On November 3, 2011 by Erin Fullam
Here at Once a Month Meals we tend to make our own rules and break a few others when it comes to freezing food. There are a few basic guidelines to follow but we like to twist a few of the rules when it comes to our menus. Feel free to share in the comments as well your tips and tricks for freezing!
Two for one sales on your favorite berries have you sad because you don’t know if you’ll go through them all? How about some great deals on seasonal fruits like mangoes that you want to enjoy all year without the price tag? All fruit can be frozen! Prior to freezing, wash properly, dry and divide into easy portions. This way you can just take out of the freezer what you need for a recipe without worrying about the entire bag.
If properly stored, fruit can last up to a year in your freezer. If you are going to use it in a smoothie, it can be frozen. It’s going to get blended smooth anyway so texture is not an issue. Berries of all kinds, bananas, apples, oranges, pineapple, kiwi, mango, peaches and nectarines, cherries, you name it, you can freeze it! Flash freezing is also helpful so you don’t get big chunks of fruit stuck together.
Stop letting those last corn cobs or tomatoes on the vine go to waste! You can freeze most vegetables! Prior to freezing, wash properly, separate if applicable, and dry. Blanching most vegetables will keep them at their peak. (Blanching means dropping the vegetables into boiling hot water, then immediately into ice water then drying.) Here’s a helpful chart that shows vegetable blanching times.
Dry and divide into easy portions. This way you can just take out of the freezer what you need for a recipe without worrying about the entire bag.
If properly stored, vegetables can last up to a year in your freezer. Here are a few of our posts on how can freeze onions, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and corn. Leafy greens such as spinach, chard and kale can also be frozen. Just chop and blanch and store. You can even put them in ice cube trays for easy portions for stews and soups.
Dairy is one of the sections in the store where you can really buy in bulk and take advantage of your freezer space. You can freeze milk (even in the jug, just pour a little out on top for expansion purposes), cheese of any kind (just slice, shred or cube before freezing so it won’t crumble), cream cheese, and even yogurt. Eggs can also be frozen raw or cooked. You cannot freeze them in the shell, but simply crack them and place in a freezer safe container. You can even use an old ice cube tray to freeze egg whites or egg yolks separated for certain recipes. Eggs can freeze up to a year.
We also like play the rebel in this category quite a bit, especially with sour cream and cream cheese. We have quite a few dishes that are heavy in the cream department that make it onto our Once A Month Meals menus. Yes, sour cream and cream cheese are notorious for separating or becoming crumbly when frozen and reheated; however, it is our experience that this can be tempered a bit. If you reheat the dish slowly and stir regularly it will most likely return to nearly its original state. Now these recipes are not going to be winning awards for food presentation, but they are going to be good.
All meats can be frozen cooked or uncooked. It is best to remove the meat from the store packaging and place it into a freezer bag or package it with your Foodsaver. Thawing in your refrigerator is best because if you don’t use it, you can refreeze it. If you thaw using other methods, you MUST cook the meat before refreezing. Here’s a great post on how to utilize some of the big meat sales you have in your market often. Ground beef/turkey/chicken can be found on sale in bulk often too. One of our favorite tricks is to cook the meat, then package in portions, and freeze for later use or a quick fix meal night.
All of our Once A Month Meals baking favorites you find on the site can be frozen. We recommend flash freezing most of the smaller baked items for better storage. You simply need to store them properly and you will have no problem enjoying your favorites! Even pancakes and french toast can be made ahead of time in larger batches and frozen individually for you to enjoy any day of the week. Tortillas are another item you can buy ahead of time or make and freeze. Just simply place parchment in between so you can easily remove them after thawing. In addition, you can freeze the batter/dough before cooking the items. Here are some items that can be frozen before ever hitting the oven:
- Pizza dough – Rise, and knead according to directions. At the point you would bake, simply allow to sit in refrigerator several hours before freezing to slow the yeast and then wrap appropriately and freeze.
- Pie dough – Prepare as usual, wrap and freeze. You may also choose to make the entire pie and freeze it uncooked. Simply remove from the freezer go straight to the oven (although be certain to not use a glass pie pan if doing this) and bake for 1.5 times the amount indicated.
- Batter – Whether it is pancake, waffle or muffin, you can freeze it after mixing and before baking. Just put it in a freezer container, leave enough head space, etc. When you defrost just make sure to do so slowly in your refrigerator allowing enough time to properly defrost.
This is where we break the rules a bit. Many resources will tell you not to freeze pasta. This simply isn’t true. Yes, if you boil the pasta too long before freezing it has a tendency to turn mushy when frozen. Instead, cook the pasta al dente (basically take 2-3 minutes off the suggested cooking time). This will allow the pasta to be slightly undercooked and more chance to cook a bit more when added to a dish. Furthermore, drain the pasta and then douse it with cold water. This will cool the pasta off and further stop the cooking process.Now you can add it to your dish or freeze it for an evening that you just don’t have an extra 15 minutes to boil pasta.
Also, we commonly freeze pasta salad as well. Our best suggestion for doing this is to make sure you cook the pasta al dente but that you also freeze the “dressing” or liquid ingredients separate from the pasta mix and simply mix before serving. This will keep your pasta from absorbing too much of the liquid and becoming mushy during the freezer process.
Also an item commonly thought not to freeze well. Yes, it does have a tendency to get crumbly when frozen and reheated but not so much when it is added to a dish. Also, like pasta, if you leave the rice slightly undercooked it will do better when defrosting and reheating. However, you can also freeze individual servings of rice and they will come out just fine. Again, just remember to under cook it a bit.
Don’t fret about your garden herbs going to waste! The easiest way to freeze your fresh herbs is to put them in ice cube trays with a small amount of water. Once frozen store them in a freezer safe bag or Foodsaver them and they are portioned for your use all year!
Do you have limited pantry space? You can freeze most of your baking goods! Nuts store very well in the freezer and are actually preferred because their natural oils can go bad. Chocolate chips, chocolate bars, etc can all be stored properly in the freezer. Flours, sugars, and other dry goods don’t necessarily have to be stored in the freezer, but in humid months and humid climates it can be beneficial so they last longer. You can even store evaporated milk, condensed milk, shredded coconut or tiny marshmallows that you use on your holiday dishes.
Roast chicken not only makes your house smell divine, but it’s a dish that serves you more than once. After you’ve picked the roast to pieces, place the carcass into your slow cooker, along with a few herbs and mirepoix (the holy trinity of cooking – onions, celery and carrots), then cover with water and let cook for about 8 hours. Strain and then you can place it into portioned bags and freeze. Or you can let it sit in a bowl in your refrigerator overnight to skim the fat, then portion into bags and freeze. The same can be done for beef, veal or vegetable broth. You can also freeze soups that you have either made or if you only use a portion of a can of storebought, dump the remainder in a bag and freeze it.
Most sauces can be frozen if stored properly in the freezer. It’s best to let them cool, then portion into freezer bags. Lay them flat in your freezer for optimal storage space!
I wouldn’t be a Once a Month Meals writer if I didn’t mention full meals would I? We have such a variety of menus on our site, we promise you’ll find something that you want to enjoy! We tend to push the freezing envelope with full meals. We freeze pasta and even dishes with cream cheese. We keep you covered though with thorough instructions to thaw and cook your dishes. Please read the recipes carefully and the freezing directions to avoid any issues.
In general, we think through all of our recipes and whether we think that they will work for your freezer. Occasionally we have a recipe or two that works really well on testing but not so well for readers; however, overall if you see a recipe on a Once a Month Meals menu you can rest assured that we confidently placed it there. We will write in another post the process that a menu goes through to come to light so that you can also gain more confidence in the recipes that we choose.
As always if you have a recipe you are questionable about freezing or have concerns, please feel free to contact us at info @ onceamonthmeals.com and we’ll be happy to review with you!
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