Freezing foods is a great way to save money, avoid food waste, and cut down on unnecessary trips to the grocery store. Truth be told, most foods can be frozen if done so correctly and it can even be fun.
This is really important now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we want to limit our trips to the grocery store, save money, and preserve healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
Why Should you be freezing food?
The temperature inside a freezer is considered bacteriostatic, meaning that it inhibits the growth and metabolism of bacteria responsible for food spoilage. Without the presence of these harmful microbes, food can be preserved for weeks and even months. All kinds of dishes can be frozen from casseroles and soups to bread and produce. The trick is having the right freezing techniques to maximize usefulness and to maintain optimal taste.
Although freezing food inactivates any bacteria, mold, or yeast, an important note to remember is that once thawed, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under certain conditions that can still cause food borne illness.
Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
The best and easiest healthy foods to preserve in the freezer are fruits and starchy vegetables. Produce such as strawberries, mangos, peaches, papaya, peas, carrots, corn, broccoli, cauliflower can be preserved for weeks and even months. Frozen fruits and vegetables are useful for making smoothies, soups, stir-fries, fried rice, puree’s, and countless other recipes.
Leafy vegetables such as salad greens don’t always do well in the cold and may change in consistency when thawed. Most people find that zip-lock bags are ideal than plastic containers for freezing produce, but it’s really a matter of choice.
Portion sizes matter here since foods cannot be re-frozen once they are thawed out. Meats should be divided into discrete portions that are likely to be needed when preparing meals. For example, it is unlikely that you will use 10 lbs of ground beef in a single meal. A better option is to split it into ten 1 lbs portions or five 2 lbs portions before putting it in the freezer. This way you can use these portions as needed without compromising the rest.
This can be done in large “family size” portions as well as “one meal” portions. It is ideal for those individuals with busy schedules that like to plan ahead their meals. This can include large meals like casseroles, lasagna, and pizza as well as smaller ones like pot pie, chicken fried rice, burritos, you name it.
Freezing foods ahead of time is also a great tool for those who are trying to manage their nutrition, control caloric intake, and make sure that meals are well-balanced. By planning ahead you can ensure that they contain adequate amounts of macronutrients like carbohydrate, protein, and fat but also plenty of fiber from plant sources. The convenience of frozen meals will also reduce the tendency to order out and give in to unhealthy cravings.
Few Extra Tips
- Always label foods with the date they were preserved. This will decide which foods should be eaten first and which are at a greater risk of freezer burn.
- Containers matter. Consider the thawing out process of the food being frozen. Lasagna, for example, will likely need to go in the oven for thawing and cooking. So the best choice here is probably an aluminum tray and not a plastic contained or zip-lock bag.
- Freeze produce while it is at its prime.
- Ellis, E. (n.d.). Frozen Foods: Convenient and Nutritious. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/smart-shopping/frozen-foods-convenient-and-nutritious