Cooktop Cove: 19 time-saving freezer tips that are a life saver
In this busy world, feeding a family healthful, tasty meals can seem overwhelming. With so much to prepare and so little time, the priority of nutritious meals can sometimes take its place on a back burner. The freezer, however, can help solve so many problems caused by time constraints.
With a few simple steps to organize and prepare, a stocked freezer will help even the busiest family feel more in control of meals. With food prepped and ready in the freezer, a weeknight dinner can come together quickly, leaving time for relaxing, homework or projects. With breakfasts ready to grab, a harried morning can be calmed. Read on to find how to take control of one of the largest and most useful tools in a kitchen.
1. Label everything
Professional kitchens around the world swear by blue painters’ tape to identify foods. Sometimes a chicken breast looks the same as a pork chop, which looks the same as pie crust three months into a freezer stay. Mark the date and the food on the label to make identification simple.
Storage bins make shuffling frozen foods a breeze. They can corral half-used bags of berries or contain all the sandwiches for the week. They do not need to be designed specifically for freezers; any caddy will do.
3. Dry erase tape
Keep an inventory of goods on the freezer door to quickly identify contents and make planning simple.
4. Arrange accordingly
Set up the inside of the freezer in a way that makes sense for your life. Do you buy in bulk or buy shares of an animal? Perhaps arrange by food type. Do you prep meals for your family? Maybe arranging the freezer by meal type makes more sense. Do your children help themselves to freezer food? Put their food in an easy-to-reach spot. Make the freezer work for your family.
5. Make space
One popular meal prep option is to create slow-cooker meal packs and freeze them. Lay the freezer bags on a cookie sheet so they freeze flat and can be stacked in a space-optimizing way.
This yellow fruit has great freezer potential. If peeled before freezing, bananas can be ready to thaw into a baking recipe. With the peel still on, a few seconds in the microwave renders them perfectly ready for the blender and other smoothie ingredients.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is also one of the easiest to have prepped in the freezer. Pancakes, waffles, muffins and egg cups can all be frozen in advance and quickly heated for a grab and go meal.
Smoothie enthusiasts have different methods for prepping their blends. Some prefer to keep a “catch-all” container of smoothie-appropriate foods that keep safely in the freezer. Others prefer to create packets of individual mixes ready to thaw and blend.
Make sandwiches ahead of time for a meal that easy to grab that will thaw by lunchtime.
10. Soups and stocks
Many types of broths and soups can be kept safely in the freezer. Store them in containers that are the right size for the desired meal. Freezing soup in muffin tins, for example, will make single-meal options whereas freezing it in a pint or quart size jar will supply a family meal.
Store extra ketchup and mustard in the freezer to make bulk buying easier.
Take advantage of a season’s bounty and prep and freeze herbs while they’re fresh. Chopped herbs, frozen in an ice cube tray with olive oil, are ready to go straight to a sauté pan.
Many desserts can be made ahead and kept in the freezer until the perfect moment. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, both cakes and pies freeze nicely. Have a birthday to celebrate in the middle of a busy week? Make the cake early, wrap it and freeze it. Frost it after it thaws. Pies can be frozen unbaked and placed directly into the oven from the freezer.
14. A la mode
Plan ahead and make room for the toppings for desserts. Whipped cream whips up faster when the beaters and the bowl are chilled. The bowl for an ice cream maker needs to be solidly frozen before churning. Making room for these in a freezer will help these treats come together quickly.
A batch of cookie dough in the freezer means cookies are ready whenever a craving strikes. Freeze unbaked dough in a log for homemade slice-and-bake cookies or put some already scooped and shaped into a zip-top bag. They can be baked directly from the freezer.
16. Keep track
Check the freezer (or the inventory on the dry erase tape) before going shopping. Use what is in the freezer to save time and money.
17. Leave room
When freezing in glass, use straight-sided jars and leave at least a half-inch space at the top to allow for expansion.
18. Watch the date
Many recipes will state how long the food will last frozen. Properly wrapped baked goods and soups can last about three months, and many uncooked meats can last six months to a year.
19. Make a choice
Like the layout and organization of a freezer, the style you select depends on your family and how members use it. A chest freezer works well for long-term storage, whereas an upright freezer works well for grab and go use.
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