With the increasing pace of modern life, frozen foods have become very popular and often take up more than two isles at your local grocery store. Look at the options, and you’ll find that most of them are versions of our favorite comfort foods. However, along with the convenience often comes a reduction in nutrition.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Did you know that you can create home-made frozen comfort foods?
When you freeze your pre-cooked comfort food, you can prepare it when you have time, freeze it, and then enjoy it when the time is right. Here are a few tips to help you do that.
Know What Not to Freeze
Before you freeze any of your home-cooked comfort foods, make sure you are aware of what you can and can not freeze. Let’s start with the foods that don’t freeze very well. This ensures you aren’t ruining ingredients that could have otherwise have been used for some tasty dishes.
For starters, you should never freeze plain cream-based ingredients, such as milk or sour cream, yogurt, or cottage cheese. These foodstuffs do not defrost well. This goes for cream-based soups, as well.
You also want to avoid certain fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruit, cucumbers, watermelon, and lettuce. Their high water content makes them bad candidates for freezing.
Cooked eggs and uncooked potato chunks also don’t freeze very well. If you want to freeze potatoes, they should either be raw or be mashed.
Learn How Long to Freeze Foods
The next important thing you need to know is the approximate storage time. Most things do have an expiration date even while in the freezer. While the food might not be spoiled, however, it will definitely decrease in quality and flavor if you go past the recommended times.
Food that tends to last the longest in the freezer is uncooked poultry and uncooked wild game, which should be fine for 9-12 months. After that, poultry parts, roast, steak, and other meat that is uncooked will freeze the longest, usually between 3 and 12 months, depending on what it is. Soup, stew, and casserole can be frozen for about 2-3 months. Luncheon meats, hot dogs, bacon, and ham can be frozen for about 1-2 months.
Here’s a handy freezer-time chart. Are your favorite comfort foods (or their ingredients) there?
For more guidelines, download this refrigerator and freezer storage chart from the Food & Drug Administration.
Take Up as Little Space as Possible
If you are freezing a lot of foods and ingredients, you are going to take up too much space in your freezer and run out of room. A better idea is to try to stack freezer bags, which take up a lot less space, but can still be labeled and organized. For example, if you have soup or chili, let it cool off after cooking, then pour it in freezer plastic bags. Let them lay flat, then place them in the freezer. No matter what you store food in, make sure it is labeled not only with what the container contains but the date you froze it.
You can find freezer storage bags in your local grocery store. These bags are thicker than standard plastic bags and often come with space that is treated so that it is easier to write on. That said, I’d still recommend using a permanent marker. Not only will it write more easily on the bag’s surface, but it will also resist rubbing off.