Putting Your Freezer to Work

Cathy Agan  |  5/16/2012 11:54:48 PM

Image of a freezer

Meal preparation can be demanding when you have limited time and a busy schedule. Many families are on the go and end up relying on less healthy choices for a quick meal. However, with a little work ahead of time by preparing and freezing foods, you can have a quick home cooked meal for those busy nights. Foods for packed lunches or family dinners can be kept in your freezer to allow you to prepare food at your convenience. You can save time by doubling or tripling recipes and freezing the extra food. If you are not sure how a prepared food will freeze, try freezing just a small portion the first time and check to see if the quality is still good in one to two months. Foods to be frozen should be slightly undercooked if they are to be reheated after freezing.

Keep food safety in mind when preparing foods for the freezer. Foods should be cooled quickly for safety and freshness. Foods left to sit at room temperature for several hours before freezing may become contaminated with bacteria and cause foodborne illness. Remember the two hour rule, and refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within that time frame. To speed cooling, put the pan containing hot prepared dishes in another pan or sink of ice water. (Note: Do not place hot glass or ceramic dishes in ice water; they may break.) Keep the water cold by changing it frequently or run cold water around the pan of food. When cool, package and freeze immediately.

Pack foods in amounts you will use at one time. Once food is thawed, it spoils more quickly than when fresh. Be sure to use moisture- and vapor-resistant packaging to keep air and moisture out. If you have empty space in a plastic freezer carton or other rigid container, fill it with crumpled freezer paper. Label each package with the name of the food and the date. Use containers and wraps that are labeled for freezer use. Food containers such as those that come with milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, margarine, and many other refrigerated foods are not moisture- and vapor-resistant enough for freezing. Since they do not produce seals that are airtight enough, foods may lose quality quicker. Freeze prepared foods at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. You can purchase an appliance thermometer for your freezer to ensure that it is set at the correct temperature.

There are some foods such as cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, and sour cream that do not freeze well. For more information on freezing prepared foods, click here for LSU AgCenter publication Freezing Prepared Foods.
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