Food waste is a significant problem in this country. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), between 30 and 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown away every year. In 2010, this amounted to 133 billion pounds or $161 billion worth of food. Freezing food, however, is a great way to prevent food waste. But there are some things you should know before you throw everything in the freezer. The following tips for freezing food will help you save money and prevent food waste.
Freeze the Right Foods
It’s easier to freeze fruits and vegetables when they’re raw—not cooked or processed. The less time it takes for your food to reach the cold temperature of your freezer, the better. One of the most important tips when it comes to freezing food properly is to freeze it quickly. You should ideally freeze foods within 24 hours after buying them so that they stay fresh and retain their nutrients and vitamins better than if they were left sitting around for days — or weeks — before being put in the freezer. That being said, foods can still be safely frozen up until their “use by” dates.
Which Foods Freeze Well?
It’s important to consider which foods are the best candidates for freezing because some just don’t freeze well. In general, foods with high water content will not freeze as well as foods with low moisture content. Vegetables such as green beans, peas, broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots are good candidates for freezing.
Fruits like strawberries and peaches are also good choices for freezing to use as baking ingredients later, but remember that cooking times may need to be adjusted once they are thawed. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons should only be frozen whole, either unpeeled or with their peels removed. Frozen fruit puree can be used in baking or smoothie making. However, certain fruits should not be frozen because they lose their texture when thawed out again, including tomatoes, bananas, and grapes, though all of these fruits can be used as cooking ingredients after being defrosted when their texture is not a major consideration.
Meat and fish are also easy to freeze if stored properly in airtight containers or plastic bags, so there is minimal air exposure during storage time. Meat can be stored either raw or cooked and should retain its flavor and texture despite being frozen and defrosted.
Prepare Foods Properly
It’s important to wash fruits and vegetables before freezing them to remove any dirt or chemical pesticide residue. Meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables should all be patted dry before being frozen to ensure that no additional moisture gets trapped in the container or bag during storage. Also, cut larger portions into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to defrost later.
Cool cooked food before you freeze it to help prevent bacteria growth, which could increase the risk of food poisoning. You can cool leftovers on a plate in the refrigerator or spread them out on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer until they’re fully cooled.
Choose the Right Containers for Freezing Food
Choosing the right containers is essential when freezing food, and use airtight containers or bags. The less air there is in contact with the surface of your frozen goods, the less likely they are to get freezer burn, which is a discoloration caused by dehydration of surface cells when they come into contact with oxygen in the air over time while still frozen.
If you want to save space in your freezer, line foil pans with parchment paper before freezing raw meat or veggies so they won’t stick together when frozen solid, and then just pop them out when thawed and store them in another container for cooking later on. Freeze foods flat to save space because they tend to take up less room when they’re packed together in a container.
Use a Labeling System when Freezing Food
Freezing food is a great way to preserve it, but it’s important to label everything you freeze. Otherwise, you’re likely to forget what’s in the freezer and when it was frozen. While freezing is a great way to extend a food’s lifespan, foods can only stay in the freezer for a finite amount of time. Ground meats, for example, should be used within three to four months, and other fresh meats last for up to a year. Label everything with what’s inside and the date it was frozen so you know when it should be used. This makes it easier to pull out exactly what you need when you want it.
Hopefully, these tips for freezing food have been helpful. By following these guidelines, you’ll ensure that your food is frozen safely and will defrost well in order to make healthy and nutritious recipes.
Looking for some healthy recipe ideas? Check out this article on superfood ingredients to add to your smoothies.
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