Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Freezer frenzy

I can not help but laugh to myself as I sit down to write this post about freezing food. You see, I spent all morning clearing out our freezer since it stopped working last night. We woke up to a river running through our kitchen to the garage. Isn't it ironic that just last week a friend asked me to do a post about freezing food?! I do not consider myself an expert in this practice at all, but I can tell you some of the things that I do that work for us.

Using the freezer to stock up on food is a great way to save money on your grocery bill. It is so nice to know that I already have staple items on hand to create a meal. On weeks when I know I will be spending more on a particular meal it is nice to be able to pull a ready-made dish out of the freezer, it is like a free meal! Here are a few of my basic tips and tricks.

Tips for storing meat:
  • For Pork loin I cut it into 5 equal portions and wrap each one in plastic wrap. Then I put them all in a couple ziplock freezer bags.
  • For ham I buy the boneless kind. I divide a 4 lb. ham into about 5 meals. I slice some, shave some (sliced VERY thin) for use in Stromboli, and I cube some to use in soups or on a baked potato. I put them all in separate freezer bags and mark them.
  • Hot dogs, sausage, roasts and fish all freeze well in their packaging.
  • Cooked chicken and meat can be frozen as well. I like to do this if I have leftover chicken or sometimes I will cook extra to freeze for another meal. Usually, I will chop it up and put it in a freezer bag. This works great for quesadillas, soups, or salads. BBQ pulled pork freezes also. We like to eat this on a salad with ranch dressing and BBQ sauce drizzled on top.
Tips for storing meals:
  • I buy 8x8in. aluminum pans at the Dollar Tree (they come in packs of 2 or 3). I always keep these on hand because they are great for bringing meals to friends.
  • When I am making a large casserole I usually divide it between 2 pans. I will assemble part of it in a smaller casserole dish for us to eat that night. Then, I will assemble the second half in an aluminum pan. I do not bake it. I wrap it in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil over the top. Sometimes, I will put it in a freezer bag as well. Then, when you want to eat it just place it in the fridge to thaw the night before or morning that you want to bake it. This way we don't eat endless leftovers of a large casserole for a week.
  • Some soups can be frozen. I have learned from experience that potatoes don't freeze well. I have frozen chili and vegetable soups with no problem. I store them in tupperware containers to freeze. Just thaw them out and microwave or heat on the stove. Spaghetti sauce, broth, and gravy can be frozen the same way.
Other things to freeze:
  • I freeze a lot of bread since I shop the bakery clearance rack at Kroger. I just freeze bread in its original packaging. Josh eats bagels every morning and I freeze these as well so they last longer ( I am hyper-sensitive to mold). He takes 2 out and thaws them in the microwave for 30 seconds then toasts them like normal. Sometimes I save bread scraps in a ziplock bag for bread crumbs or croutons.
  • Shredded cheese freezes the best. I have found that cheese slices or blocks of cheese become crumbly after being in the freezer. Kraft Singles freeze great and I started buying these at Sam's Club thanks to a tip from a friend.
  • Josh stores his coffee beans in the freezer.
  • I keep nuts for baking (pecans, walnuts) in the freezer so they don't get rancid.
  • If I make a batch of cookie dough for us I will sometimes scoop half the dough into ice trays and freeze. After an hour or two I pop the dough balls into a ziplock bag. Then when we want fresh baked cookies I pull a few out and place on a cookie sheet to thaw for a few minutes, then bake as normal.
So there you go, hope there are some helpful hints in there. As I mentioned before I have friends that do this much better then me (cooking meals for a month and freezing them). I don't have a separate deep freeze, we just use our kitchen freezer so that limits how much I can freeze at one time. It is amazing how much one little freezer than hold though!

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