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Freezer food do's and don'ts: share tips and tricks for stocking your freezer.
When it comes to preparing meals, my freezer is a true hero! It's useful those weeks when I don't have time to prepare anything new. It's often part of Plan A, but when life begins, it's almost always my Plan B.
There are so many questions when it comes to freezer meals.
Is it safe to freeze?
Will that get soft?
Will it turn brown?
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What containers should I use?
So today, I am answering all of your freezer meal questions and giving you what should and should not be done with freezer meals.
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Part of my TruLocal order from February 2019
Do: stock the freezer with healthy ingredients
Having healthy meats and vegetables in the freezer means that when I hit Plan B, I'm looking for something healthy!
Here are some of my favorite healthy ingredients to stock up on:
- TruLocal Meats – I supply once a month with these high quality local meats. TruLocal delivers it directly to my door and I'm ready for the month! * This is available only to Canadian residents. Use the code DENISE7297 for $ 25 off your first box! I recommend my friends from the USA. USA Have a look at Butcher Box! I can't personally endorse a product I haven't tried, but my friend Natalie has written a great post about them here!
- Frozen vegetables- My favorites are frozen brussels sprouts (you can grill them frozen!), peas (kids love it), cauliflower, and spinach. And I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a bag of sweet potato fries in my freezer at all times 😉
- Frozen fruit- I always have a ton of frozen fruit on hand. I add them to my steel-cut oatmeal, overnight oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and smoothies
Bottom shelf: my hideaway for lunch (mostly leftovers, spread over rice)
Do: Freeze Leftovers
One of my favorite ways to “prepare meals” is to make a large batch of something, spread it out with rice, and freeze it in individual servings… I call this my lunch stash! When I don't have time to prepare food, I defrost a portion of lunch and have a healthy meal waiting for me.
Some vegetables like broccoli need to be blanched before freezing
No: Freeze the wrong ingredients.
We've all been there … pulling something out of the freezer and it's no longer * the same *. Certain ingredients simply survive the freeze / thaw process better than others.
Ingredients on my "don't freeze" list?
- yogurt (although coconut yogurt is fine!)
- aqueous products (zucchini, raw tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, green beans, fresh herbs, oranges)
- raw mushrooms
- raw potatoes (sometimes works on meals in the freezer slow cooker)
- roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini (become slimy)
Meatballs freeze amazingly well! Freeze on a baking sheet before serving. Read more here.
Do: Freeze the correct ingredients
Well duh, I think we all want to freeze the right ingredients … but what are they?
Here are some of my favorite freezing ingredients and recipes:
- sauteed (in portions with rice)
- fried rice
- curry (portioned with rice)
- lasagna (cooked or assembled and uncooked)
- cooked rice
- cooked beans
- Cooked corn
- blackberries frecas
- fresh herbs, chopped and stored in olive oil (in an ice cube tray)
- quick breads
- pasta sauce
- chicken + marinade
- breakfast sandwiches
- breakfast burritos
- steel cut oats
Pictured: bag holder and freezer bag for my Smoky Turkey Chili
Do: use the right equipment
When it comes to freezer meals, you don't want to skimp on cheap equipment… chances are you will regret it.
For freezer meals, my toolkit includes:
Canning jars are perfectly safe to freeze. More information below.
No: be afraid to freeze the glass.
If you have good quality glass food prep containers or high quality canning jars it is perfectly safe to freeze them. You can also freeze in mason jars!
I hate the amount of disposable aluminum foil and plastic involved in freezer meals and just wanted to share that glass containers are perfectly safe to freeze (as long as the manufacturer's directions say so).
- never freeze in jars that are not canned (i.e. old jars of pasta sauce). Save them for storage in the pantry!
- fill jars no more than 3/4 and leave lids ajar until completely frozen
- never put jars or containers in the freezer while it is still hot / hot
- Find more plastic freezer storage ideas here!
In the picture: chicken marinade freezer.
No: re-freeze previously frozen food
Never freeze / thaw an ingredient more than once.
Let me clarify on this:
- If you defrost the chicken to put in a saucepan and freeze it before baking (the chicken is still raw), this is a no-no.
- If you are defrosting the chicken to put it in a saucepan, baking the saucepan and then freezing (the chicken is cooked), this is perfectly fine.
Makes sense? A more obvious example: put the chicken in a marinade in the freezer or in the food in the freezer cooking pot: Assemble all the ingredients, add the * frozen chicken * at the end and put it back in the freezer as soon as possible.
Tip: If you buy meat or seafood, make sure it doesn't say "pre-frozen" because you don't want to re-freeze it.
Please ask me to clarify if this doesn't make sense!
Tips for freezing food: lightning round!
1. How to avoid freezer burns:
- squeeze as much air out of the bags as possible
- cool completely before storing in the freezer
- 2 layers: wrap in a layer of parchment or plastic and store in a larger container or reusable bag
- consume within 1-3 months
- Label everything with the recipe name, date, and cooking instructions
- Freeze bags flat, then upright in a container or binder
- use large containers to organize based on contents: frozen meats, freezer cookers, soups, snacks, etc.
- eat within 3 months (this is more for food quality than actual food security)
- never put freezer glass directly into the oven, it may break
- never refreeze foods that have been previously thawed
- slow cooker: thaw completely before cooking or risk food poisoning
- Instant pot and oven – can often be cooked frozen; see instructions in recipes. Take a look at this guide to learn how to cook frozen in your instant pot
Your questions about freezer food:
Do you have a question that you haven't answered? Just ask in the comments and I'll update the post to answer it!
I'd like to know if it's okay to freeze individual meals in the freezer after cooking. I have frozen some that look good and some that taste awful.
Yes, you can definitely freeze meals into individual servings after cooking, but choosing the right type of food is important. I like to choose anything with sauce and spread it with rice or quinoa. Other good options: soups and stews, as well as stews. Check out my favorite freezer meal recipes!
Can you freeze the rice?
-Yes, you can freeze rice! The important thing with rice is making sure it doesn't settle at room temperature for long periods of time. Cook it, chill it, and put it in the freezer as quickly as possible. To defrost, you can leave it in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave or in a pan. When I was trying these 7 easy rice recipes, almost all of them froze at one point or another 😉
If I unfreeze something and then decide that I don't want to use it anymore, can I refreeze it?
Never freeze something that has already frozen! When you buy meat or seafood at the supermarket, make sure it doesn't say "previously frozen."
How do I avoid burning the freezer without using a large amount of plastic wrap?
-I have been successful using parchment: I wrap the items in parchment and then put them in a larger container or storage bag.
I have heard mixed information about freezing potatoes. Can you clarify that?
-Here is my experience with potatoes:
- freezing raw potatoes (leaving them whole) works great (I do this with my slow cook Tuscan chicken stew all the time!)
- freezing cooked and cut raw white potatoes does not work well (they turn brown and have a strange texture)
- freezing cooked and cut raw white potatoes topped with some kind of sauce (like my Portuguese freezer chicken oven) works well
I think the key is to avoid exposing the cut part of the potato to the air!
Will glass containers break if they freeze too much?
-in my experience, no. The risk of breaking glass containers is if you change temperatures too quickly (such as freezing something hot or transferring frozen containers to the oven without thawing). Or if you don't leave enough room for expansion in a jar (I also leave the lids loose until it's completely frozen).
Always be sure to use durable glass containers for freezing… check the manufacturer's instructions and never reuse jars that are not meant to freeze (ie pasta jars)
How long can I leave items in the freezer without affecting the taste?
-First, the flavor will almost always be influenced to some extent by freezing, so you may want to slightly lower your expectations. With that said, I have found that my freezer meals taste best within 3 months of freezing. After 3 months, the freezer burn begins to crawl.
Freezer meals may be an exception to this rule. I always advise consuming within 3 months, but I'll be honest: I've had crockpot meals in the freezer that were a year old and I couldn't try it in any way. Since it is being cooked for the first time after defrosting, they are more flexible (in my opinion).
Another exception to this rule is if you use a food protector to vacuum seal fish or other meats. This keeps them fresh for so long! A year at least.
That involves what should and should not be done on frozen meals! Hope this has been helpful!
freezer do what recipe