Three years ago, my in-laws bought us a freezer for Christmas. It is one of the best gifts we’ve ever received. My parents were feeling slighted, so they bought us a knife set this past year. Those are also wonderful, but I’m here to talk about the freezer.
Our freezer is a magical place, filled with ribs, ice cream bars, make-ahead meals, fish, beef, pesto and vegetables. We often start our menu planning by first going through and seeing what the contents of the freezer are. It’s a great way to rotate through what we’ve purchased ahead and the food we’ve made ahead for days where we wouldn’t otherwise have time to prepare a meal, warding away those unexpected expenses that can creep up from a trip to Chipotle here and a quick drive-thru drive-by there.
Making the Most of Your Freezer:
1. Make-Ahead Meals These are great for nights when you have to work late, have a baseball practice or a soccer game to get to or when you have nothing in the fridge.
2. Your Garden All those herbs you planted? The bounty of tomatoes? The zucchinis. How many zucchinis can you eat in a week, anyway? The freezer is a wonderful place to store them until it’s time to use them. It will keep them fresh and make sure you get the most out of all your hard gardening work.
3. Sale Meat Properly stored meats can be stored for up to a year successfully. This makes stocking up on discounted and sale prices a no-brainer. Save money and have a freezer full of steak and fish to grab in case of an emergency or an impromptu get-together in the backyard around the grill.
If you’re questioning how long foods can keep in the freezer, Still Tasty provides a very comprehensive list and guide to how long properly packaged food will keep in the depths of your freezer, along with storing tips. Here are some general guidelines for you. These can have several factors, so check out the site for more information and further details on specific ingredients.
Fresh fruits and vegetables: 1 year
Fresh meat: 1 year
Uncooked casseroles: 2-3 months
Cooked casseroles: 2-3 months
Photo by sporkist
A few helpful hints when packaging food to be frozen:
*When using zip-top bags, squeeze (or suck out with a straw) as much air as possible from the bag. This will cut down on the number of ice crystals forming on the food.
*Wrap fresh meats tightly in saran wrap and freezer bags or saran wrap and aluminum foil.
*Thaw foods in the fridge whenever possible to allow moisture to reabsorb back into the meat or vegetable. Be sure to place frozen items on plates or in leak-proof containers to prevent a thawing mess. The process will usually take 12 to 24 hours depending on what you’re defrosting, but it will guard against any possible bacteria growth as the food thaws.
*When you’re time constrained, thaw frozen foods by placing them under slow running water in a bowl in the sink. The moving water will help thaw them faster. Make sure your foods are in airtight zip-top bags to allow for maximum contact of the cold water and the frozen product. It can take anywhere from a few minutes for shrimp or fruits and vegetables to thaw to an hour or more for steaks or a large piece of meat.
*Freeze leftovers in single servings to grab as a quick lunch as you walk out the door on your way to work. This is a much better alternative than spending $5 and up on fast food, and it’s healthier for you too.
*Make extra grilled chicken or taco meat and freeze enough for another meal. The hard part of having fresh meat and the time to cook it is already done. Once you have that out of the way, the possibilities for dinner increase.
Do you have a favorite meal to freeze for later or a tip on successfully freezing food? See what other people are freezing by heading over to Organizing Your Way today. One of my favorite frozen meals happen to be Blueberry Pecan Pancakes. They heat up in under a minute in the microwave and they taste so much better than the frozen variety you can buy in the store. They also happen to be a breakfast food. Really, it’s the most important meal of the day, even when you eat it for dinner.