Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, purveyors of food everywhere are seeing significant shortages on their shelves. This is compelling many of us to give some extra thought to which items are best for long-term storage.
Enter the freezer. There are a surprising amount of foods that are great to freeze, making meal prep easier, and keeping perishable foods fresh longer.
It’s time to take a look at some of the best foods to freeze long-term, and maybe a few to skip:
- Broths, stocks, and sauces– Ever cook something calling for one cup of stock, leaving you with 2/3 of a carton of stock in the fridge? Typically broths and stocks need to be used within 7 days after opening, but if frozen, these guys will last up to 6 months. This is also a common issue with jarred sauces, but the same rules apply. An extra bonus? When you freeze broths, stocks, and sauces in a muffin tin, each “cube” measures to a cup. Making that same recipe calling for one cup of stock? One of those muffin-tin cubes will do the trick, measure-free.
- Soups- Soups are great for freezing, and they’ll last about the same amount of time as your stocks and broths. Let your leftovers cool then transfer to a gallon zip-top bag. Label your bag, and freeze.
- Dough- Pantry items like flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc. are a staple. (By the way, mix all these together in the right proportions, and you get pancake mix. There’s no need to take up precious pantry real estate with premixed boxes…) While you’ve got them, save yourself some time and make some doughs to freeze. Muffin dough, pizza dough, cookie dough, and bread doughs are all great freezer-dwellers. Make sure it’s well wrapped and airtight so they don’t dry out, and your dough will last up to three weeks in the freezer.
- Fresh herbs- Unfortunately, even herbs we grow ourselves don’t last forever. If you’re not growing your own, store-bought herbs are even harder to keep alive and un-mushy. Mix your herbs with olive oil, grab a standard ice cube tray, fill each tray with the herb(s) of your choice, and voila- you’ve got olive oil and herbs ready to go into your next dish. This works really well for pesto too, just make sure to wrap your pesto cubes for storage in an airtight container.
- LOTS of different kinds of fruits- You may (or may not) be surprised at how well so many fresh fruits freeze beautifully. Losing your bananas? Peel them and seal them in a zip-top bag, label with the date, and freeze. Avocado and mango can both be cubed and frozen along with berries of any kind. Fruits typically hold up really well in the freezer for up to 12 months. (Keep in mind, if you throw all this stuff together in a blender with the liquid of your choice, you’ve got instant smoothies.) Grapes are awesome snacks when frozen as well. In an airtight container, they’ll last 10-12 months for awesome s
- LOTS of different kinds of vegetables- So many veggies freeze well. Of course, we know most of the staples: peas, corn, carrots, potatoes, onions- all the stuff you can find bagged in the frozen food section freeze well. In addition to these staples, squashes, peppers, zucchini, and cruciferous veg like broccoli and cauliflower can be frozen. Most vegetables freeze well in airtight containers for 8-10 months.
- Beans- Yes! Cooked beans freeze really well for up to eight months- so the next time you’re cooking but only need a portion of that can, seal the rest in an airtight container and throw it in the freezer for use later.
Don’t forget to label your frozen foods- grab your sharpie and list the contents, date frozen, and how long it can stay frozen to help keep everything organized. Also, the packaging of your frozen goods is key. Airtight containers are best for pretty much everything. Let’s face it, nothing tastes good when it’s freezer-burned.
For some excellent best-practices for freezing fruits and vegetables, click here.
A word on a few things that don’t freeze well:
- Avoid freezing fruits and vegetables high in water content if you want them to stay crisp when thawed. Leafy salad greens (except cooked spinach- that seems to do OK in some recipes), cucumbers, uncooked potato, and celery (unless you’re cooking with it) are no good in the freezer. Watermelon’s OK for using frozen, like in a slushie. But to thaw and eat? Not so much…
- Dairy stuff doesn’t hold up well in the freezer. Don’t freeze milk, it thaws as watery lumps, and many report that it just goes sour anyway. The same is true with soft cheeses. Yogurt turns grainy when thawed, and if you’re looking to make frozen yogurt pops, keep in mind there’s more water in store-bought, so you’ll end up with a block o’ yogurt.
- Eggs are no good frozen in the shell, or hard-boiled and peeled. When freezing eggs, crack and whisk them before sealing in an airtight container. With proper storage, whisked eggs can last up to a year in the freezer. Keep in mind, however, the longer they’re frozen, the runnier they get.
Here is a more thorough resource to find some guidelines on the dos and don’ts of freezing food safely.
In addition to the convenience of using frozen foods in recipes, freezing perishables is a great way to preserve food and reduce food waste. The next time you head to the grocery store only to find it picked over, don’t panic! If the store isn’t stocked, at least your freezer will be.