Save Time and Money by Freezing Food
by Ana Brady
Before I had a family and a job, freezing food was a completely foreign concept to me. I had enough free time to cook whatever I wanted, but mostly I relied on my mom’s cooking.
Now that I have an 8-hour job (commuting time not included) and two kids, my life needs to be organized a little bit differently than before. When I say a little, I mean – a lot.
Money and time are two very important things in our household. We are often tight on both. That’s why tips I found reading different blogs and talking to other families helped me tremendously in finding ways to economize with both our budget and time.
The key to having more free time on workdays is freeing oneself from the obligation to cook on those days. One way to do it is to eat out and spend a lot of money, or to order pizza and eat unhealthy.
Another way to do it is to buy food in bulk on weekends, and prepare meals in advance for the week to come. Here are some steps I take to freeze my food.
10 Steps to Preparing and Freezing Food Properly
1. The first step is to go to a grocery store that offers big discounts and to buy lots of healthy stuff such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and yogurt. Watch for special deals, and use coupons. Once you get the hang of it, it will become an easy routine.
2. Don’t buy fancy expensive snacks or frozen meals that are full of sugars, fat and sodium. Make a list of what you need to buy before you go to the store, and make it fit your budget.
3. Make sure to buy (if you don’t already have them) strong freezer bags.
4. When you get home, set aside some time to prepare all that food for freezing. You can either focus on preparing just the ingredients, or you can even make a few meals that you will freeze once they cool down. If you’re preparing a meal for that day anyway, make a bigger amount, so that you can freeze the rest and have it for several dinners to come.
5. If you want your vegetables to last a long time in the freezer, you need to blanch them. That is, you need to cook them in boiling water for a few minutes, and then quickly immerse them in cold water to stop the boiling process. Then you can dry them and put them in freezer bags.
6. Make sure all food is packed tightly, without any air entering the bags, because otherwise your food might get spoiled in the freezer. Air sucks out moisture from food in the freezer, and it becomes tasteless.
7. Each packaging should contain one-serving-size of food. If you freeze big quantities in each freezer bag, you’ll have to defrost all of it once you want to use it. Since you should avoid refreezing food, you’ll end up throwing away the surplus of food you defrosted.
8. It is really important to label all packages using strong freezer labels. Each food item should contain info about what it is and when it was frozen, or when it should be used by. Those things are easily forgotten if not written down.
9. If you have a packed freezer, the best way to fit everything in is to flatten the freezer bags. Everything that can be flattened should be flattened. That way it’s also easier to thaw.
10. Speaking of thawing, try to thaw food the day or night before, in the fridge. If you forget to do it, you can defrost in the microwave, but never do it at room temperature.
In the beginning you might be a little overwhelmed with the shopping/preparing/freezing process that does take a while. But it saves you time (and money!) in the long run.
When you have your freezer packed with chopped up onions, diced tomatoes, chicken strips, and cooked meals (soups, lasagna, casseroles, etc.), you will spend up to 30 minutes each day you get home from work to defrost a ready-made meal, or to cook something using defrosted ingredients. You’ll be happy you’re not eating out and eating unhealthy, plus you’ll have more free time for yourself and your kids.
Involve Kids and Make It Fun
If you have kids, you can involve your kids and make the freezing process more fun and interesting. You can turn this into a new game for them. For example, I have some games for my own kids in the kitchen. They compete around who will get more carrots ready for freezing, or who’ll do it quicker. And I usually have some small prizes for the winner.
My kids like to compete in the kitchen. Since my son is older and quicker than my daughter, I announce that prizes will be given for both speed and quality. My son usually wins for speed, and my neat, careful daughter gets an award for neatly cut veggies.
The beauty of the game is that they never know what they will get for helping me. I write out several potential awards on little pieces of paper. When we finish the game, the winner takes out one piece of paper. You can be creative about the awards and it could say things like: “new video game (Plants vs. Zombies)” or “Saturday: anything in your favorite candy store” or “bonus of 1 additional hour of TV on one school day this week”. The good thing is that they can share all the prizes, and they usually do.
(Ana Brady is a mother of two and a great enthusiast when it comes to finding ways to save in the kitchen. She writes about nutrition, healthy lifestyles, recreation, family, children and similar topics. She works on a project on freezer labels.)