With escalating food prices, who is not looking for ways to save money? Preserving all kinds of produce in jars has become the in-thing. However, you can optimize your freezer and save. Our lives are rushed, but my freezer has become my BFF, and I am saving time and money. Ordering in and eating out are no longer part of our daily routines. Eating out has once again become a treat saved for special occasions.
I never stop experimenting with freezing different products, and have found that following a few basic rules allows me to freeze just about anything, with almost nothing going to waste.
Important facts to note about freezing food
Regardless of what you put in your freezer, keep the following in mind:
- Freezer burn can shorten the freezer life of your produce. A combination of moisture and air causes it. Therefore, it is best to let cooked food cool down completely before you seal it for the freezer. Sealing it while hot will allow steam and air to cause freezer burn.
- Although blanching vegetables is recommended, you can skip this process if you use the frozen produce within 6 to 8 weeks.
- Use freezer grade bags, wrap or foil whenever possible.
- Rinse fresh fruit before freezing, but dry the individual fruits properly before freezing them.
- Your freezer will not kill bacteria but only make them inactive. Thawing will allow bacteria to become active again, so make sure you freeze only fresh products.
- You can freeze food again after thawing it. However, it is safer to avoid that if the products were out of the freezer for more than a couple of hours. Food lose a lot of moisture during thawing, which degrades the quality. From the culinary point of view, refreezing after complete thaw is not recommended.
- Avoid storing food in the freezer for too long. Store-bought frozen produce will show how long you can keep it frozen. Try to use your own frozen products within a couple of months. Although you can keep something like bread frozen for up to 12 months, extended freezing periods do affect the quality.
- Pack your freezer in a way that will allow cold air to flow through.
Can all foods be frozen?
Many articles about freezing foods seem to want to discourage freezing, which turns freezers into white elephants in many kitchens. However, you can optimize your freezer and save money and time. Here are a few things I have learned through experimentation, making my freezer indispensable:
- Some leafy vegetables or herbs disintegrate when you thaw them, others will no longer be crispy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t freeze them. If you are going to cook them anyway, they don’t need to be crispy, right?
- Whenever you cut or chop bell peppers, mushrooms or onions to use in salads, chop a bit extra to freeze. It will save you chopping time the next time you need any of those in cooked meals. I pop mine into freezer bags, and it is easy to break off a piece and drop it into the pot without even defrosting it.
- Some say you can’t freeze raw eggs, but they can be frozen as long as they are out of their shells. Buy extra eggs on special offers, break them into the compartments of ice trays and cover with freezer-thickness plastic. Place the trays in the freezer. Once frozen you can pop them into a freezer bag for use when necessary. It is best to let them thaw naturally before use.
- Some of the things that my experience has taught me not to freeze include boiled eggs because they come out rubbery. Also, schnitzels, chicken strips, and other crumbed foods because the crumbed coating comes off when you thaw them.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Freeze a small portion of anything that you are unsure about — one raw and one cooked sample, or any other forms in which you would use the product. Check it after a couple of days, and make up your own mind.
Buying extra fresh produce in season has allowed me to keep some to eat fresh and freeze the rest to enjoy when they are out of season. With my freezer being my BFF, having friends over for meals is more fun because I spend less time in the kitchen. In part 2 of this blog, I’ll share some of the ways in which I optimize my freezer and save.