Making food to freeze can be a fun and rewarding weekend project. Whether you set aside individual portions for lunches or freeze whole casseroles, nothing beats having meals at the ready for when you’re short on time or want to deliver a home-cooked meal to a friend in need.
Stock up. Stock up on sale items when you see them. It’s easy to rewrap large amounts of meat and store it in the freezer. Just remember to keep tabs on expiration dates.
Organize your recipes. Whether you use a mobile app, an online recipe box (start one on BettyCrocker.com for free) or keep a binder of recipes, you’ll save time by having all your favorites in one place.
Slice and dice. When you get home from the store, clean and dry your fruits and veggies. Cut them up according to your recipes and divide into freezer bags or containers. Remember to date and label the packages.
Meat shortcut. Brown several pounds of ground beef ahead of time and freeze in one-cup portions. These packages are great to take out and sprinkle on pizza, add to spaghetti sauce or layer with mashed potatoes and corn for a quick shepherd’s pie.
Making and Freezing
Cool quickly. Cool items quickly to about 100 °F before freezing to retain the best flavor. The slower food freezes, the larger the ice crystals are, which makes food mushy when thawed.
Safety first. Don’t let perishable foods such as meats, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables stand at room temperature to cool. Instead, place them in the refrigerator before freezing.
Make two, freeze one. Double the recipes of your favorite pasta bakes, casseroles, sauces and stews and freeze an extra batch for later.
Soup scoop. Most broth-based soups freeze well for up to 6 months. So if you’re not freezing your leftover soup already, it’s time to start. To do so, pour soup into freezer containers, leaving ¼- to ½-inch of room at the top (soups expand as they freeze). Soups made with cream may separate after freezing. To freeze this type of soup, skip the cream and add it after reheating thoroughly.
Freeze in portion sizes. For foods you’d like to use in small portions or keep from getting mushy, (think meatballs, rice and berries) spread evenly on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes. This allows for individual freezing and easier-to-manage portion sizes.
Thawing and Enjoying
Second serving of soup. Thick soups become even thicker during storage, so while reheating soups, add a little broth, milk or half-and-half until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Thaw frozen soups overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Freeze it and don’t forget it. Try to eat your freezer meals within three weeks—otherwise, you’re likely to risk freezer burn or worse yet, forgetting all about it. Before baking, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Bake as directed, and add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.
Rules of the thaw. Meat and poultry can be safely frozen twice—once when fresh, and once after cooking. Refrigerate meats to cool quickly, then cut into meal-sized amounts or slices for freezing. Thawed fish and seafood on the other hand, should never be refrozen.