challenging, as you’ll want to boil briefly to slip the skins off before freezing. Still, totally worth it! Fruit for months to come!
3. Fresh herbs: I wish we had more fresh herbs in our garden, because it always seems wasteful to purchase the arbitrary amount of ounces grocery stores package theirs in. (What on earth are people making that uses up an entire 6-ounce package of fresh thyme?) Thankfully, certain herbs are quite conducive to freezing, such as thyme and rosemary. Just pop them in a Ziploc, push out the excess air, and you’re good to go. Other herbs more prone to wilting–basil, oregano, cilantro, etc.–can be frozen in water or oil in ice cube trays, then popped into soups, stews, marinades or other dishes that don’t require the herbs to be crisp. It’s a garden in your freezer.
4. Chicken broth: If you find you have extra canned chicken broth after completing a recipe, consider freezing it. Place in a lidded plastic container and freeze for future use.
5. Lemon juice: We live in Arizona, where every school child learns about Citrus as one of the state’s “5 C’s.” (I’ll love you forever if you can tell me the other four.) There are months in the spring when even the homeless people won’t eat any more lemons because they are too dang sick of them. This past spring, when not one but TWO of our neighbors gave us heaping bags of lemons, I froze the juice in (yet again) ice cube trays and it lasted for months.
6. Lemon/orange/lime zest:
Lemons, stay there. I’m not done with you yet. If people are dropping bags of lemons on your doorstep like little citrus babies for you to adopt, don’t just freeze their juice–freeze their zest, too. Same Ziploc bag procedure as fresh herbs.
7. Onions: white/yellow/green: If I had a shrink ray, I would use it on onions. I always buy the smallest yellow ones in the grocery store bin, and I still seldom use a whole one at once (or an entire bunch of green onions). Fortunately, similar to fresh herbs, if you don’t need onions to be particularly crisp, they do great in the freezer. Chop finely and Ziploc as above.
8. Bread/tortillas/burger buns: If you’re a freezer veteran, you probably know this one, but it bears repeating that when you can’t use up an entire loaf, or if you see a fantastic bread sale, stash what you can’t immediately use in the freezer. Just make sure it’s pre-sliced so you can thaw individual slices as desired.So go nuts! Freeze away! Just don’t forget about the things you’ve frozen for too long…like that apple juice concentrate I’ve literally been meaning to throw out for two years. Guess I’d better go do that now that there’s photographic evidence.