Monday, February 6, 2012

Freezer Fever....

If you’d like to trim your grocery bill without clipping coupons it’s time to utilize your freezer. We often stock our freezers with overpriced store bought frozen foods and meals, and forget how many homemade items can be frozen. But by making and freezing more items from home, you can significantly save money every month. From bread to pizza crust, veggies to soup, keeping your freezer stocked with items not only increases its efficiency, it helps reduce the amount of things you have to add to your grocery list. 

So what can you freeze? Oh my, this list is quite extensive. Here is a list of some of the homemade items you can freeze: baby food, beans, biscuits, bread, burritos, unfrosted cakes, casseroles, cookie dough, croutons, eggs without the shells (beaten), fruits, herbs, meats, nuts, pasta, pies, pie crusts, pizza dough/crust, pizzas, precooked meals, rice, rolls, spices, soups, stews, stock, tamales, taquitos, tortillas and of course vegetables (though many should be blanched to retain color, texture). The list grows from here. It’s quite nice to go to the freezer for items like chopped onions, soup stock, or pie crust instead of making an extra trip to the grocery store. That's more gas money in your pocket too.

So what shouldn’t you freeze? Mayonnaise, cream sauces/soups/fillings and lettuce don’t freeze as well as we’d like. Some things just tend to get soggy or their taste changes a bit; hence the warning. The rule of thumb for freezing is to leave just enough room in the container since items tend to expand when frozen. Use freezer friendly bags or containers (Ball has some great ones that are stackable!) There are even fancy freezing “systems” you can purchase.

Grab a permanent marker and write down the date and the approximate date you should use it by as well (see list below). Rotate items making sure the ones that need to be used first are in front or on top. Some of your items won’t look as “pretty” as store-bought freezer items due to the fact that they may not boast the preservatives, dyes, etc. used by large food manufacturers. But no worries, they will taste just as good and last for months. Store items at or below freezing to preserve the best freshness and flavor.

So there you have it. Pretty soon you’ll have freezer fever. You don’t have to go and buy another freezer for all you plan on chilling, just stock the space you have and use what you freeze. For more information on freezing, the National Center for Home Food Preservation offers plenty of information on their website, www.nchfp.uga.edu. Also search the web for freezer meal ideas for days/nights you want something homemade in less time. From quick snacks for kids to meals for a loved one who is working late, there are plenty of options out there. Here are a couple great sites I found: Freezer Food, Make Ahead Recipes, Freezer Friendly Meals, More Make Ahead Meals and here is a link to free, printable freezer labels from Martha Stewart. Enjoy!

Breads: 2 to 3 months
Cookie dough: 3 months
Fruit: 8 to 12 months
Vegetables: 8 to 12 months

























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