06 Dec Freezing Food So That It Lasts and Still Tastes Good
Eating healthy is definitely necessary but it can also definitely be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to save money and still eat healthy for every meal, every day. This includes buying in bulk and freezing your goods!
Not only will you be saving money and always have food ready and prepared for cooking, but it also helps you avoid food waste (which leads to money-saving). For example, If you know you won’t finish that pot of butternut squash soup before it goes bad, just stick it in the freezer and enjoy it later.
However, there is one problem with freezing your healthy food goods: Not properly packaging and storing the food in the freezer. Improper storage exposes frozen food to air, creating a dry or mealy texture to your food, explains Institute of Culinary Education chef instructor Frank Proto. It can also cause your, let’s say, chicken to turn into a rock hard mass that takes forever to thaw out.
The good news is this problem has a very easy solution! Don’t let those possible problems deter you from taking full advantage of your freezer. With a little know-how, it’s easy to freeze foods and still have them taste great. Here’s your how-to:
Gather The Right Tools
Make your freezing process easy and longer-lasting by starting off with the right storage items:
- Freezer-safe reusable containers with tight-fitting lids. Be sure to match the size to the proportion of food you are looking to freeze. Use smaller containers for packing up individual servings and bigger ones for full-size dishes for the week. Instead of attempting to scrape frozen food out of a container (not easy) to reheat, just choose the heat-friendly container options from the beginning.
- Aluminum foil baking dishes. These are also great for casseroles, especially when you need something disposable.
- Zip-top bags. Because they lay flat, they take up minimal space.
- Plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil. Both are good for adding an extra layer of protection against air, which can help prevent freezer burn.
Pack Your Food the Right Way
Although this may seem self-explanatory, there is no one size fits all tactic for your food. Each dish should be packed in its own specific way to ensure optimal freezing for a good tasting meal later on.
Casseroles: Store them in the dish you plan to bake them in. (If the dish doesn’t come with an airtight lid, wrap the dish tightly in plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil.) Stick them in the freezer uncooked in their freezer safe wrapping, then transfer them straight to the oven when you’re ready to bake.
Proteins: Wrap things like individually cooked chicken breasts tightly in plastic wrap first, followed by a layer of heavy-duty foil. Make sure the only wrapper in this packaging. This ensures that there are no air bubbles in the wrapping to prevent spoiling.
Bread: Store it in the same way that you would store meats. For an extra layer of protection, tuck the wrapped loaf into a large zip-top bag. This will keep it fresh.
Soups and stews: Store them in single-serve freezer-safe containers for quick reheating. Or use a larger container if you’d rather freeze the full batch.
Cooked grains and beans: Make sure to put them each into their own individual containers or tightly zipped, zip top bags. Make sure to note reusable containers are zero-waste, so this may be the better option.
Fresh fruits and vegetables: Lay individual pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to a zip-top bag. Freezing the pieces individually will keep clumps from forming. Fruits can be frozen raw, however, for veggies, blanch them first so they’re already cooked when you defrost them.
Track Your Inventory
To help ensure that you are not wasting food by forgetting it’s in the fridge, track your inventory. Foods can be harder to recognize in their frozen state, especially if your cold box is stocked with lots of different food items. Be sure to:
- Label what the food is.
- Label the date when you stored it. This is very important and helpful! After about three months, even properly stored food will start to lose its texture and flavor. This way you will know to eat it soon.
- Keep a list of what you have. Make a quick note on your phone of what is in your freezer. This way, if you go the grocery store right after work or the gym, you will have your list with you at all times so you know what you have already prepared at home. This way, you can also use it up while it’s still in its prime.
Foods You Should Never Freeze
Although it is convenient, not everything is meant for freezer storage. Freezing causes chemical changes in food, and some foods can’t withstand the freezing temperatures. Steer clear of putting these foods in the freezer.
- Lettuce, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, or other veggies you plan to eat raw
- Apples or citrus fruits
- Whole eggs or egg dishes, like frittatas or quiches
- Milk, yogurt, or soft cheeses
- Creamy sauces
- Cooked pasta
More Pro Tips
You’ve got the basics down, but this next-level knowledge is worth keeping in mind.
- Start with quality food. Stuff that is fresh! Just because you are putting half-rotten food in the freezer doesn’t mean you are preserving it anymore.
- Cool foods completely before freezing them. Sticking still-warm food in your icebox will warm up the whole freezer. This causes the food that is already in the freezer to thaw and eventually refreeze, which ruins its texture.
- Consider freezing individual ingredients. This will give you a head start on meal prep so you have one step complete after a long day of work!