Freezer Food Storage
Make the Most of Your Freezer
By Brenda Robertson Dennis
Remembering to freeze foods before they go bad and learning to make big batches of your favorite freezer-friendly dishes to put up and enjoy later can help you slash your grocery budget and make meal time less stressful.
The best place to start any good freezer plan is by learning a little about food safety. There are many resources available on the Internet that explain what products can be frozen and for how long. One excellent source of information is the Clemson University Cooperative Extension website. Their comprehensive list shows recommended times for both refrigerator and freezer food storage that break down by food group. What is particularly nice about their list is that it goes into a lot of detail. For example, it might be important to know that haddock and trout fish can last up to six months in the freezer, whereas salmon and tuna can only be frozen for up to three months. Most freezer guides don’t get that specific. The most important safety advice that Clemson gives is to avoid bacterial contamination by keeping hands, refrigerator, freezer and all storage containers clean as a whistle.
The next important step in freezing is learning how to select good quality food to begin with. Here the rules can be a bit confusing. Here is a good guideline:
Sell-by-Date: This is the last recommended day of sale, but still allows for home storage and use. This often applies to breads and baked goods.
Use-by-Date: Tells how long the product will retain top quality after you buy it.
Expiration Date: This is the last day the product should be used or eaten. Products such as eggs have expiration dates.
Pack Date: Canned or packaged foods may have dates that tell you when the product was processed. This does not tell how long the food will be good.
Finally, here are a few smart tips that will save you money on your grocery bill.
- Buy freezable foods in bulk.
- Divide and freeze bulk products into portion sizes.
- Divide dry bulk foods into portion sizes and keep them conveniently located.
- Cook several meals at once for ready-made dinners.
- Set up a food tracking system. Knowing the typical cycle of of your food will help you plan ahead for sales on your favorite products.
- Use what you have.
- Plan your meals.
- Buy produce in season.
Making a freezer plan can be a little work but can produce great results. Have fun with it by getting the whole family involved. It can be even be a great way to teach your children about planning, organizing and budgeting. Most of all, it can save you time and money, and we could all use a little extra of both.
Double this comforting soup recipe and freeze the leftovers for a simple lunch or dinner later.
Homemade Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Soup
From “The Happy Money Saver”
- 5 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 1 cup onion, pureed or finely chopped
- 3 cups finely chopped fresh broccoli
- 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli, medium sized for texture
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 cup half and half (I used fat free)
- Dash of garlic salt
- 1 cup shredded Gouda cheese (I used apple smoked)
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add the broccoli, onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaf and chicken broth to a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat simmering for 15 minutes. I have the lid half on the pot so steam can escape a little.
- When you have about 5 minutes left of the broccoli mixture start the cream sauce.
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and add flour. Whisk together while it cooks for 3-4 minutes. When your veggies are done, slowly pour in just the liquid from the boiling vegetables. It’s totally fine if a few veggies slip inside the pot. Wisk quickly as soon as the liquid hits the butter/flour mixture. After that thickens a little add in the vegetables, half n half and dash of garlic salt. Mix slowly until heated though. Remove from heat and add in shredded cheeses. Then add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
- Freezing Directions: Prepare soup as directed above and allow to cool. Divide into quart or gallon freezer bags, label, and freeze. To serve: reheat on stove top or microwave until heated through. Enjoy.
How to Freeze Soup:
- Cool. Refrigerators and freezers cannot cool soups quickly enough to be food safe. Speed up the cooling process by placing the pot of soup in a bath of ice water in the sink. Stir soup often to help release the heat.
- Package. Label and date gallon- or quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags, place in a bowl, and cuff the bag over the edge. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal.
- Freeze. Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer; when frozen, stack bags to save space.
- Reheat. Thaw overnight in fridge. Reheat chowders over low heat; gumbo, stew, and Hearty Italian Soup over medium-low. Stir occasionally.