Monday, April 22, 2013

Healthy freezer-based diet management strategy

In this recent post, I jokingly compared my enormous black upright freezer to the monolith in the classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey
An artful representation of the 2001 movie monolith, screengrabbed from this site
The movie monoliths did not have the words "Kenmore Elite" stenciled on them, nor were sweet-potato-curing wine refrigerators and Buc-ees insulated grocery totes stored on top of them. 
This comparison is not as superficial as you might first think, because the parallels are more than black-metal skin deep.
Screengrabbed from Wikipedia.
My freezer monolith did, indeed, trigger a considerable shift in the evolution of my hominid family's eating habits.  It became a tool, a weapon for fighting unhealthy weight gain, and it all started with a life-changing conversation I had with one of my best girlfriends. 

At the time, I was formulating a strategy for going back to work full-time after the birth of my baby, who had been born about five weeks prior to the birth of my girlfriend's baby.  Girlfriend and I despaired about my all-too-common-American-working-mother predicament:  how on earth would I be able to maintain my family's pattern of healthy eating if I were working full time?!  There simply weren't enough hours in the day - let alone enough physical stamina - to do full-time employment AND cook healthy meals every evening.

"You're going to have to do most of your cooking on Saturdays and Sundays and store the stuff for serving during the week," my girlfriend concluded emphatically.  "There simply isn't any other way."

And so a freezer management plan, which spawned my system of specialized freezer-friendly recipe development, was thusly born. 

Tragically, my girlfriend was dead of cancer just two years after our conversation.  She didn't even get to live long enough to see her own baby's first day of kindergarten.  My monolithic freezer and its carefully-crafted contents are a big part of her legacy of creative gifts to lucky me, the one of us who is still alive for the moment. 

What I want to impart to you in this post is a general visual impression of how this freezer strategy can be undertaken successfully.  As I've noted in other posts, I've observed Americans to be very biased against an eating lifestyle that incorporates a high proportion of food freezing.  Americans associate freezers with cheap "TV dinners" and mass-produced junk food.  I mean, isn't that most common type of stuff one finds in grocery store freezers?  The kind of food people turn to as unhealthy indulgences (think of the many frozen pies, ice cream, and cakes) or at least as a last unpalatable resort for the sake of convenience? 
Most of what's in these is, indeed, absolute crap, in my opinion.  But there's no law that says your freezer has to resemble these. 

Grocery freezer pic screengrabbed from this Sodahead site.
There's no law that says your freezer has to resemble the frightening things you see in the average grocery store.  Its contents might instead evolve somewhat along these lines:
Piggybacking on my late girlfriend's wise legacy, I've taken my approach one step farther in that I actually grow a portion of the vegetables we eat, grow them in my microscopic Centerpointe back yard.  Tomatoes and onions have been among my more successful micro-crops. 
"We are not both growing okra again next year, because there's just too much of it produced," a very-much-alive Centerpointe girlfriend said to me late last summer as we eyed our respective harvests.  "We need to divide and conquer, each growing different vegetables so that we can swap the excess."
A large batch of jambalaya chock full of those same vegetables pictured above, plus fresh Gulf shrimp, which I usually buy from Rose's Seafood in Kemah.  Have you ever noticed that you cannot walk into a single grocery store in Clear Lake and buy fresh Gulf shrimp?  It's all either frozen and/or farm-raised inedible junk (in my opinion) from Asia.  THAT is frightening: here we have this fantastic resource just a few miles from us, and what are they selling in local mainstream grocery stores?  Farm-raised Asian shrimp.  Gag! 
In this previous post, I estimated we had ninety-three Pyrex storage dishes.  I was wrong.  It's actually well over one hundred.  Into which goeth the jambalaya pictured above. 
Everything labeled and dated.  This is an essential step in operating a large-capacity freezer effectively.  If you aren't strictly organized, you'll end up wasting quite a bit of food, and you don't want to do that when paying top dollar for organic produce and local seafood. 

The top pieces of tape describe the contents and give the date when those containers went into the freezer.  The second blank piece of masking tape on each is for recording the date on which the container came back out of the freezer.  If you wait until the container is removed from the freezer to add that second piece of tape, condensation on the lid will inhibit it from sticking. 
This is the part where I get to spoof the movie in yet another way: 
"My God - it's full of food!!" 
When I open up my freezer and show folks what's inside, this is very much the expression typically seen on their faces, as they wrap their minds around the fact that it's all home-made and all top-quality and mostly all-organic. 

Screengrab from Google image search showing the famous photo of actor Keir Dullea portraying the character of astronaut David Bowman
Do you wonder why on earth (or in space) any suburban homeowner would purchase over one hundred Pyrex storage dishes?!  Now you have your answer:  because forty-four of them are visible in just that one freezer freeze-frame above.  In other words, a lot of them are needed.  I have found that, in order to manage a large freezer effectively, I have to be absolutely consistent and systematic.  I can't use a bunch of random storage dishes that don't stack well because they just become a jumbled and non-intuitive mess.  I have to use the same series of dishes organized consistently by date and contents.  And they have to be able to go from the freezer to the microwave to the oven to the table to the dishwasher with maximum possible efficiency and minimum possible thought.  No fuss. 
Seriously, my Pyrex-based food management system is very much like an intermodal container management system, only on a very fine scale.  Notice how all those container boxes are the same boxes - only the color varies.  That's because it would be impossible to manage them if they were all different sizes and shapes.  Intermodal containers seamlessly move from sea to rail to truck to storage, just as Pyrex dishes go from freezer to microwave to oven to table. 

Combined screengrab (incorporating this and this) from Google image search for the search phrase underlined in the first sentence above. 
Hopefully this gives you an introduction to thinking outside the freezer box.  I'll provide additional expounds in future posts. 

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