There's never been a better time to master the art of freezing food. With the coronavirus pandemic making it harder to regularly grab the fresh stuff, a stocked freezer is your savior.
Here's what you need to know about freezing and thawing some basic foods: bread, meat, veggies, and fruit. Get our tips, then get freezing!
Your grandparents were onto something with the whole storing-bread-in-the-freezer thing. If you won't eat a loaf in a week, give or take, freeze it to prevent mold.
How to freeze: Bread's best frozen in two layers of wrap to lock in the freshness. If you're freezing a whole store-bought loaf, leave it in its plastic packaging and wrap in a layer of foil. If you're just freezing a few slices, wrap them first in a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of foil or freezer paper. Same goes for homemade loafs: first plastic wrap, then foil or freezer paper. Don't forget to label your loaves with the date!
How to thaw: Microwave individuals slices for 15 seconds or place them directly into the toaster.
How long it'll last: Up to six months
Buying meat in bulk saves money and makes throwing dinner together a breeze. Keep a couple types in the freezer at all times so you've got plenty of meal options.
How to freeze: Jackie Newgent, registered dietician and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, says you should freeze meat in the form you plan to eat it. Slice chicken breasts into strips, form ground beef into burger patties, and so on. It'll make your life easier when it comes time to thaw and cook. To freeze, “package up meat or poultry by wrapping as tightly as possible in freezer or parchment paper, then wrap well in foil," Newgent says. For bonus protection, seal in a container or freezer bag. And again, be sure to label with the date.
How to thaw: In the fridge. Smaller portions can thaw overnight, but for roasts or family-sized portions, allow for two to three days of thawing.
How long it'll last: Small portions of uncooked proteins last up to four months in the freezer. Whole chickens, turkeys, or roasts can last up to a year.
Freezing vegetables is the move if you want to have fresh veggies year-round. Buy what's in season, freeze at peak freshness, and never go without the fresh stuff again.
How to freeze: Before freezing, blanch vegetables by boiling for a few minutes, then plunging them into ice water. Dry and freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet for a few hours, then transfer to a bag or container. (Get Rachael Ray's instructions for DIY frozen veggies here.)
How to thaw: In the fridge or under running water. Or just cook them from frozen!
How long they'll last: Two to three months
Freezing your own fruit can be a lot cheaper than buying the frozen bags at the store, and it's great to keep around for smoothies, pancake toppings, or just a quick snack.
How to freeze: Always scrub and clean your fruit before freezing. Fruits with a peel, core, or some other inedible element, like mangos, peaches, bananas, and pineapples, should be peeled, de-stemmed, and de-seeded before freezing, then cubed or sliced. Spread your fruit on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for about two hours. Then transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags.
How to thaw: In the fridge or under running water
How long it'll last: Up to a year
Bonus: Soups and Stews
Do yourself a favor the next time soup or stew is on the menu. Make a double batch and freeze half. You'll be so glad you did when you're too tired or busy to cook.
How to freeze: Before you freeze, let the soup or stew come to room temperature. Then decide how you want to store it. You can portion it into airtight containers, freezer bags, or mason jars—whatever you prefer. Freezer bags are a good option if you're short on freezer space. Lay the filled bags flat to freeze, then stack vertically like you would file folders.
How to thaw: In the microwave or on the stove top. For the microwave, let soup thaw in the fridge overnight, then microwave in 30-second increments until warmed. For the stove, put frozen soup directly into the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
How long they'll last: Up to four months
Read next: How to Pack Your Freezer Like a Pro