Cooking in bulk and freezing meal-sized portions for another time can be a healthy and convenient way to feed your family. You can freeze almost any food with the exception of eggs in the shell and food still in cans. BUT, not every food freezes and/or reheats well. If you are unsure whether your dish will retain it’s quality after freezing and reheating, start with freezing a small portion of the dish before freezing the entire dish.
The general rule for whether something freezes well depends on how the food looks and tastes once it has been reheated.
Does not freeze well:
- Anything with mayo (it separates)
- Anything in a cream sauce (it separates)
- Anything with cornstarch (it separates)
- Lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, celery or any other “wet” vegetables
- Melons, watermelon, kiwi
- Tomatoes (unless in a sauce or casserole)
- Fried foods
- Gelatin (it separates)
- Certain spices – salt, pepper, cloves, garlic, curry
- Fruits such as berries, bananas, grapes
- Starchy vegetables – potatoes, lentils, peas
- Meat – both raw and cooked
The determining factor as to whether a food freezes well or not has to do with the quality and the consistency of the food upon thawing and reheating. Creamy items such as mayo will separate and not mix back together well once thawed and reheated. Gelatin melts when it thaws and turns into a runny liquid. Melons, kiwi and tomatoes unfreeze and are mushy and soft in consistency. Lettuce and other wet vegetables come out wilted and flavorless. Some spices become bitter or less flavorful after being frozen.
On the contrary, meats freeze well and retain their flavor and consistency. Try to wrap the raw meat well and seal it tight. This will help keep ice crystals from forming on the surface. Make sure you use the frozen raw meat within a few months, depending on the type of meat and the cut. Beef generally lasts longer in the freezer than poultry and fish. Meats cooked into a casserole can last up to 4 months if they are properly frozen and stored, 6 months in soups. The best place to keep your nuts of any variety is in the freezer. Freezing them after the container has been opened allows them to stay fresh longer than storing them in the cabinet – up to 2 years! Any sort of quick bread, muffin or even sliced bread can last in your freezer up to 3 months, if wrapped and frozen well.
Another freezer tip – store your flour, container of oats, cornmeal, and bread crumbs in the freezer to help keep them fresh and to keep any sort of bugs from laying eggs and hatching in the containers. The freezer keeps them at a temperature that will prevent that from happening, but does not affect the consistency of the dry goods.