Your clients’ freezer is probably the most under-estimated, under-appreciated, and overlooked appliance in their kitchen. It can save them a ton of time and money and can help make eating healthy much easier. It can also play a big role in the fight against eliminating food waste. But too often our freezers end up as a disorganized wasteland of zipper-lock baggies and Tupperware containers containing freezer burnt who-knows-what.
Freezing food does not change its nutritional value. And once the food is frozen, your clients do not have to worry about it going bad. So remind them to take advantage of this glorious machine! Today we're going to lay out some tips you can pass along to your clients so they can you use their freezer like a boss to save time, money, the environment and their health.
Freezer Basics 101
#1. Some Things Just Should NOT Be Frozen
First of all, please know that not all things are frozen equally. There are two main categories of things we recommend your clients do not freeze.
Fruits & Vegetables with a High Water Content: Raw produce that has a high water content tends not to do well once it has thawed. This includes stuff like lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, celery, peppers watermelon and lemon.
The one exception to this rule is if you are using the produce in soups, smoothies or other purées since the mushy texture will go unnoticed.
Stuff You Know You Won't Eat: Hey - we're all for reducing food waste but have your clients be real with themselves. If they didn't love the dish when it was fresh, odds are they really aren't going to like it once it has been frozen then thawed. So remind them not to take up precious freezer real-estate if they have no intention of eating it down the road.
#2. But Some Things Are Awesome Frozen
With the above being said, keep in mind that the large majority of things can be frozen with great success. Some of our favourite things to freeze and eat later:
- Baked Goods (muffins, cookies, etc)
#3. Freeze it BEFORE it Goes Bad
Your clients see those bananas going brown on your counter. You know they do. Remind them to peel em', slice em' and throw them in the freezer! These are great in baked goods or smoothies down the road. Same goes for things like berries, spinach, herbs and any other freezer-friendly leftovers they have sitting in the fridge that just won't get eaten in time. Remind them not to let their food get to the point of no return - especially with meat. When in doubt, just throw it out. A'int no one got time for Salmonella.
Note: Ice cube trays are awesome for salvaging things before they go bad. See more on this below.
#4. Know Your Freezer Storage Options
Choosing the right storage options when freezing is the key to preserving flavor and freshness over time. Here are some of our favorite freezer storage options:
Ice Cube Trays
Ice cube trays aren't just for ice cubes, folks. They are perfect for freezing little odds and ends of ... well, pretty much everything. The possibilities are endless! Buy a stackable set of ice cube trays to save space and keep things organized. Here are some foods and liquids that we love turning into frozen cubes:
- Tomato Paste
- Minced Garlic
- Grated Ginger
- Lemon Juice
- Leftover Coffee and Tea
- Vegetable and Fruit Purée (great for smoothies)
- Soup Stock
- Herbs with Olive Oil
- Fruit with Water (fancy ice cubes)
Some people will tell you not to freeze stuff in mason jars as they do have the potential to shatter. Well, that is true. In fact, we've witnessed it ourselves. But here's the trick: don't overfill the jar! Have your clients leave at least 1 inch of space at the top to allow for the fluid to expand. Wide-mouth jars are the safest bet.
Stackable Pyrex Sets
Oh Pyrex! We just can't get enough of your storage containers. We love that these are made of glass, have an air-tight seal and are stackable. They are great for the freezer to preserve freshness for a long time.
Note: We recommend steering clear of plastic containers and plastic wrap for storage as they may leach hormone-like chemicals (such as BPA, PBDEs and phthalates) into the food.
Remind your clients they should always allow their food to cool down to room temperature before they put it in the freezer. But do not let it sit around in room temperature too long or else harmful bacteria may start to grow. If they place something in the freezer that has grown bacteria, it will not continue to grow but freezing won't kill it either. Whatever was in their food when they froze it will be there again when they thaw it. So again: when in doubt, throw it out! (Another reason to freeze things before they go bad.)
#6. Freeze it in Individual Portions
Let's face it. Your clients likely don't feel like eating a whole casserole dish of shepherd's pie. So instead of covering the whole thing and putting it in the freezer, have them divide it into single servings so they can thaw it out on an as-needed basis. This helps preserve freshness and flavor and also makes them more likely to eat it later on. We love doing this with soups as well. The 500 mL mason jar is our BFF.
#7. Label All the Things
Nothing fancy. Good old masking tape and a sharpie does the trick here. Suggest that your clients label their freezer contents with the date and what's inside. Bye-bye guesswork! (Bonus: It helps them get a better sense of how long things tend to keep in the freezer!)
#8. Keep a Freezer Inventory
A while ago, we started keeping a freezer inventory on my iPhone in the note app and it has seriously saved us a ton of time and money. Gone are the days when we get to the grocery store and are left scratching our heads wondering, "Do we have frozen peas at home in the freezer?"
A freezer inventory also makes a huge difference when meal planning - especially when you’re helping a client prepare for a busy week ahead. Have them share their freezer inventory with you to further encourage easy cooking from items they already have on hand.
Tip when planning for your clients in That Clean Life: When adding meals your clients have in their freezer to their meal plan, make sure to mark them as leftovers so those ingredients don't get added to their grocery list.
#9. When It's Time to Thaw
First of all, remind your clients they should never cook meat from frozen. Also, do NOT leave meat on the counter overnight to thaw. Harmful bacteria can start to grow.
The best practice to thaw frozen food is to remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. Yes, this takes longer but it is the safest way.
#10. The Emergency Thaw
This is when things can get a bit hairy. Your client comes home from a long day, has no food except what's in the freezer and they might starve to death before they can figure out a way to thaw it out. Sound familiar?
Here is what they need to know if they find themselves in this situation:
- They can thaw non-meat products like frozen soups quickly by placing the jar in a pot of hot water. Let it thaw to the point where they can pour it out into a saucepan to heat all-the-way through.
- With meat, they can thaw it under a cold water bath (preferred) or a hot water bath.
- If they opt for the hot water bath, make sure to cook the meat as soon as possible.
The only time it is safe to re-freeze meat is if it has been thawed by the refrigerator method. Otherwise, do not re-freeze unless the meat has been fully cooked first.
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