Freezing food can extend meals, limit having to cook daily

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Freezing home cooked meals is an easy solution to serving health food to your family without having to cook daily, Clay County Extension Agent Natalie Ray said in a recent Quick Bites video conference at the Warren County Extension Office.

One day of cooking can potentially produce meals for a month through freezer cooking.

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“It’s a trial and error thing. Find dishes that work for you,” Ray said.

Healthy foods that freeze well include vegetable based meals, broths, beans, whole wheat pastas, raw potatoes, low fat cheeses and rice, she said. Some foods need to be cooked before freezing while others can be frozen raw.

Ray quoted the United States Department of Agriculture saying that freezing food will keep food safe almost indefinitely, but storage times are recommended to ensure the food’s quality and taste.

“Yes, it may be safe to eat, but you’re probably not going to want to eat it if it’s already separating and falling apart,” Ray said.

To avoid ice crystals on frozen foods, Ray said it is important to make sure the container is airtight and to make sure it doesn’t get too warm from repeatedly opening the freezer.

However, she said eventually food would absorb the smell of the freezer.

“Even if you pack it really tight, if it’s in there a long time it’s going to taste freezer burned. That’s just one of those things. It’ll start tasting like the freezer,” Ray said.

She advised labeling each container with its contents and the date it was prepared because once the food is frozen it can be difficult to remember what the containers hold.

“Food looks totally different when its frozen,” Ray said.

Ray also recommended the types of containers to use when freezing.

Glass jars made for canning or tempered glass casserole dishes are recommended, and Ray especially likes using plastic freezer bags.

“It’s probably one of the more economical ways to go,” Ray said. “They maximize storage.”

Chili, soups, stews and sauces work best in a bag, she said. To fill the bag, she places it in a large rim plastic cup to keep it steady so she can pour the food into the bag without having to hold it at the same time. She often measures out a certain amount for each bag so she knows about how many servings the bags hold.

She said plastics work but in her experience have cracked after use. Sometimes she uses disposable aluminum foil pans and covers the food with saran wrap and aluminum foil to ensure her hard work is preserved.

Smaller pans can even be placed in freezer bags.

“That’s another way to give a little extra comfort that you’re not going to risk freezer burn once you put all that effort in there,” Ray said.

Ray said to wipe the seal of the freezer on occasion to make sure it closes securely and to avoid putting items in the freezer door because it is the warmest spot. Also she said to make sure the freezer isn’t packed too tight with items because what keeps the food cool is the air that surrounds the containers.

Mississippi State University Extension Offices offer distance learning through hour-long free Quick Bites video conference sessions Thursdays at noon.