No one likes throwing away food, especially if you’re trying to save money. But what do you do with those fresh string beans you got on sale that may not get eaten before they go bad? Freeze them. Follow these handy tips and you’ll be able you to enjoy your favorite foods for months.
It’s best to freeze veggies when they’re fresh. Blanch them first. This stops the enzymes that cause vegetables to lose their flavor, color, and nutritional value. Blanching time is crucial, but it also varies depending on the vegetable, so check the National Center of Home Food Preservation’s website for blanching times. After the recommended time, dunk the vegetables in ice water for the same amount of time, then drain them thoroughly. Finally pack them into freezer bags or freezer safe plastic containers and be sure to mark each container clearly with the name of the item and date. When you’re ready to cook your veggies, throw them in the pot while they’re still frozen.
Very ripe fruit is perfect for smoothies. First wash them. If they’re bananas, remove them from their peels. Then chop them up, bag them, and put them in the freezer. You can leave grapes whole before freezing and use them later as ice cubes in your favorite drinks.
You can freeze meat in the store wrapper for a month or two, but if you’re going to keep it longer, add a second wrapping to maintain quality and prevent freezer burn. You can use airtight heavy-duty freezer foil, freezer paper or place the package inside a freezer bag. If food does get freezer burn, it is still safe to eat, though it may be dry in spots.
Milk, hard cheese and egg whites (not the yolks) freeze well. Store milk in plastic jugs, not glass or paper. Cheese should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Egg whites can be poured into a freezer bag — just make sure to note how many eggs you used.
Make simple herb butters by combining fresh herbs with softened butter and crushed garlic. Wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer. You can also make flavored oil cubes by tearing your favorite fresh herbs into ice cube trays and filling each compartment with olive or canola oil before freezing. They can go straight into the pan when you’re ready to use them.
It’s very important to clearly mark the date and description of each item so you don’t have a freezer full of mysteries. Most vegetables can be stored for 8 to 12 months, fruits for 6 to 9 months, and dairy products and leftover meals are safe for up to 3 months.
For more information, go to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service at www.fsis.usda.gov.