Let’s get your frozen food habits out of the ice age.

By Betty Gold
Updated December 10, 2020

Fact: All that stands between you and extra cash, curtailed food waste, and immediate access to pre-prepped dinners you don’t even have to cook is your freezer. Everyone owns one, but it’s likely that you aren’t using yours the right way—or to its full potential. Here, 10 tips for mastering proper freezer meal prep and how to reheat leftovers that'll save you endless time and energy all week long.

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Freeze foods fast.

The faster veggies freeze, the better they'll taste when defrosted. After roasting vegetables, try laying them out on a sheet pan in your freezer rather than clumping them up in a pile. The faster freezing process will help maintain their hearty roasted texture when reheated.

Avoid foods with crispy and crunchy textures.

The crisp breading on foods like fried fish or chicken parm tend to degrade when defrosted, especially if you do so the microwave. Soups, stews, and sauces, on the other hand, will maintain their flavor and consistency for a perfect defrost.

Use bags for broth.

If you make a large batch of homemade broth, freeze the leftovers in freezer bags to have on hand for future soups or braising. They're surprisingly airtight and won’t hog nearly as much space inside your freezer as plastic containers do.

Freeze fresh produce at its peak.

Keep your farmer’s market finds fresh. Stocking up and freezing in-season items is a great way to have access to fruits and vegetables when they may be out of season and more expensive to buy fresh.

Leave room at the lid.

When freezing liquids (like broth, milk, or juice), make sure to leave room at the top of the container for the liquid to expand. If not, be prepared for a freezer deep-clean.

If appearance matters to you, blanch greens first.

Green sauces, like pesto, will blacken naturally as they're exposed to the air in your freezer. They're still perfectly safe to eat, but you can try blanching your greens before making your sauce to preserve their color—it will slow the blackening process for a brighter, greener frozen sauce.

Always allow enough time for defrosting.

If you know you want to make a roast for your Saturday supper, transfer the meat to the refrigerator a couple of days in advance. Defrosting in a microwave can too-easily cook—rather than defrost—the meat, and leaving food out to defrost on the counter can make it unsafe to eat.

Stay away from thick pieces of protein.

They often defrost unevenly, and no one likes that unexpectedly cold first bite.

Don’t toss leftover herbs.

Instead, turn them into instant flavor cubes. When a recipe only calls for a small amount of an herb but you have an entire bunch left, cut up the rest, add them to an ice tray and cover with oil and freeze. The next time you’re sautéing or roasting a dish, throw in a few of these cubes for added flavor.

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Use the right storage containers.

Pack your food in containers and wraps that are designed for the freezer—they should be thick enough to keep moisture in and freezer odors out. If you're going to freeze anything long-term in glass, make sure the glass is either tempered (i.e. the type used for canning jars) or specifically labeled for freezing. Finally, whenever possible, pack food in small containers, because as mentioned, large portions in large containers freeze more slowly. Remember: The faster food freezes, the fresher it will taste when it's thawed.

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