Every once in a while around here, the whole MPMK team seems to be on the same wavelength with very little thought or planning on my part. This is one of those times. In looking over our posting schedule, I realized that this week we’re planted firmly in the kitchen – covering all the wonderful things we can do for our bodies with the good stuff found there. Yesterday it was all about honey hair masks. Today… freezer organization for a healthier lifestyle. Hope you enjoy!
There used to be a time when all you would find in my freezer would be a handful of microwave dinners and a half empty box of Eggos. Oh, and margarita mixes. How can I forget those?
Thankfully I’ve finally come to realize the magic (yes, magic!) that is my freezer and can honestly say it is the single most important “tool” in my kitchen. I literally cannot imagine life without it. Freezing works especially well for us since we eat very different meals in our house.
Freezer cooking and freezer prepping are helpful in many ways: prevents food from spoiling when you can’t get through fresh ingredients quick enough; saves time in the kitchen when meals and hard to prepare ingredients are ready to go; retains nutrients better than produce left sitting in the crisper; allows family members greater choice for dinner options; and finally, leads to healthier convenience choices.
Here are some of my favorite solutions that have worked best for me thus far.
Tips for Freezer Storage
- Know when to bag it and when to cup it. I used to put all of my frozen fruit and veg into the large Ball freezer cups. They look neat and tidy and are great for shaking out some berries into a smoothie or some corn into a soup. This can certainly work for some people, but after a while I realized it just wasn’t maximizing my freezer space. If my frozen berry supply is down to only 1/4 full, the jar takes up just as much space as a full one, whereas bags collapse as they empty making room for more frozen foods.
- Decant and portion bulk items like super sized bags of frozen produce. Costco is my go-to for their organic frozen corn and frozen vegetable medley, but the bags are large and in charge. I portion these larger bags into 3 or 4 freezer bags, keeping one in the kitchen freezer and the rest in the chest freezer for future use.
- Freeze meals in the portion sizes you use (for this I still love my 16 oz. lid Ball freezer jars). If one family member particularly loves a certain dish and would eat it more frequently than the rest of the family, freeze it in single servings as opposed to a large batch. That way, it’s easy to take one serving out and prepare it without thawing the entire dish.
- Freeze ingredients and condiments in small batches as well (8 oz. Ball freezer jars). Hummus, whether homemade or store bought, doesn’t last that long in the fridge. To keep myself from eating a whole tub lest it go to waste, I freeze it in small cups that I can take out on a weekly basis in portion sizes I know will get used. It freezes beautifully. I also do the same thing for applesauce, tomato sauces and purreed garlic (I re-use the small pop it ice-cube-like tray that they sell with frozen herbs in the produce section again and again). Freeze sauces, yogurt, and purees in ice cube trays or silicone baking cups, then transfer to a container or bag once solid.
- Label it! Although I dreamt up some fancy labels for my freezer, sometimes simple just works. For my Ball jars, I trace and cut circles out of plastic page protector sheets from the dollar store which then fit perfectly in the lid. I write on them with a dry erase marker so they can be re-used. Alternatively, you can write on most plastic containers directly with a dry erase marker, just be sure to erase it before you wash, as I’ve had some lids hold onto the writing permanently after a run through the dishwasher.
- Use bins to wrangle bags and small items together, and try to keep them organized according to type.
Freezer Tid Bits
- Used to freezing your ripe bananas whole and in their peels? Try peeling them and cutting into pieces instead and freezing on a cookie sheet before bagging. The bananas stay white and are ready to pop into smoothies, banana “ice cream” and baked goods.
- I never seem to have fresh ginger (or ginger at all) in the house when I need it, so now when I buy the root, I cut into into tiny pieces and freeze for adding to smoothies, juices and asian dishes.
- Puree herbs and garlic with a litte olive oil before freezing into small cube trays.
- Burritos and wraps freeze really well pending the filling is freezer friendly. Wrap first in foil, then cling wrap, then place a few in a freezer bag. When time comes to reheat, remove all but the foil and place in the over for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, and I swear it tastes freshly made!
- Beans and grains! Never waste a can of beans again. I cook beans from dry in my slow cooker and then freeze, but the same can be done with excess canned beans. When you need just a small amount for a salad or recipe, you won’t need to open an entire can. They thaw really well in the fridge or rinsed under some warm water. Same goes for most grains. Quinoa and barley are my favorite to cook and freeze.
- Make your own granola bars, and freeze them for freshness instead of the added preservatives that come with store bought kinds.
- Make ready-to-go smoothie bags. Pre-portion out your smoothie ingredients (examples: frozen berries, banana, spinach or kale cubes, greek yogurt etc) for the quickest smoothie you will ever make! Add a little warm water to your blender and go.
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