The Big Chill: Tips from a Freezer Convert

September 27 2013, 10:07 AM

Frozen food doesn’t have to mean blocks of spinach or chicken nuggets. Instead, cooks in-the-know fill their freezer with stocks, farm-fresh produce, and ready-to-eat, healthy meals. Here, tips for making your freezer your grocery store.

1. Pace yourself: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t overbuy the first time you head to the butcher. (A family can only eat so many grass-fed steaks.) Stock up on basics over time by buying two of something at the store. Plan to roast chicken? Buy an extra bird and tuck it away. Want to grill salmon? Purchase two pounds, cook one and freeze the other. You get the idea.

2. Cook for a crowd: I grew up in a large family and have always had trouble downsizing recipes. Now, though, I greedily look at a recipe to see if I can double it (this works well for baked goods, like cookies) or make two (think: lasagna).

3. Take stock: Create a freezer inventory that lists all the frozen foods in your chest and when they were purchased or prepared. It’s like a menu for your house. Imagine that instead of the go-to processed macaroni-and cheese meal, you’ll open your freezer and be able to prepare fresh pasta, with Italian sausage purchased at Curtis Park Delicatessen, homemade tomato sauce, and kale. 

4. Warm up: Much like canning, preparing and eating frozen foods can be risky. Make sure to regularly clean too-old food out your freezer. Thaw items in the refrigerator and not on your countertop, and never re-freeze an item.

5. Use your library card: Want to learn more? Putting Food By (by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan) is an essential resource for saving produce. Cook & Freeze (by Dana Jacobi) and Fix, Freeze, Feast (by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik) have incredible tips for what freezes well—and what doesn’t (I’m looking at you cream cheese!). 

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