Fed & Fit

Ep. 157: Freezing Groceries

On today's episode, I'm chatting with listener Lynette about how to stock up her pantry and freezer with budget-friendly options.

We're back with our 157th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 157 Sponsors

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Episode 157 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And today is a reverse interview. Just as a refresher, in case maybe it’s one of your first reverse interviews. A lovely Fed and Fit listener or reader writes in with a great question, and instead of politely answering their question, I ask to book them on the podcast so we can chat about it.

So today we are joined by Lynette. Lynette lives in a teeny tiny town in Nebraska. She is a stay at home mom full time. And we’re birds of a feather, because right now I’m holding a tiny little baby myself. {laughs} So she might make an appearance on today’s show. But it’ll be good. It’s going to be a family affair. Welcome to the show, Lynette!

Lynette: Thank you so much! I’m really excited.

Cassy Joy: I’m really excited to have you on here, as well. And just in case y’all are listening; if there’s any kind of a weird sound quality, know that we did our best to get it right. But I think it’s just going to be a cool conversation, so bear with us.

Lynette, I know you have a couple of questions for us, but I would love it if you would tell folks a little bit more about yourself and your background and what really drew you to this healthier, real food lifestyle.

Lynette: Ok! Yeah, great. I’m actually born and raised in Minnesota. We moved to Nebraska probably about 5 years ago. And I guess my healthier lifestyle kind of had to do with it. I was diagnosed with PCOS, which is polycystic ovarian syndrome. And for people that don’t know what that is, it’s basically more of just a hormonal thing. I was struggling with infertility issues. I had suffered a couple of miscarriages. And my husband and I had decided that we needed a fresh start. And it was kind of like sticking a pin in a map and just picking a place. And we ended up here in Nebraska.

So all of our family is still back in Minnesota. So here we are, in the middle of nowhere. Which kind of leads to my question here. For PCOS, like I said it’s more of a hormonal issue. There’s no clear medication or treatment that you really take for it. It’s basically just lifestyle changes. And through all my research with it, I stumbled onto the world of paleo. Because it really messes with your insulin, is a big thing. I was on metformin for a while. Which is a medication for people with diabetes. It helps with your insulin resistance and things like that.

So I’ve been playing with the idea of using my food to heal myself. And for the past, I guess it’s been about five or six years now, I’ve just kind of been dealing with that. Plugging away. Small baby steps. And changing my healthy eating. And so, here we are. Middle of nowhere. It’s probably about a good 35-40 minutes for me to go to the grocery store. We do have a small store here in town, but I’m really limited on, as you can imagine, the fresh stuff that we get.

I'm just kind of at a loss sometimes when I go to the grocery store. I just kind of wander around the produce section, and try to decide what’s going to be best for me. I get so discouraged when a couple of days after we go to the store and I’m throwing stuff away because it’s gone bad. So that’s kind of what I wanted to ask you about. What would be my best choices for things to pick out. Am I better off canned, frozen? Things that are really going to give me the most bang for my buck, as well. Because as a stay at home mom, we live off of one income. So budget is a big deal for me, as well.

So if you could provide any insight on things like that, it would be greatly appreciated. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Yeah, girl! This is such a good question. And it’s one that I’ve never gotten before. So I love it. I think it’s a great question.

Lynette: Good.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh. This baby. I was like; maybe she’ll politely just have her lunch. I don’t think it’s going to happen that easily. {laughs} I love this question. So, my first question is do you have any spare freezer space?

Lynette: Yes, we do. We have a deep freezer out in our garage.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. Good. That is definitely step one. So if anybody is listening, and they’re thinking; yes! Budget friendly; yes, I need that. Need to go to the grocery store less? Yes. Whether that means you live really far away like Lynette does from a neighborhood store. Or you just want to have to make those trips less frequently. I think the first step is either clean out or invest in some extra freezer space. A deep freeze, like a chest freezer, is probably my favorite. And most things are actually pretty budget friendly.

When we think about a refrigerator, when we buy our homes. Stand up refrigerators can be very expensive. But deep freezers sometimes you can get a good deal. So I just want to throw that out there first.

Ok. So the next step is; yes. I do have some suggestions on produce, specifically. Because all of our proteins we can freeze for the most part. And that’s pretty obvious. And then sauces, mayos, dressings, olive oils, all those things obviously have a good amount of shelf life because we can put them in our pantry.

But when it comes to produce, we think about the leafy greens. The foods that we need to get fresh more often are going to be citrus. It’s going to be the leafy greens. And berries. Those are the ones that we really want to make sure we’re trying to get as fresh as possible.

So I have a couple of suggestions. First, when it comes to greens. Or the produce section in general. I would shop what’s on sale/in season. I’m sure in Nebraska in the middle of winter it seems like there’s nothing in season. So I don’t know what prices are at that point in time. But that might be a good reason to, whenever there’s an abundance of thick, leafy greens there, go ahead and buy them. And then prepare them for the freezer yourself.

So foods like collards, kale, some of those thicker denser greens are actually going to freeze really well. Where as a romaine lettuce; which doesn’t really pack a whole lot of nutritional value. So it’s no real love lost there. But that won’t freeze quite as well. So the really powerful greens. The ones you're going to want the most anyways will actually freeze.

So some of the ways to prepare them. Let’s say you are able to go to a farmer’s market, or the grocery store, and find a good amount of those. Grab a bunch of them, and then you can prepare them one of two ways. You can either prepare them raw for the freezer, or you can prepare them cooked.

Let’s say you want to prepare them raw. Thinking about kale, for example. I would buy the kale. I would destem it. And I would roughly chop it and put it in bags. You could do it a couple of ways. You could either freeze it on a sheet tray if you want them to be frozen individually, more like; I don’t know why confetti comes to mind. But a texture that is easily separated so you can reach in the bag and pull out a clump if that makes any sense. Instead of it being just one big hunk. Because it can be very voluminous; there’s a lot of volume to a curly kale.

What I would do for raw kale is I would destem it, chop it, and I would put it in a bag. And I double bag it to make sure that no air gets in. No extra air gets in. But I would really pack it in there. I would squeeze it all in there, freeze it, mark it. And it’s probably good between around 5 months. Between 5 to 6 months in the freezer.

So that’s how you can prepare it raw. And that would be true for kale or collards. Both of those would do pretty well in the freezer raw. And cooked is even easier.

So for cooked, what you can do is one of two ways, also. Let’s say you destem that kale, you chop it up, and you steam it. So it’s very benign. It’s not cooked with any kind of oil or salt or anything like that. Just kind of how you would buy already frozen spinach. There’s nothing on it but the spinach. It just allows it to reduce down, and makes it a little more compact, as well. So steam the kale or the collards. Try to drain off as much water as you can. So let it cool, and then physically squeeze it out with your hands. Just like if you were making creamed spinach. You would squeeze out the water.

And from there, your two options are, and I’ve done both of these. You can then take the cooked and squeezed out, let’s say kale, and spread it out on a sheet pan. And then freeze that sheet pan. So that, again, it doesn’t all stick together in one giant ice cube. And then take those froze bits, put them in a bag, and label it. And then you can pull that out whenever you want it. And that is going to have more the texture of that frozen spinach that you get in a bag from the freezer at the grocery store.

Or, what I like to do sometimes. And you can do this if you want to precook it with oil, lemon juice, and salt. Cook it, and then spoon it into cupcake tins. Especially if you have, for example, a silicone cupcake tin. Those are my favorite ones to use. Spoon it into there, freeze it, and then you pop them out once they’re frozen, put them in a bag. And then you have these single serving leafy green hockey pucks.

Lynette: Oh, that’s great. Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, then you can use them to add to meals. So that’s how I would do the greens. That would be the way to go. And of course, if you run out, buy frozen. And you can usually find frozen collards. You can usually find frozen spinach. And those are great ones to add to smoothies or just sauté them or mix them in with chili or whatever you're making. Those are really easy to use. So that’s it for, I would say, the leafy green vegetables. Focus on kale and collards. Those are probably going to stand up the best frozen.

And another thing to note; if you're buying organic fruits and vegetables, they don’t have the same shelf life as conventional. They just don’t. If you’ve ever bought a pack of conventional strawberries, and put it next to a pack of organic strawberries, the organic ones will absolutely start to wilt sooner. Because they just don’t have as much junk on them. So that’s why it’s just good to be diligent about buying when things are in season, therefore more affordable. And then preparing for the freezer.

So that would be it for the greens. For berries, it would be the same thing. During the height of the summer season, when berries are most affordable. Buy all those berries. For a strawberry, for example. Rinse them, cut off the stem. I like to cut mine in half. Spread them out on a sheet tray. That way they don’t all clump together. Because no one needs a 5-pound brick of strawberries at once. Spread them out on the sheet tray, let them freeze hard, and then put them into a giant bag. Again, double bag it if you can.

And if you’re worried about there being any kind of a transfer between the plastic bag and your food, which I’m not worried about because when frozen those molecules move so slowly. So I usually don’t worry about that so much. We don’t want to microwave with soft plastics, because the molecules move so quickly right when heated and then they could transfer conceivably to our food. But in the freezer, I don’t worry about it much.

But if that’s still something that kind of concern you, you can always take either wax paper or parchment paper and line your freezer bags with that first, so that your food touches the paper, and not the bag. I just want to throw that in there.

Ok, so the berries. I would do the same thing with the berries; freeze them solid. I have a giant bag of organic raspberries in my freezer right now, because those cartons sometimes can be expensive. $5 for a little carton of them during certain times of the year. And I remember I went in and they were $1 apiece. So I bought the lot. And I came home, rinsed them, let them dry first before I put them in the freezer. Put them on the sheet pan, froze them solid, and transferred them to a bag. So that’s how I would do berries.

Citrus can last longer on your shelf. So if you do go to the grocery store, while it may not be a great one to freeze, it is a really good one to buy to keep on the shelf. So we’ve got vegetables, and we’ve got fruits. And for starches, I don’t know if you do any grains at all, Lynette. Rice is, of course, a good staple to have on hand if you can tolerate it.

Lynette: Yep.

Cassy Joy: OK, awesome. And then all of the winter squashes keep really well. I think I still have a butternut squash in my pantry that I grew. Which was a while ago. {laughs} And it’s still in great shape.

Lynette: Great. I think I bought one about a month ago and it’s still in my pantry. So I’m good with the butternut squash.

Cassy Joy: Totally, exactly. Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash. Those tend to last a lot longer. So those are good. Make sure you keep them in a dark room that does not have a lot of moisture. So it’s not humid, and it’s relatively cool. We keep our house at about 72-73 degrees. So it’s nice and cool, and it’s going to be in good shape. So those are always good. Potatoes are always good, of course. Keep them in a dark room. And that’s really to help keep them from growing and budding.

If your potatoes are looking a little wrinkly, and you know it’s going to be a while before you get to the store, you can always do the same thing as prepare them for the freezer. Cut up your potatoes, do a quick roast, maybe is probably the way that I would go. Do a quick roast. Cut them up into little bite-sized pieces. Cover them with olive oil, sea salt, and a little pepper. Roast them until they’re crispy. Freeze them on a sheet tray, again. And then transfer them to some sort of a container so that you can just spoon off a prepared starch whenever you need it.

Lynette: Awesome.

Cassy Joy: And something that I’ve done with sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes, when I have an abundance of them. I actually will spoon those into those silicone cupcake sheets, as well. And then create little hockey pucks of mashed sweet potatoes. And those are so easy to portion out in the future when you need them.

Lynette: Right. Which is great. Because I’m here home during the day. That’s a perfect little lunch. I don’t have to prepare a large quantity. I can just take out what I need. I like that.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. That’s exactly why we did it here at my house. Because my husband doesn’t always want mashed sweet potatoes in the morning, but if I just worked out, I do. {laughs} So yeah. Is that helpful?

Lynette: Yeah, it is. I was going to ask, too. My favorite thing is beets right now. And for the life of me, I cannot find any decent fresh beets at the store. So I buy them canned. Is that horrible for me? You hear things about the transfer of the chemicals in the cans. I just; am I shooting myself in the foot there with those?

Cassy Joy: I wouldn’t stress about it. It’s been a while since I read the ingredients on the can of beets, but if it really just says beets, probably water and salt, you’ll probably find on some of those cans, as well. But if that’s really all it says, then I think you're fine. I wouldn’t stress about that. If it works for you, go for it.

Lynette: Great. That was really helpful.

Cassy Joy: Good, I’m so glad! This was such a fun question. I hope it was helpful for everybody else. You know, you make the grocery store run two or three times a week, and sometimes it just gets old. You want to be a little more efficient. So I think it was a great question.

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Lynette: Yeah, good. And I’ve got the two toddlers. And sometimes just getting to the grocery store is just a circus. I need help streamlining it.

Cassy Joy: I can absolutely see that. I thought; maybe I’ll go to the grocery store this morning. And I have a 3-month-old and I said no. So I can only imagine. She’s just; all I have to do is put her in a little baby carrier and I can walk around the store. So it’s relatively simple. But I was ready to throw in the towel. But you're incredible. Keep up the great work up there, and if you ever have any more questions, please don’t be a stranger. But I hope that was helpful and makes things a little easier for you guys.

Lynette: It was. And actually can I ask you one more question?

Cassy Joy: Please do! Yeah, of course! I’m all yours.

Lynette: Ok. It’s totally off topic. But I cloth diaper my two boys. And I’m really excited to see your input on your cloth diapering, because I’ve seen it in your baby registry updates. So are you getting close to have any more updates about those?

Cassy Joy: We are getting close. So what we decided to do is, instead of investing in newborn cloth diapers, we did disposable. We chose the Bambo diapers. They’re just; for folks who are listening and have no idea what I’m talking about. Bambo diapers; I just liked them because they had less stuff in them. Less harmful little chemicals for very precious little baby bottoms. Which one of the main reasons we want to cloth diaper. Because we want to control what goes on her little bum.

But we decided to do those Bambo disposable diapers while she was still tiny. And once she’s big enough, we were going to go into cloth diapers. Because these cloth diapers are amazing nowadays. We decided to get the all-in-ones. So they have essentially liners and an outside thing. And all the little parts and pieces you would need in one single diaper. Whereas back in the day when my mom cloth diapered myself and my sisters, she had to get the trifolds and then the outer thing and then the pins. So it’s gotten much more simple.

So what we decided to do was once she was a little bit bigger, and was able to fit in the larger ones, we’d transition her. And she is just now about there. She’s about to grow out of these last little tiny diapers. So we’re going to move her in, and we’re going to see what happens. She’s still exclusively breastfed, so everything is very easy right now. But, I’m sure things will get interesting.

But yeah, I will. I’ll have more to share as soon as we do. And I have a bunch of different ones I’m going to try, so I’ll be able to talk about the full spectrum of them.

Lynette: Good. I’m super excited. I’m such a geek for the cloth diapers. I get really excited when other people talk about them.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I’m excited too. And it’s so funny; I joke with my mom, for example, that she’s this big hippie and she doesn’t even know it. {laughs} You know? Just with all the things that she does. Recycling is very; she just does it because it makes sense to her. But recycling is very important to her. She will; not this extreme, but we tease her she’s going to go dumpster diving and pull out cans and bottles if she could. And then with cloth diapering, she cloth diapered all of us and it was no big deal.

So it’s fun to have that kind of a support system. So it was an easy choice for us. But I have no idea what it’s going to look like in practice. And I will absolutely report back. Do you have any advice?

Lynette: It’s really not as scary as it seems to be. For dealing with the poo, as she gets older, if you start feeding her solids or if you’ve got to supplement her with non-breast milk, things like that. To get rid of that kind of stuff, a good diaper sprayer. I don’t know if you’ve looked into any of those at all. But a diaper sprayer and a shield. Spray Pail is a really good company.

But it’s really not as hard as people think it is. I’ve done it since birth with both my boys. We use the inserts and covers; we don’t have very many all-in-ones. Just because the main reason I decided to do it was the economical side of it. I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on disposable diapers I was just going to throw in the trash.

Cassy Joy: It adds up so quickly.

Lynette: It does, it does. And the amount of trash, and just waste that you produce. But anyway, I’m extremely happy with the ones that we have. So I’m really excited to hear your opinion on them. I think just getting the message out there, too. A lot of people think it’s so much work, and it’s really not.

And then that kind of led into another question. I’ve been toying with the idea of using reusable menstrual products, and I was curious if you had any thoughts on those. If you had any experience. Even if you did a blog post about those coming up, I’d love to read something like that, as well.

Cassy Joy: That’s a great idea for a post. I don’t have one currently. But it’s definitely something I can do. I’ve been using; of course it’s been a long time now since I’ve needed one, with the baby. But I have been using; the brand that I like was Ralf. Is that right? I may have gotten that wrong. If you're Googling that, I apologize.

Those were good, of course they’re disposable but it’s a slightly better option. But the reusable products is something that’s definitely on my radar. So I will report back as soon as we get there.

I joke about this all the time, but sometimes I feel like a stick in the mud when it comes to transitioning to safer and more ecofriendly products. It just takes me a long time. But we’re getting there. Baby steps at a time. I just switched out, for example, my laundry detergent a year ago. So we’re pretty slow. But we will get there, and I will absolutely share all my lessons learned.

Lynette: Great. I’m excited. Good.

Cassy Joy: Awesome, me too! These are great questions, Lynette. Thank you so much.

Lynette: Yeah. Thank you for talking with me. I’m such a geek for you, as well. When you emailed me to ask if we could talk, I let out a little girlish squeal, and I was super excited.

Cassy Joy: Aww! That’s so sweet.

Lynette: I’m super excited. And my oldest little boy, he’ll be excited too. I don’t know if you knew it was me, but I sent you a DM on Instagram a while ago with a video of him. He gets really excited when he hears the theme song to your podcast. Because I listen to it all day long. So he runs over to the computer and he’s got to check it out.

Cassy Joy: That is so sweet! I do remember that, but I hadn’t put two and two together. That is so sweet! Oh my gosh, that makes me so happy. I actually; I feel like I’m just on the phone with a girlfriend now. That theme song is actually my sister, Kimberly. She’s the singer, Kimberly Dunn. She’s a country singer out of Texas and Nashville. And that was one of her songs, and I loved it.

It’s so neat to watch her play that song, because she can play the guitar, sing, and then she has this harmonica that she straps on that just sits on her chest. And she does all three. And I just think she looks like just the coolest person ever.

Lynette: That’s amazing!

Cassy Joy: Isn’t it amazing! It’s so neat. When we were in college, she would drive. I went to Texas A&M university, and I'm from San Antonio, so it’s about a 3-hour drive. And while she was driving she would practice her harmonica. So she’d put on that little holder piece and play the harmonica while she drove back and forth to school from my parent’s house. It’s just so neat.

Lynette: That’s hilarious!

Cassy Joy: Anyway, that’s kind of the backstory on that song, and I love it. It’s one of her older ones. And they recently asked if I wanted to switch out to one of her newer songs. And I was like; no, I really just like this one. {laughs} it’s so fun.

Lynette: It’s good. It is.

Cassy Joy: It is good. Oh, that’s so sweet. I love that. He’ll be able to hear your voice very soon. And thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed talking with you.

Lynette: Good, me too. And I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

Cassy Joy: Of course. It was my pleasure. And baby Grey loved it as well, apparently, she was a happy camper. {laughs}

Lynette: Good. Good! Oh, and I guess I should say Happy Mother’s Day. That’s coming up this weekend, too.

Cassy Joy: Thank you so much! Happy Mother’s Day to you, too. This Mother’s Day puts it in a whole new light. I have such a true heartfelt respect times 100 for moms out there. I think you're amazing. So happy Mother’s Day. It’s not a little thing that you do.

Lynette: No. No, it’s not.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} It’s not. And going in; I knew it wasn’t little going into it. But I just didn’t realize how all consuming, in the best way, being a mom is. It’s really, really special. So it makes me realize how much my mom loves me. You know.

Lynette: It’s funny how that happens, as you become a parent yourself. It makes you more appreciative to your own parents. I’ve definitely been going through that lately. I relate to that.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. Mm-hmm. “You did this for me? You love me this much? That’s amazing!”

Lynette: Right. Yes.

Cassy Joy: Oh man. Ok, I’ve got to change a diaper, Lynette. {laughing} She just looked at me like, “Lady!” Thank you so much again. I wish you the best. We’re about to go into summer so hopefully you’ll get some good produce. But when the time comes and you need to streamline, I hope that was helpful. And we’ll have this up with a transcript available for everybody listening if you want to review the steps we talked about. Those will be on the blog.

Lynette: Perfect, thank you so much again.

Cassy Joy: Thank you so much. Thanks everybody for listening. We’ll be back again next week.

   

One Response to “Ep. 157: Freezing Groceries”

  1. #
    1
    Jessposted May 16, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Cassy Joy! Thought this podcast topic was ✨brilliant✨! Any tips for defrosting or re-heating frozen produce, specifically leafy greens? Also loved hearing baby grey in the background! Thanks so much!

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