Stocking Up the Freezer For Virtually Nothing

In your day-to-day cooking, you are likely throwing away valuable flavor and nutrients every day without even realizing it.
You cut an apple, peel an onion, and cut the hard skin off of a squash before baking or boiling it, or scrubbed the brown bits out of a roasting pan.

If you’re frugal, you’re composting the vegetable scraps, or adding it to a worm bin. If you’re super-frugal, you’ve discovered this goldmine of nutrients can be used one more time before heading for the compost heap.

You can make and freeze stock made from either meat or vegetable bits and scraps and use it as a base for soups, stews and chilis, or even to add flavor and nutrients to those frugal staple potato, rice or pasta dishes.

You can also use stock instead of water to add flavor to a recipe, or instead of beer or wine to reduce cost without losing moisture.

Perhaps you’ve seen stock in the supermarket (or *gasp* perhaps you’ve even bought it?). Usually stored near the soup, you can find fish, beef, chicken, vegetable and mushroom stocks in the supermarket, with prices ranging from $0.10-$0.79 per ouncet. But why buy what you can make for nothing?

How to make soup stock:

Vegetable Stock:

The best way to make a vegetable stock is to save scraps. Peels, from onions, husks from garlic (my garlic press leaves little “skins” inside, so I always save those.) Ends of celery, extra mushrooms and any produce nearing the end of its life in the refrigerator. Shells from peas, stems and even apple cores go great in vegetable stock. (Never use spoiled/moldy produce).

If you have a few cups of vegetable bits, just cover them with water, simmer for 45 minutes, strain and freeze. However, if you’ve only got an onion skin here and a stalk of celery there, just throw it all in a big bag in the freezer until you have enough vegetable bits and time to boil it all at once. Strain and store.

Meat stock:

Bones, ends, and drippings! Use pan drippings, or bones to create a fantastic stock. The easiest way it to start with the brown bits from the bottom of a pan. First, pour off any grease/oils and then heat the pan quickly on the stove. Add a small amount of cold liquid to the hot pan (water, beer, wine, fruit juice, brandy, or even water that you cooked pasta or vegetables in), and as the liquid rapidly comes to a boil, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula. This will free up the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan, and allow you to use them again. As an added benefit, the pan will be much easier to clean.

If you have bones or tough meat scraps to use, add the bones and enough water to cover them, and simmer for 45 minutes (fish is the exception—heads and bones go in the water, with the gills removed, but remove as soon as the bones become opaque). Large bones such as hamhocks or entire turkey carcasses may take longer—cook covered in water until the bones come out free of meat scraps. Strain and store.

Storage:

To freeze, pour into plastic containers leaving some head-space (frozen liquid takes more space than solid, so if you overfill your container will break), cool completely in the refrigerator, and then freeze. Alternately, pour your stocks into muffin tins or ice cube trays and freeze, and then pop them out and into a plastic bag for storage until you are ready to use them. If you store your stocks in glass jars like I do, use only wide-mouth jars, and fill no more than 2/3 full, leaving the lid open until the liquid is fully frozen. Be warned that any attempts to rapidly freeze or thaw a glass mason jar will likely result in breakage. They are temperamental buggers.



Author

By , on Nov 10, 2011
Jessica Ward Jessica Ward is a full-time writer and adoptive mom to two wonderful children. She writes to support her parenting/adopting habit. For frugal family tips see The PennyWise Family or @jessc098 and my google+ profile.

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{17 Comments}

  1. whole chicken happen to have one of the lowest per pound costs in the nation. It’s amazingly useful for the frugal cook because you can make roast chicken, then pick the bones for some other meal like a casserole, then make stock. I also love to make chicken base as well, which is also very useful in cooking.

  2. Thanks for this valuable tips. I’ll try this for special Guests coming this weekend. Hope it will be fine.

  3. Jessica:

    We’ve started buying two chickens every week in our groceries. We butterfly and roast them on grocery day, and refrigerate one pre-cooked, and eat the other for dinner, sandwiches and soup the following day. The second one becomes dinner dinner (stir-fried, souped, casseroled or whatever), and I make stock from the bones. I’ve also got a turkey carcass stewing today, which turns into some amazing turkey-lentil soup (my mother-in-law’s recipe).

  4. Great ideas everyone! I use broth quite frequently to make homemade chicken dumpling soup. I’m going to give these tips a try!

  5. ML:

    Considering the increasing cost of food and the scarcity of food in many parts of the world, putting these to use is an excellent example of “less waste” and “improved nutrition.”

  6. Lisa Under the Redwoods:

    I too save up bits and pieces of vegetables and chicken and put them in the freezer until I am readyto use them. The only difference is I cook mine overnight in a crockpot. Super simple and so good yummy.

  7. I love making stock for future use. When I know I can’t make a decent meal with what we have, I freeze everything before they spoil. And when I have enough, I throw everything in a pot to make a few containers of stock. Much cheaper and more economical then buying ready made stock.

  8. I make my stock the same way, except I use a pressure cooker with my odds and ends so that it’s done faster.

  9. Pam:

    This is a great tip for me. I’ve saved the recipes. I love to use broth instead of water when making grains but hate to use store bought. And I never thought of saving my leftover produce “ends” in the freezer for when I’m ready to make broth (or for when I have enough “ends” to make a broth). Thanks!

  10. Totally agree. I personally like to buy a large chicken and use every part, including the empty carcass for making soups.

  11. Even with all things aside, homemade stocks are much healthier. If you look at the ingredient labels on store-bought ones you’ll be shocked how packed full of chemicals and preservatives they are. You can find organic ones but they’re at a price that’s staggering and even then you can’t be certain of what’s inside. Besides, homemade stocks taste better than anything you can buy since they’re spiced to your own particular taste.

  12. Jarhett:

    After much trial and error, we found that freezing stock in silicone muffin tins makes it SUPER easy. They just pop right out and you have them in convenient sized chunks. It’s hard to find the silicone cookware these days, we found some at thrift stores.

    • Jessica:

      I’ve been keeping my eyes open for those sillicon muffin pans–haven’t found any yet–I’ll keep the faith! :)

  13. Because I don’t have a large freezer, I make stock as needed for soup. I save the fronds from fennel (amazing flavour), ends from my parsley and cilantro, and (in a separate container) the liquid from canned salmon.
    Also, adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a pot of bones helps to leach the calcium from the bones to your broth! You don’t taste the vinegar at all!
    THank you for a great article!

    • Jessica:

      Fennel–love this idea. We very seldom buy it, but it is SO good! Thanks for the idea!

  14. Jen:

    I actually do this with chicken bones. The difference between store bought broth and homemade is unbelievable. I figured out that each section of my muffin tin holds about 1/2 cup of broth. I freeze the broth up in the muffin pan, pop out the individual portions and store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. That way, I can easily pull the amount I need from the freezer when I am ready to use it.

    • Jen, what a great idea! Just another purpose for the muffin pan. I’m going to try it this week~!

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