The Best Way to Freeze Produce and Meat

By Andrea Cannon on 2 October 2015 0 comments

Buying meat and produce in bulk can save you money and ensure you always have meals on hand for last-minute dinners. It can also mean lots of freezing — freezing the leftovers, freezing items that are in season now so you have them for later. Freezing can save you hundreds of dollars.

The downside to freezing is that if you aren't properly storing your groceries, then you will only be wasting money in the end. Remember, any groceries that you throw away will become the most expensive items in your kitchen. Fortunately, we've come up with some of the best tips to properly freeze produce, meat, and more.

1. Prevent Freezer Burn

When your groceries aren't frozen properly, oxygen and moisture can ravage your food and make it unappetizing. This is known as freezer burn, which is a common problem when you are attempting to preserve meat. While it isn't dangerous to eat meat that has been affected by freezer burn, the meat will lose its flavor, texture, and color if you don't preserve it properly.

To combat this, invest in freezer bags and freezer-safe containers. Freeze your groceries as soon as you get home. Remember that items can expand in the freezer, so make sure to always leave some room at the top of the bag or container. Place the date on your freezer bags and label them well so that you know when they are going to expire. It's important to eat all frozen meat and cheese within six months, and frozen produce within one year.

2. Don't Freeze in Bulk

When you freeze several items together, they will group together into a big frozen mass. Instead, it is always best to separate foods, freeze them individually, and then pair the frozen items together. For example, instead of freezing a whole package of bacon, separate the bacon slices when you get home into an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze the bacon on the sheet pan, and then place the frozen slices of bacon together in a Ziploc freezer bag. This will ensure that the items don't stick together.

3. Get Rid of the Styrofoam

The styrofoam found under the layer of meat is not necessary and can subject your items to freezer burn. Worse, the Styrofoam can stick to the meat if the items aren't frozen properly. Instead of freezing the meat exactly as-is, take the meat off of the Styrofoam and freeze it separately in a freezer bag. Freeze meat in small, usable portions so that you can thaw only what you need.

4. Separate the Meat

To freeze meat properly, wrap each piece of meat separately in freezer paper, and then place the wrapped meat in a Ziploc bag. It is important to remove as much air as possible from the bag whenever you are freezing anything. The easiest way to do this is to seal the bag around a plastic straw, suck the air out with the straw, and then quickly seal the bag. You can also add marinade to the bag so that your meat absorbs the flavors while it's freezing.

5. Quarter the Ground Beef

For ground beef, if you don't usually use the entire pound right away, consider separating the meat into quarters before freezing it. This will allow you to just take what you need for each recipe.

6. Preserve Produce

Most veggies freeze very well and options like peas, beans, and corn can be thrown directly in a resealable freezer bag or container and used whenever you need it for a recipe. Some produce will freeze well, but you may never be able to eat it in its raw state again. For example, produce like tomatoes actually freeze beautifully, but you won't be able to use them raw again. Once you remove the stem and freeze them in a Ziploc bag, you can use them for soups, stews, and roasts. You can also remove the peel in a cinch.

7. Freeze at the Peak of Freshness

It is best to freeze fruits and vegetables when they're at their peak of freshness. If they usually need to be blanched, then you'll want to blanch them before freezing them. After you've blanched the veggies, soak them in ice water, dry thoroughly, and then pack in your freezer bag or heavy-duty freezer-safe container. Nearly all veggies need to be blanched first, with the exception of corn, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and squash.

8. Freeze Berries and Fruit

When you purchase oranges, limes, or lemons at the store, zest and juice them right away. You can wrap the zest up in plastic wrap and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Then, you'll never be left without the citrus you need again.

When you have too many bananas on hand, peel them and wrap each banana in a piece of plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag. Then, you can use them for baking, frozen yogurt, or smoothies.

Berries are one of the best things to freeze because they can be used in a variety of ways and will preserve their shape and flavor over time. This means that you can purchase berries in summer and have them year-round. Simply wash your berries and place them in a freezer bag. It's that easy. If you don't want them to stick together or risk crushing one another, then first freeze the washed and dried berries on a baking sheet so that they can freeze individually. Then, place the frozen berries in a Ziploc bag.

9. Preserve Cheese

Cheese can be expensive, so it's important to freeze what you won't eat. Cut the cheese into small portions and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then a heavy-duty freezer bag. You can also shred, slice, or grate the cheese and place it in Ziploc bags for easier use later. If you will be slicing the cheese, make sure to separate each slice with a small square of parchment paper so that they don't stick together. Just make sure to thaw the cheese completely before eating it and remember that the texture may change after it has been frozen. The best cheese to freeze are the hard varieties.

10. Preserve Herbs

The best way to preserve herbs is in an ice cube tray. You can lay the rosemary, thyme, or oregano in each ice cube container and fill it the rest of the way with water, leftover stock, or olive oil. Then when you need herbs in the future, you can just toss the whole frozen herb-filled cube in the recipe.

11. Preserve Your Baked Goods

When you've made pancakes, muffins, cookies, breakfast sandwiches, or other baked goods, you can simply wrap them in plastic wrap and then place them in a freezer bag and into your freezer. Then, you'll have a last-minute microwaveable breakfast, dinner, or dessert in a pinch. You can even freeze sides like cooked pasta and rice to save time in the middle of the week.

12. Save Even More

Nearly anything can be frozen. You can even freeze things like milk and juice, as long as you shake them well before drinking. Whenever possible, freeze items separately on baking sheets first so that they don't stick together in the freezer. Just make sure that you allow the items you're freezing to come to room temperature before wrapping them and placing them in the freezer.

If you want to save even more time and money, you can make great freeze-ahead meals such as savory soups, healthy burritos, and delicious casseroles. This will allow you to prepare several meals in one night, which can be stored in the freezer, ready to be cooked any busy night of the week.

What are some of your favorite freezer techniques? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Paul Moyer @SavingFreak

We freeze a lot of meat with a family of five. We purchased an industrial freezer that does not go through a defrost cylce. This is the best way to preven freezer burn.