Freezing food is a great way to preserve and store food for my family. While it’s not my first choice in food preserving it does have it’s place in our home. We actually have 2 freezers here. One in the kitchen and this is where I store all kinds of short term items. The kitchen freezer is convenient and frost free making it perfect for this kind of use.
Freezing of any item is first done in the kitchen freezer then moved all at once to the big freezer for things like meats, this way I open and close it once. Also the kitchen freezer is smaller so it takes less energy and time to adjust itself in temperature changes. Every time the door is opened and non frozen food is added it affects the temperature of the entire freezer. Not a huge deal but over time it will effect the quality of all the food in there.
The other is our large freezer in the cellar and this is for long term storage. It isn’t a frost free model so I try to open it as little as possible. Mostly this is where meat and large quantities of any thing is kept. Another trick to keep the frost building up in the big freezer is to dry the outside of packages before they go into the freezer.
Most food I would rather can or dehydrate. Canning and dehydrating doesn’t take up freezer space and I don’t have to worry should the power go out, they are safe…But the time, energy and mess needed to can one or two jars doesn’t make sense to me and I will freeze these.
I like to use glass canning jars and lids in the freezer but they are bulky and take up a lot of unused space if not completely full. My next favorite choice is the food saver which vacuum seals the bags and then the zip top bags made for the freezer.
While I like to cook I don’t want to be spending all my time in the kitchen and I often will make extra of what I am cooking for the times when I would rather be doing something else. I also would rather make the mess of cooking less often than several times a day.
Some things I have found that freeze well and cook/recook well are:
Cookie dough & Brownie mix– peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal. When I make a batch of cookie dough to bake cookies I will double or triple the batch & roll the extra into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen store in a zip top bag. When ready to bake I will take them out and place the frozen balls on a cookie sheet to thaw, then bake.
For brownies, I will line the baking pan with wax paper, pour in the batter and freeze. When frozen remove from the pan and wrap well. When I’m ready to bake, I peel off the wax paper put back in the right size pan, defrost to room temp. and bake as usual.
Baked cookies and brownies freeze well and defrost just fine for lunches. I toss them frozen into wax baggies and by lunch time they are ready to eat.
Banana bread & quick breads-as part of my daily keeping track of things when I see the bananas getting old beyond the stage where my family will eat them, I will set them aside until they are black-good and black, they are best this way for bread. Then peel them and place 4 into zip top bags and freeze them. When I have enough to make several loaves of bread or pans of muffins I will make the bread or muffins. The extra baked loaves or muffins I freeze for a quick snack or dessert. Bananas on the reduced rack for quick sale always come home with me to be frozen.
Pureed pumpkin in portions to bake loaves of bread is also a quick help.
Bread dough-When making bread dough for our weekly bread I will also make enough to freeze for a quick loaf as well as pre-baked loaves, rolls and dough balls for fried dough.
pizza crust is a favorite around here, I keep several sizes from mini to super size. Freeze flat and there is no need to defrost them first.
Pie fillings & crust-apples, peaches, strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries and others freeze very well. I know that my pottery pie plates hold about 3 cups of filling. I will freeze that amount and take out a bag when ready to make a pie. Pre-rolled pie crust also freezes well.
Sometimes I also freeze pies right in their pie plates, let defrost and bake when needed.
Cake & cookie frosting- small amounts freeze well for a quick frosting and sometimes entire batches, enough to frost a cake. Take from freezer about 4 hours before you will need it, let it defrost, a quick whip and I’m all set.
Soups & stews-After eating the leftovers for a day our family has had enough and I freeze the rest in small zip top bags enough for a quick bowl heated in the microwave for a quick lunch. Also I will freeze individual portions in travel bowls. I toss them frozen into lunch bags and by the time lunch rolls around they are ready to be heated.
Also lasagna, pizza, pizza pockets…
Spaghetti & pizza sauce-Some times I know I won’t be using the entire jar and I will use what I need and freeze the rest in a zip top bag. I will seal the bag and lay it flat on a plate. I use my finger to draw lines through the sauce leaving a space where there is no sauce. When frozen I can take it off the plate. This divides it into portions for me. Next time I need a small amount of sauce I can break off a piece and thaw it in a bowl leaving the rest frozen.
French toast & pancakes– I always seem to have left over batter when I cook these. I’ll cook up the extra and freeze them. They heat well in the toaster and are nice to toss into lunches on the go.
Soup stock-I save all the peelings and tops from the vegetables(wash them well first), meat bones and store them frozen in bags until ready to make stock. As I get more I just keep adding to the same bag. The stock I will can or like the spaghetti sauce portion it out for quick bits of stock while cooking. Sometimes I will freeze the stock in ice cube trays and store the cubes.
Meats– cooked, diced up chicken and turkey for quick salads.
Hamburg & meatballs for quick tacos or tossed into baked beans. When I find hamburge on sale I will cook 5 pounds and divide it into 6 bags, no one notices and I have gained an extra meals worth meat. Meatballs I cook in the oven and freeze on cookie sheets and store in large bags, this way I can use a few at a time.
Steaks, chicken needing marinating I will put meal size portions into a bowl add the marinade and freeze, then take out of the bowl, seal in a vacuum bag. It marinates perfectly while it is defrosting.
Cheese & butter– blocks, slices and shredded. I am known to purchase 30 pounds at time when they are on sale. Frozen in large and small portions.
Berries and veggies-berries such as strawberries all sliced and tossed with sugar. Whole blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are great tossed into pancakes, bread mix or smoothies.
That extra little bit of cooked veggies for soup later or for stock cooking. I toss all of these into one large bag. I also save the water the veggies were cooked in a separate bag or jar for adding to my stock while cooking. The water contain the nutrients and flavoring of the veggie it was cooked in, don’t dump it down the drain, it’s good stuff. When cooking veggies in water only use the amount needed to cook them, this way it will be concentrated and have more flavor.
Uncooked veggies will need to be blanched before freezing.
Rice & pasta -Cook long grain rice as usual, allow to cool to room temperature and chill if fridge until cold then freeze. This way the rice won’t be mushy when you reheat it.
Cook pasta until done, cool and allow to dry before putting in freezer bags.
Eggs-I freeze eggs when there is an abundance of them like when they are on sale or if I trade for more than I know I will use in a week or two. I crack open the eggs and beat with a fork until just blended, 2 eggs at a time in a glass. I fill muffin tins and freeze then put the frozen eggs into a zip top bag. Thaw in refrigerator. (I also save and process the shells.)
Herbs & spices-when bought in bulk or harvested from the garden are stored in glass jars. Some are dried first and others like fresh chives and rosemary are frozen as is.
Knowing what’s in your freezer is an important step in reducing the waste of food you worked hard to grow, or buy. I keep a clip board hung on the side with a magnet and a pencil on a string tied to it. With a little practice it’s easy to remember to add and subtract, and a quick glance you will know what’s in there without opening the door and you shouldn’t have mystery packages way at the bottom…
It’s also important to label each jar and bag with it’s contents and the date it was put in there.
Frozen food needs to be stored at 0°F. I keep a thermometer in my freezers. I have even seen some where the probe in inside the freezer and the read out is outside, I would like one of these some day. One less reason to open the doors. Another quick way to check is to see if the ice cream is solid, if not it’s to warm.
Here is a nice link with plenty of good information and at the bottom are charts to quickly tell you how long you can store something frozen. I printed these charts out and added them to my house hold note book and also added a copy to my freezer inventory clip board.