From cancer patients and survivors to their caregivers and loved ones, the freezer is an incredibly useful apparatus for stockpiling nutritious meals. For those undergoing cancer treatments, freezing meals for days where treatment has left you tired can help ensure that you have a healthy, wholesome meal even if you’re too fatigued to cook.
Keeping ingredients like vegetables and fruit in the freezer is also a great idea, as they maintain their nutritional benefits without leaving you worried about spoilage, and can be quickly added to recipes and meals.
Correctly freezing foods is the key to ensuring your frozen food stays fresh and freezer-burn-free.
What can you freeze?
Meat, fruits, vegetables, and grains will freeze well, so making your own frozen ready-meals is ideal to save money and avoid unnecessary additives. Although most items can be frozen, there are some exceptions including whole eggs and canned food. Once out of the can, however, things like tomatoes and beans can be frozen as well.
Some foods like cream sauces are safe to freeze but will lose some of their quality when defrosted. Soft herbs like basil, mint, tarragon, and parsley also don’t hold up well when frozen, but you can freeze them chopped and mixed with olive oil, like in this simple pesto. Preserving them this way will help keep their color and bring their summery flavor to veggies soups and stews all year round.
Fresh berries tend to clump together when frozen, so to avoid a frozen berry block, first freeze them on a baking sheet in a single layer and then toss them in a bag and refreeze.
How long can I store foods in the freezer?
The length of time depends on the food. Grain products like bread or cakes will usually last up to 3 months in the freezer. Frozen fruits and vegetables are safe to store for up to a year. Meat and leftovers should be frozen for no more than 3-4 months.
Defrosting frozen foods
Many foods, like fruits and vegetables, soup, stews, and thin cuts of meat can be cooked from frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies actually keep more of their nutrients when cooked from frozen and have no need to be thawed first. Cooking to defrost an item should begin at low heat, then gradually increased. It’s a good idea to add a 1/4 cup of cold water to soups and stews to make steam which helps the defrosting process.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that frozen foods are fully cooked and that all components reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving. It is not safe to cook large joints of meat or chicken breasts from frozen. These should be defrosted in the fridge before cooking. This thawing process can take overnight or longer for a large piece of meat or whole chicken, so allow yourself time. If you forget to put items like single chicken breasts or other smaller cuts of meat in the fridge overnight to thaw, you can thaw them under cold running water, but remember to never use hot water to avoid possible food-borne illness risks.
When it comes to defrosting when in doubt, be on the safe side and thaw foods in the fridge before cooking.
Top tips for freezing foods
- Freeze foods in small portions. It’s more convenient as it will save time when defrosting and cut down on waste.
- Always label packages with the name of the food and the date it was frozen, as foods will eventually go off in the freezer. If in doubt – throw it out!
- Let cooked food cool before freezing. Once the food has stopped producing steam, it is safe to freeze. Avoid leaving food out on the counter for longer than necessary, as this allows bacteria to grow and may cause food poisoning.
- Wrap your foods well to prevent freezer burn. Squeeze air from bags before sealing. Remember that liquids will expand when frozen, so leave some room in food containers for this.
Watch Ann show you the perfect way to freeze and defrost your food >>