Unfortunately, it seems that most often the freeze-ahead meals I see online are for beefy cheesy casserole-type dinners. We don’t eat those, so I thought I’d share what we do freeze.
Note: We just have small freezer as part of our fridge, and I am not (yet) a master of strategic freezing-in-advance. But here is what I do:
In Our Freezer
- Ginger – I buy this fresh typically from the Asian store and drop it in a ziplock bag, without bothering to peel it. I keep it in the door of my fridge. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh ginger, I just pull it out and either grate it or sorta shave it with a serrated knife. I rarely bother to peel it and that shortcut hasn’t killed us yet. 🙂
- Garlic – I buy this peeled and fresh in a container from the Asian store. I stick the container right in the freezer and like the ginger, I pull out cloves and chop them up as needed. Of course I still use unfrozen bulbs for roasting, rubbing on bread, etc.
- Basil – We grow oodles in the summer and before the weather gets cold (important! If you wait too long it gets bitter), we wash, dry, and foodprocess it with a little bit of olive oil. Then we put it in a ziplock bag, flatten it to get all the air out, and freeze it. When it’s totally frozen, we whack it to break it up in to chunks and keep the chunks in a bag in the freezer all year long. We toss the frozen chunks straight into simmering pasta sauce or thaw them and add to to recipes that call for fresh basil.
- Lemon and orange zest – We zest lemons and oranges when we get them in the winter, keep the zest for each in a ziplock bag and have it all year round to use for salads, muffins, etc.
- Soups – They are one dinner standby I don’t worry much about freezing. Hence I do sometimes have frozen split pea, black bean, lentil, or tomato and rice soup in a bag in the freezer.
- Peppers – I roast red peppers when they are super cheap at the farmer’s markets in the winter, let them cool completely and then bag them up 2 at a time for the freezer. In the winter they get added to pasta and enchilada sauces. I also buy Trader Joe’s three pepper blend and toss the whole 1 lb bag in when I make dirty rice. They don’t have the same texture as fresh peppers, but it doesn’t matter in that dish. They’re so convenient, I have been known to throw them in stir frys and scrambles as well, despite the texture difference.
- Whole Wheat Pita Dough
- Other frozen vegetables – We keep the broccoli and green beans on hand for stir frys and my girls love to munch on them. Frozen corn is just as good and a thousand times easier than fresh for corn chowders and corn salsas. Frozen peas are essential for pasta romesco and several curries we make.
- Tomatoes – We buy #10 cans of San Marzano tomatoes from Costco so I invariably have the extra frozen, ready to pull out the night before I need them.
- Shredded Mozzarella – Yes, we eat cheese! In fact, we have a monthly family pizza and movie night, and cheese is crucial to its success (according to Scott. You’ll invariably find my pizza sparsely sprinkled.) Anyway, we don’t use it aside from that night, so the bag is frozen in the meantime.
- Berries – We try to stay stocked at all times with frozen strawberries, blueberries, and whatever other kind of berries we can get our hands on. We eat them in smoothies, heaped into steel cut oatmeal with flax, and blended up warm as a syrup for our Sunday waffles or pancakes.
Not in Our Freezer
- Butter – We don’t eat it often so it starts to taste a little funky kept in our freezer. Maybe it’s because it rubs up against the garlic and peppers in there? Bleh.
- Chopped onions – Too stinky! Even if I double bag them. Anyone else have this issue? I’d love for this to work, because I use chopped onion most days of the week.
- Flour, nuts, seeds, spices, etc. – Yes, you could successfully argue that more nutrients are preserved when freezing these, but given the size limitations of our freezer, here is what I do: I grind my whole wheat flour fresh, typically enough for a week or two, and I store it in snapware in the cupboard. I keep my flaxseed and nuts (typically 5-6 kinds!) in the fridge and grind my flaxseed as-needed, about a week’s worth at a time and just store it in the grinder in the cupboard. all other seeds, spices, etc. just get stored in the cupboard.
- Any main dish besides soup – I’m gun shy about freezing other things. What if they turn out soggy or freezer burned or taste funny after freezing? That would be tragic. Yet, it bothers me that I have left this area totally unexplored because I feel like people who make double of each meal and freeze half are spending far less time doing dishes than I am. And lately, the dishes have been doing me (in). Please leave a comment if you freeze something successfully. Help me make the leap.
Also, I’d love to hear what you use to freeze things in? The ziplock bags drive me a little nuts because I hate throwing them away afterward, but they’re a pain to rinse and dry and store after using and they don’t seem to hold up very well for multiple uses.
And, how do you label the things you freeze? Do you keep an inventory so nothing gets shoved in the back and forgotten?