The freezer is the most useful kitchen apparatus for cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. Freezing meals for those days where treatment has left you tired will ensure that you have a healthy, wholesome meal just when you need it. Keeping ingredients like vegetables in the freezer is also a great idea, as they maintain their nutritional benefits without you having to worry about spoilage, and can be quickly added to recipes and meals.
Correctly freezing foods is the key to ensuring you will want to eat the defrosted end product.
What Can You Freeze?
Meat, fruits and 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, however canned foods can be frozen once out of the can, think tomatoes and beans. Some foods although safe to freeze will lose quality when defrosted for example cream sauces. 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 into a simple pesto. This way they will keep their color and bring their summery flavor to veggies soups and stews year round. Fresh berries tend to clump together when frozen, so for an easy fix, freeze them on a baking sheet in a single layer then bag them.
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 a low heat, then gradually increased. It’s a good idea to add 1/4 cup of cold water to soups and stews. It makes steam which helps the defrosting process along. 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 body of the fridge before cooking, which can take overnight or longer for a large piece of meat or whole chicken, so allow yourself time. And if you forget to put them in the fridge to thaw, single chicken breasts and other smaller cuts of meat can be thawed under cold running water, but never hot.
Basically when it comes to defrosting, when doubt, to be on the safe side 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 food has stopped producing steam, it is safe to freeze. Avoid leaving it sitting out on the counter for longer than necessary, as this allows bacteria to grow and may cause food poisoning.
- Wrap your foods well, which will help 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.
Check out our Bag ‘n Freeze video, where founder of Cook For Your Life Ann Ogden-Gaffney demonstrates the perfect way to freeze and defrost your foods. Enjoy!