We all want to prepare delicious, healthy meals for our families, but it can take a lot of work! The planning, the shopping, the prepping, the cooking, the cleaning -- it all adds up to be quite the chore. Thankfully, you've got at least one tool on your side that can help you: your freezer.
The freezer is, of course, great for traditionally frozen foods (I know my life is better because of ice cream and frozen pizza!), but there are some tricks to using the freezer that aren't as well known. Using these five freezer hacks will save you time and money, allowing you to plan, prep and cook like a pro, without spending all your time in the kitchen.
1. Freeze portions of cooked meat
Cooking meat is one of those things that adds a good amount of time to your food prep. Not only that, but it can get very expensive, very quickly. By buying large amounts of meat when it is on sale, cooking it all at the same time and freezing it in usable portions, you save money at the grocery store and time in the kitchen. The Pioneer Woman has some amazing ideas for how to do this effectively, as well as ideas for meals to use the meat in. Think ground beef for spaghetti sauce, grilled chicken strips for salads, shredded chicken for pasta dishes and individual hamburger patties for burgers or patty melts.
2. Buy ingredients that are already prepped and frozen
Amanda from Kevin and Amanda swears by keeping bags of prechopped onions in her freezer. Not only does this save a huge amount of time (never chop an onion again!), but it also prevents you from wasting food, since you won't be throwing out unused onion halves.
This hack is great for other ingredients too, especially things that are out of season or have a short shelf life (like berries). The next time you're in the freezer aisle, keep an eye out for ingredients you use all the time; you might be surprised what you find!
3. Freeze food that is about to spoil
It's always tempting to buy a lot of fresh produce every time you shop, but using it all before it spoils can be a bit of a challenge. New Leaf Wellness has curated a useful list of fruits and vegetables that will freeze well. Not only will this cut back on your food waste, it will also save you from last-minute trips to the grocery store just to buy one pepper or a bag of carrots. Some of the other foods highlighted on the list include spinach, pineapple, green beans and even lemons.
4. Be clear and descriptive when labeling
Jessica Fisher, in her article on The Kitchn, points out that while you might think you'll remember what that frozen food is just by looking at it, your memory shouldn't always be trusted. Clearly label every food you freeze, preferably by using a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker. If the meal has specific reheating instructions, be sure to include those, too. And always, always, include the date that you put the food in the freezer.
5. Keep the freezer (almost) full
According to Good Housekeeping, keeping the freezer empty or almost empty is a mistake. The freezer has to work a little harder to cool itself, wasting energy. If it is a little more full, the cold is retained better. Of course, you don't want your freezer completely packed, either, since this restricts air circulation. Keep your freezer well-stocked, and replace what you use with new frozen foods to use later. Keeping up this cycle will ensure your freezer is being used efficiently.
A freezer is a kitchen tool that people often underutilize. Using it efficiently will save you time, money and hassle in the kitchen. Follow these hacks to use your freezer to its fullest potential.