The modern freezer is an exceptional food storage tool that helps you plan healthy meals, follow a better grocery budget, and reduce kitchen waste. But all too often, freezers become icy wastelands of unknown leftovers and meant-to-be-cooked dishes. Learn how to make the most of your freezer with these top six tips.
- Freeze foods that are forgiving. Some foods freeze well, and some don’t – know the difference so that you aren’t disappointed after the thaw. Foods with a high liquid content usually freeze like a dream, including soups, stews, baby food, fruit purees, and dishes with lots of sauce in them. Starchy foods, on the other hand, often lose their starchy texture in the freezer. Cooked pastas and grains are best enjoyed fresh. Raw bread and pastry dough freeze well, but cooked breads will become dry and dense in the freezer.
- Use the right bag. When storing foods in plastic bags, choose the thicker bags that are specially designed for the freezer. The thicker layer of plastic better wards off against freezer burn. Squeeze out as much air as possible, and then freeze the food while the bag is lying flat in order to make the most of your freezer space. When it comes time to eat, a flat-frozen bag of soup will thaw faster too.
- Organize portion sizes before you freeze. Many dishes, especially cuts of meat, are automatically portioned for a family of four. Food manufacturers haven’t figured out that this isn’t the '50s anymore – today, you may just as likely be preparing a meal for one, two, or eight. So plan ahead, and sort out your portion sizes before you freeze the food. That way, you can pull out the exact number of organic chicken breasts you need instead of thawing too many.
- Think about thawing. Thawing out frozen foods may take up to 24 hours. You can always use your microwave in a pinch, but this method often leads to rubbery, overcooked foods. Plan your meals ahead at least a couple of days, so that your frozen food is thawed and ready to eat when you are.
- Label each item clearly on the outside of the package with a permanent marker. It’s easy to think that you’ll just remember what each plastic bag or cluster of foil contains – until you’re standing in front of your freezer, playing a losing memory game with a hungry belly. Don’t waste food – and save your brain space for more important endeavors. Clearly label each container with the contents inside as well as the date they went into the freezer. If you have similar items, rotate them from the back of the box to the front, so that you use the oldest items first before they go bad.
- Keep a list. Don’t let your freezer become a messy pile of frozen entrees, vegetables and desserts that wind up getting tossed 12 months down the line. Freezers are great for food storage – but they won’t keep things fresh forever. Keep a list of meals on the freezer door, so that you know exactly what’s inside without having to dig. Cross each item off as you take it out to eat.
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