Always Have in Your Freezer
Keeping the pantry stocked with a handful of staples is a good idea, but what should you be keeping in the freezer? Make room for these 5 things and be sure to follow these freezing tips for optimal storage:
- Be sure your freezer is set to 0°F or lower.
- Make sure all food is cooled to room temperature before placing in the freezer.
- Label before putting in the freezer – it can be hard to see (or remember!) foods once they are frozen, so labeling with the name and date can help you remember what you have and if you need to throw something away because it’s been in the freezer too long.
Frozen Fruit and Veggies
Store-bought, packaged frozen fruit and veggies are just as nutritious as the fresh kind. In fact, some research shows that they may actually have MORE nutrients than fresh produce. That’s because frozen fruit and vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and then “snap frozen” which helps them retain all their vitamins and nutrients.
On the other hand, the fresh fruit and vegetables in the grocery store may have been picked weeks before making their way into your cart and they start to lose nutrients as soon as they are picked. And frozen fruit and vegetables can keep for up to a year in your freezer, so you don’t have to worry about throwing away forgotten produce (which can happen a lot with fresh produce in your refrigerator)!
You can also freeze your own fresh fruit and vegetables with these steps:
- Wash and dry thoroughly
- Spread onto a sheet pan or other shallow dish in one layer
- Place in freezer for 3-4 hours
- Once frozen, transfer to an air-tight storage container
Nuts & Seeds
While you might think nuts and seeds can be kept in the pantry, it’s actually best to keep these in the freezer. This helps lengthen their shelf life and prevents them from going rancid. In the pantry, nuts can typically last about 3 months, while frozen, they can last a year or more! And because nuts have a high oil content – making them a good source of unsaturated fat – they are less susceptible to freezer burn. Seeds like flaxseed or chia seeds are ready-to-eat straight from the freezer – sprinkle a tablespoon or two on top of oatmeal or in smoothies for added fiber and healthy fat.
Keeping a loaf or two of bread in the freezer can ensure you never run out! For the quickest slice from frozen, cut the bread before freezing. Then you can just pop the slice in the toaster and add an extra minute or 2 to your normal toasting time. If you prefer to freeze the entire loaf, defrost by placing in the oven at 325°F for about 20-30 minutes or until soft.
It’s a good idea to always have back-up protein options available in the freezer and meat freezes well. See below for the suggested length of time various types of meat should be frozen. It’s also important to thaw meat properly. The best way is to transfer the frozen meat to a shallow dish and place it in your refrigerator for 12-24 hours and slowly let thaw to refrigerated temperature.
Recommended Freezer Storage
- Poultry: 6-9 months
- Fish: 3-6 months
- Ground meat: 3-4 months
- Beef, steak, pork or lamb: 4-12 months
For those recipes that use a small quantity of an herb you never seem to have, you can also buy herbs that are already frozen. My favorite is these pre-portioned trays that make it so easy and have a two-year shelf life. You can also freeze fresh herbs yourself – learn how here!