Do you have things in your freezer that you can't remember putting there? Me, too. Maybe this will help.
Freezer Food Basics
You don’t have to use only fresh ingredients to make healthy and flavourful meals. While you may rely on pre-packaged frozen foods to save time, these are often laden with calories, fat, sodium and preservatives. Learn how to kick the habit of stocking up on these convenience foods by getting better acquainted with the frozen food aisle, making meals that are just as fast – and often more economical. Here are our 10 essential freezer staples to keep close at hand.
Shopping List: 10 Essential Freezer Superfoods
Full of vitamins and antioxidants, frozen berries can rescue a meal in a pinch -- and save your wallet – when fresh berries are out of season. Use as much or as little as you want to make a quick smoothie (no thawing necessary!), top desserts, waffles, or mix with greens for tomorrow’s lunch. This is also an excellent way to maintain fruit intake during the winter months.
Peel, break up and freeze ripe bananas to eat as a snack or add to a smoothie (try mixing them with chocolate soy milk.) Overripe bananas can also be frozen in freezer bags for baking muffins or quickbreads in a pinch. Write the date on the freezer bag, and use within three months.
Tired of finding a half-eaten loaf of bread growing mould? Keep whole-grain bread in the freezer, and pop slices in the toaster oven to thaw as needed. Use frozen bread within one month for maximum freshness.
Frozen vegetables contain just as many nutrients as fresh ones, and they’ve already been washed and chopped for you! They thaw in a snap, but can be used frozen too. Try adding them to boiling pasta in the last few minutes of cooking, to a soup base for minestrone or vegetable soup, or substitute them for fresh veggies.
5. Shrimp and Salmon
Raw, de-veined shrimp or salmon filets are nutritious and quick dinner-starters. Buy larger quantities or filets if they are on sale, and freeze as individual portions. Thaw overnight or, if you’re in a hurry, in a sink of cold water.
6. Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is essential for soups, risottos, cooking rice with extra flavour, and many more dishes. If you make your own stock and are using glass jars, make sure to leave about one-inch of headspace at the top of the jar before freezing.
Using edamame (green soybeans) in dishes adds both flavour and texture to the mix. You can find frozen edamame at some supermarkets and at most Asian grocery stores.
Add a little green to your meals with frozen spinach. It takes up next to no space in the freezer, and is an excellent companion for dips, soups, chicken breasts, pasta, quiche and casseroles. Squeeze out excess water before adding the spinach.
9. Chicken Breasts
The ever-versatile chicken breast is an essential staple. Choose plain chicken breasts rather than those that are breaded or in saucesthey’re healthier and more versatile for cooking.
10. Whole-Wheat Pitas or Wraps
Pitas and wraps are great for last-minute dinners or lunches. Make wraps with leftover veggies and cheese, fajitas, or quesadillas. Use pitas to make mini pizzas topped with vegetables and lean protein or low-fat cheese options.
* If you don’t want to waste dinner leftovers but won’t eat them within two or three days, freeze them!
* Keep the freezer temperature at -18°C (0°F) to prohibit bacteria growth.
* Use shallow containers to freeze food, it will cool faster.
* Use a marker to label and date items before freezing them. Reheat within one month to retain freshness.
* Eat thawed food within two to three days (fish and seafood should be consumed in one to two days.)
* Freeze fruit and vegetables separately on a baking sheet before putting them in plastic freezer bags, to keep them from sticking together.
* Don’t overstock your freezer. Allow for air circulation to retain optimal freshness.
* Stock the freezer so that you don’t have an avalanche when you pull one item out. Use stackable containers when freezing food, and keep store-bought items used most frequently near the front. Use a divider to keep slippery items like individual portions of meat or seafood in their place.