Your kitchen freezer is probably the home of an ice cream tub and a few freezer meals, but you may want to maximize its use for a little bit more. The freezer is an essential tool for preserving food and keeping plenty of supplies around so you are always ready to cook a delicious meal from scratch. Different foods require different levels of preparation before freezing, so it is important to know how to freeze food items for home use.
Most foods are best preserved when stored in airtight packaging. For meats, this will be pretty simple since most are already packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic. Other foods, such as vegetables, will require a little more work. BPA-free plastic is the best option for preserving food, because plastic stands up well to dramatic temperature changes and long-term freezing. If possible, invest in a good vacuum-sealer, which will allow you to individually freeze portions of meat, vegetables and fruit.
For liquid items such as soups and sauces, an airtight plastic container is your best bet. Look for plastic preserving jars and bins to store meal-size portions of food. Leftovers that will be eaten within the month can be stored in regular plastic containers, since you won’t need to keep them in the deep freeze for long periods of time.
Vegetables and fruit probably require the most preparation of any frozen goods. To store fruits, first freeze the fruit pieces individually on trays covered in freezer paper. This way, they won’t freeze to each other in the packaging. Often, juices in fruits will cause them to stick together in large bricks, rather than individual servings, so it is worth the extra time to lay them out on trays before you put them in the freezer bag together.
Vegetables are best frozen after being partially cooked. Blanch your vegetables in boiling water for just a couple of minutes, then pour them in a bucket of ice water to stop the cooking process. After they are chilled, spread them out on trays covered with parchment paper and freeze them in this configuration before placing them in freezer bags. Like fruits, vegetables are less likely to clump together in the freezer if you first freeze them on trays.
Leftovers and cooked foods can be stored in freezer bags or plastic containers. Remember to let your food items cool before you store them in the freezer. If you freeze hot food items right away, you can sacrifice some flavor in the rapid cooling process. For items frozen in freezer bags, it is best to lay the bag flat for freezing. This way, you can stand the bag upright when the soup or sauce is frozen solid and maximize freezer space.
Generally, you should mark all containers with the date and food item stored inside. It can be hard to tell spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce apart after they have been frozen a while, so proper labeling can make a big difference. Plus, you will know what to use first when the date is clearly scribbled on the outside.