Treat the freezer as an efficient, hardworking storage space and stock it thoughtfully with ingredients and meals.
Like a clean desk, a tidy freezer allows you to scan and locate items quickly. These tips save search time and potential waste.
Bag it. Use resealable quart- and gallon-sized freezer bags to easily portion food and save space. Before sealing, flatten out the bag and remove as much air as possible. This makes the bag uniform for storage, helps stave off freezer burn and makes it easier to thaw the contents.
Square fit. Square containers stack easily and tuck into corners efficiently to fill freezer space.
Foil containers. Use foil containers for items that can go straight to the oven frozen, such as lasagna casseroles or stew
Bin mates. Consider open-top, clear plastic bins for grouping like items, stacking freezer bags upright and corralling odd-shape packages.
Rotate regularly. To avoid forgetting about items buried in the bottom or back of the freezer, rotate food when you add new items. The oldest items should go on top or in front. Label items with the date and contents before storing them.
Six Freezer Favorites
- Green beans: Blanch 3 minutes and cool quickly in ice water. Drain, pat dry and freeze in a single layer on a large tray and then transfer to a resealable freezer bag. Freeze up to 10 months. Remove desired amount and finish cooking in boiling water or the microwave.
- Chili: Cool cooked chili to room temperature. Divide into resealable freezer bags in desired portions sizes of about 1-1/2 cups per serving and freeze up to 2 months.
- Cookie dough: Shape dough into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and place in a resealable freezer bag. Or portion individual dough balls on a baking pan. Freeze. Transfer balls to a resealable freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.
- Hamburger patties: Wrap individual patties in plastic wrap or layer between sheets of waxed paper. Place flat in resealable freezer bags and freeze up to 3 months.
- Mashed potatoes: Place cooled mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes in resealable freezer bags. Press to flatten. Freeze up to 1 month.
- Waffles: Layer cooked waffles between sheets of waxed paper in resealable freezer bags. Freeze up to 2 months. Reheat in a toaster.
Choose from four ways to thaw frozen food safely.
- Go slow. The gentlest way to thaw food is in the refrigerator overnight until thawed. This results in the least change in texture and flavor.
- Zap it. Use the defrost setting on the microwave. Cook the food immediately after thawing.
- Freezer to the oven. If you used a foil pan or bakeware that is freezer safe, take your frozen dish right to the preheated oven. This works well for casseroles.
- Water method. Place freezer bag in a bowl of warm water or under a stream of warm running water.
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