Friday, October 26, 2012

9 Baby Steps to Get You Started Freezer Cooking

Let's start this whole freezer cooking thing with very tiny steps. Below are 9 easy ways to stock your freezer. Take it slow. If you do one idea a week, eventually you freezer will be full with items that will make getting meals on the table quicker, easier, cheaper, and healthier. We really can do this!

9 Baby Steps to Get You Started Freezer Cooking:

1.  Peel, chop, and freeze bananas that are too ripe. You can use these in smoothies. You could also peel bananas and freeze them whole to use in banana bread. Bananas will keep in the freezer for upto a year.

Now do NOT just throw the chopped or peeled whole bananas into a Ziploc bag or container and toss them in the freezer because you will end up with one big, hard lump of frozen bananas. You need to flash freeze them. To flash freeze, you need to lay the bananas out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Make sure the cookie sheet will fit in your freezer.

Make sure you get the cookie sheets as flat as possible so that the bananas do not touch each other and freeze together. No need to cover. You are just leaving them in the freezer until they are hard, about 30 minutes. This is called flash freezing. You do this with muffins, pancakes, waffles, chopped onions and green peppers too so that you do not end up with a huge lump. Flash freezing ensures that each item is frozen individually. Below is a picture of some blueberries I was flash freezing; this picture is from my post How to Freeze Blueberries.


2. Chop and freeze onions, peppers, or celery. No blanching (more on this later) is needed for these three vegetables. I chop these and then flash freeze them like I described above so that I do not end up with a huge lump of frozen veggies. You want them to freeze in individual pieces so that you can take the amount you need for a recipe directly out of the freezer and put then into the pan/pot. I particularly like to freeze the peppers from our garden because peppers are so expensive at the grocery store, especially the red and yellow ones. If you freeze peppers and onions, you will always have then ready for stir fry, fajitas, chili, or any other recipe that calls for them. Pepper and celery will last for upto a year in the freezer. Onions are good for upto 6 months.

3. When I can get shredded cheese for $1 to $1.50 a bag by combining sales and coupons, I stock up. Shredded cheese freezes very well and lasts in the freezer for 3-4 months.

I just throw the whole bag in the freezer.  I do no special wrapping. Now, the block cheese tends to crumble when you go to slice it if you have frozen it first.  So I stick with the shredded cheese bags. But you could certainly buy block cheese and shred it yourself and then freeze it. If you do this, add a tablespoon of cornstarch or flour to the bag and shake to prevent the cheese from clumping when it thaws. .this is only if you shread your own cheese. Again, I just but the shredded bags on sale.

4. Milk freezes and I promise it does not change the taste. I wrote a whole post on How to Freeze Milk if you want to give it a try.



And coffee creamers can be frozen too. You can have those specail holiday flavors all year long. You freeze coffee creamers just like you do milk, except I do not even pour any out first. There seems to be plenty of room for expansion in the coffee creamer bottles. I just place the creamer in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator. Just make sure you shake the bottle before each use. 

5. Stick butter freezes well too. The salted butter lasts for up to 3 months in the freezer and the unsalted kind lasts for upto 6 months. Really, nothing ever goes bad in the freezer; items just lose their quality over time. So if you eat butter that has been in the freezer for 12 months, you will not get sick or catch some disease.

6. You have a favorite cookie dough recipe?  You can freeze cookie dough into balls, or in a log for slice and bake cookies, or even in a tub to scoop out of. This is defintiely a time saver, especially for those of you who bake holiday cookies. Just make up your cookie dough. If you are going to do balls, flash freeze them first before putting in a freezer bag. If you are going to make a log, wrap your log in wax paper, then foil, and then put in a freezer bag. If you are going to freeze the dough in a tub, then just make sure it is sealed very tightly. Freezer burn happens when oxygen gets to your frozen food. So the less oxygen you allow in the package, the less chance of freezer burn. Cookie dough will keep up to 6 months in the freezer.

And although they are not as good as homemade cookies, when I can get cookie dough for 50¢-$1 a pack, I buy several and throw them in the freezer for when all the neighborhood kids are at my house.

7. You have a favorite pancake, waffle, or muffin recipe? You can mix the dry ingredients ahead of time and freeze them. And then when you want to make your pancakes, waffles, or muffins, dump the bag from the freezer in a bowl, add your wet ingredients, and cook! This is a time saver. Later this week, I will share one of my favorite pancake recipes.

I have a friend who makes her own oatmeal packets (in little snack size freezer bags) and freezes those. She likes knowing what is in her kids' oatmeal. If you want to give this a try, check out the post over at LifeasMOM titled Making My Own Instant Oatmeal or this one at Centsible Saver titled A DIY Remake for Instant Oatmeal. I have not tried this yet, but want to.

8. Double dinner. Eat half for dinner and freezer the other half. This is called COST cooking, COST stands for Cook Once, Serve Twice. This is a great way to fit freezer cooking into your schedule. I have found that it doesn't take hardly any extra time to double or triple a recipe; it just takes a little preplanning to make sure I have enough ingredients on hand.

Brooke and I did this when we made Corn Flake Chicken. We made one batch for dinner that night and one batch to put in the freezer. You really do not have to have special freezer meal recipes to freezer cook. Many, many of your regular recipes will freeze just fine.



9. Freeze leftovers. I purposely plan for leftovers on meals that I know freeze well. I learned that making a huge crockpot of vegetable soup or a huge crockpot of chicken fajitas and eating it for dinner and then freezing the rest helped me build a "freezer meal" stockpile. Just remember that you do not put hot foods into freezer bags. Wait until they have cooled.

So what one baby step are you going to begin with? What one idea are you going to try? I'd love to know!! And if you have a baby step that would help others get started freezer cooking, I'd love to hear it!! Cause then I could make my list an even 10 Baby Steps.
 

I am sharing this post at some of my favorite Linky Parties: Serenity Now, Tatertots and Jello

4 comments:

  1. I will do the flash freeze thing with onions, peppers and celery. Great idea. Hey, a few years ago I started using a food saver. I got it for Christmas. It sucks out the air and vacuum packs things. Many items come in sealable plastic already, like chips, cookies, chocolate chips, cereal...etc. I use it all the time and it saves so much money. You can buy plastic tubes to seal food, and I do that some, but I use original packaging most of the time. My food Saver and my blender have counter privileges because I use them all the time. -Carla

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  2. I use most of these tips sporadically already, but I am hoping to use freezer cooking to help smooth out my holiday season. I am planning to double up on ingredients (COST cooking) for my family's favorite meals over the next two-three weeks, which should leave me for a reliable stash of quick go-to meals when the holidays get hectic.

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  3. HI Su! I had a recipe last night that called for just a little bit of onion. Instead of putting the rest of the onion in a zippy bag to rot in the back of the refridgerator like I usually do, I thought about your post. So I chopped and flash froze the onion so it will be ready for my Thanksgiving stuffing next week. It will save me some money AND time. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. So exciting! Baby steps. We can do this! Thanks for letting me know. Your comment made me smile.

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