This is the second post in a series on how to prepare your dinner ahead of time. You can read the first post HERE.
I’ve learned mainly through trial and error what foods do/do not freeze well for meal prepping. Hopefully this list will help you to create your own freezable recipes or to take others and decide whether or not you think you should freeze them or just store in the refrigerator.
Foods That Can Freeze
Meat, poultry and fish all can be frozen. Raw meat is preferable for long storage because it doesn’t dry out or get freezer burn as fast as cooked meat. Wrapping your meat in plastic wrap before putting it in a Ziploc bag prevents air in the bag from getting to the meat, therefore, no more freezer burned meats!
Breads and baked goods do well in the freezer. This includes cakes, pies, muffins, bagels, quick and yeast breads both as dough/batter or baked, cookies raw or baked and pizza crusts raw or baked. I try to have rolls and an extra loaf of bread in the freezer so we always have bread on hand!
Butter and margarine freeze great.
Beans freeze well and can save you a ton of money if you buy dry beans then soak and cook them yourself instead of buying the canned variety.
Rice can also freeze and cooking it ahead can save a ton of time.
Foods That Can Freeze But Will Change In Texture
Most foods fall into this category.
Fruits and vegetables all soften and those with high water content do not freeze well. Fruit that still has ice crystals can be eaten as is after thawing but most fruits and veggies should be used for cooking after being frozen. Fruits and veggies do need some prep work as well. I freeze veggies a lot, but I avoid cooked veggies, and sometimes store them separately from the rest of the meal in bags with all the air sucked out.
Potatoes freeze great and make quick side dishes, however they must be cooked before freezing to insure they don’t turn black. Now I haven’t had this problem with uncooked potatoes, so I think if you’re planning on eating them within a month, you’ll be ok.
Pastas will become much soften after they are frozen and should only be cooked about three quarters of the recommended time. Also pastas frozen in liquid or sauce will absorb much of the sauce.
Milk and dairy products can be frozen but may separate after being frozen. Cheese will become crumbly and hard to slice but is fine for cooking or melting. If the recipe calls for shredded cheese, I usually add that at cooking time.
Herbs lose their texture but retain their flavor. Frozen herbs can be used for cooked dishes but not for garnishes.
Raw eggs removed from their shells can be frozen but need to be mixed with a bit of salt or sugar to keep them from turning rubbery.
Cooked eggs that are scrambled or used in a recipe freeze well. Boiled eggs don’t do as well because the whites get rubbery.
Fried foods lose their crispness but do OK when reheated in the oven.
Salty fatty items, such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, some lunch meats and some fish do not last long in the freezer. The USDA only recommends freezing these items for 1-2 months. The salt causes fat to go rancid in the freezer. Many people freeze these items longer so use your best judgment. If it looks or smells ‘off’ toss it.
Foods That Can’t Freeze
Cornstarch looses it’s thickening power. Use a rue made of butter and flour (or rice flour if you’re gluten free) instead.
Gelatin weeps, or loses water.
Vegetables such as lettuces, celery, radishes and cucumbers become a watery mess.
Melons get very soft and lose much of their juice. They can still be used for smoothies but generally are not frozen.
Meringue toppings become tough and rubbery.
Custards and cream puddings can separate.
Mayonnaise tends to separate.
Crumb toppings for things like casseroles or desserts can become soggy. You can always store the topping in a separate baggy and add to the top when cooking.
Egg white based icing or frosting can become frothy or weep.
Effect of Freezing on Spices and Seasonings
- Pepper, cloves, garlic, green pepper, imitation vanilla and some herbs tend to get strong and bitter.
- Onion and paprika change flavor during freezing.
- Celery seasonings become stronger.
- Curry develops a musty off-flavor.
- Salt loses flavor and has the tendency to increase rancidity of any item containing fat.
- When using seasonings and spices, season lightly before freezing, and add additional seasonings when reheating or serving.
How long can I store frozen food?
Approximate months of storage at 0°F
|Fruits and Vegetables||8 – 12|
|Poultry||6 – 9|
|Fish||3 – 6|
|Ground Meat||3 – 4|
|Cured or Processed Meat||1 – 2|
Check back for the next post in which I’ll share with you one of my favorite online resources for freezer meals AND meal planning!