Whether you are trying to be more healthy or spend less time cooking, freezing your food is a great place to start. But how can you use containers the right way?
Taking full advantage of your freezer is a kitchen cheat code for anyone looking to improve their diet or save some money. Start by cooking or gathering freezer-friendly foods like proteins, bread, fruits, and vegetables. The best freezer storage methods include freezer bags, airtight plastic containers, and glass jars.
Prepping your foods for freezer storage can be done for both raw and cooked meals. This allows you to buy more foods in bulk and keep your home stocked with necessary items without worrying about food spoiling. Not only do you save time in preparation, but it helps to reduce your grocery costs every week too.
It is a fact that some foods do not freeze as well as others. It is also proven that specific methods will cause foods to spoil much quicker if not packed in the best ways. We have developed an undeniable system to maximize your freezer food storage and get the most out of the way you prepare foods.
How To Freeze Food In Containers
1. Set Your Freezer Settings
Before you begin to stock your freezer, always make sure you have the correct settings on with a temperature set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When food is stored at this temperature, the ability for bacteria to grow is slowed down significantly to extend the shelf-life of your food.
2. Separate Foods
Uncooked foods can be separated and placed aside before packaging. If you are looking to freeze pre-made or cooked meals, allow the food to cool down first before placing it into the freezer.
3. Choose The Right Container
There are many different types of containers you can consider for freezer storage. Each option is designed to store specific foods better than others. We recommend relying on freezer bags, glass containers, and airtight BPA-free plastic containers for storage. They all can be sealed well to avoid freezer burn and protect your food for a long time.
- Freezer bags
- Airtight plastic containers
- Glass jars or containers
- Vacuum sealed bags
- Aluminum pans
- Plastic or aluminum foil wrap
4. Package Food
After selecting your containers, you can begin the packaging process. If you are tight on space in your freezer, then consider using freezer bags or stackable containers to optimize your freezer storage as best as possible.
5. Label Containers
Always remember to label your food. Using freezer tape or pre-made labels is the easiest way instead of writing directly on your container and staining them forever. When creating your label, include both the name or type of food and the date you stored it on. Your future self will thank you when it is time to thaw out the meals.
How to Package Food for the Freezer
The packaging method for your food in the freezer depends entirely on the specific type of food you are looking to store. Because each food is so different, using various methods in your freezer is the best way to accommodate the different requirements for proteins, grains, vegetables, and more.
Meat & Fish
When you purchase new items like beef, chicken, and fish, it is recommended to either cook it the same day or freeze it right away.
To properly package them, you should aim to eliminate air as best as possible. Of course, this can be done with a vacuum sealer. But the more straightforward option is to use zip-top bags and press down on the bags as much as possible before officially sealing them.
If you would like to be extra safe, wrap your meat in plastic or foil before placing it into the zip-top bag. This provides an extra layer of protection for better shelf life. And remember to always put meat on the freezer shelves, not the door.
Soup and stew are both excellent candidates for freezer storage. They are best put into large plastic or glass containers with airtight lids to remain fresh. By storing them in a container, it makes the thawing process much more manageable.
Soup is versatile and can also be stored in zip-top bags. However, we don’t recommend this option because thawing becomes messy.
Food storage requires precision when packaging. You should always correctly portion your foods so thawing out is cleaner, and you can make the most of the space inside your freezer.
When storing grains, these rules apply. The method you choose is up to you because all types work well with grains. But we like to use reusable plastic containers or zip-top bags. However, containers are best to store more neatly without a mess when thawing your food.
If you are more concerned about space, then stick to the zip-top bag method for your grains.
One of the best life hacks is preparing your meals in bulk and storing them in the freezer. You can simply package one meal in one container and thaw them out a day in advance. This always keeps you a day ahead, and your meals are ready for when you need them.
If you need short-term storage, using tin foil pans is a great way to store large amounts of food in one place, like casseroles. However, this is not ideal for smaller meals.
We recommend using rectangular glass or plastic containers to keep all of your cooked foods in. This way, you can place a single container in the fridge to defrost and then right into the microwave or oven when it’s time to eat.
Fruits & Vegetables
Any vegetable that can be eaten raw is not the best type for storage. This includes foods like carrots, celery, and cucumbers. We recommend only sticking to things like peas or broccoli.
For vegetables, we recommend cooking them before storing them raw. This is just a more straightforward process for you later on and the best way to keep them fresh. This can be done in any type of container or zip-top bag.
Fruits are a bit different. They should be stored raw, and the method can vary too. We prefer to have our berries stored in larger zip-top bags for easier storage. Other things like bananas can be frozen too, but it is recommended to cut them up first rather than placing the banana with the peel in the freeze.
How Long Does Food Last In The Freezer?
The shelf-life of food in the freezer depends entirely on the type of food, packaging method, and whether it was cooked or purchased.
Below are some popular foods with estimated shelf-lives when packaged in containers in the freezer.
The key to extending the shelf-life of your food to meet or exceed these deadlines is using airtight containers, bags, or wrap that can protect your food from freezer burn. When air escapes into your containers, it contaminates your food and causes a faster decay. The result is freezer burn.
It is best to always pay attention to the dates you put on your labels when storing your food. By labeling them correctly, you can track how long food has been stored and determine whether it has been spoiled yet.
If you open a container but cannot tell whether the food has gone bad, look for some of the telling signs that indicate it’s time to throw this container away. First, you will see the formulation of ice crystals are your food to indicate freezer burn has formed. Second, you will notice a brown discoloration of your food especially on critical foods like meat and fish.
The difference between spoiled food in the freezer is you will not get sick from eating it. Instead, you will simply notice it has lost its taste and looks completely bland after defrosting and preparing it. This is the ultimate sign your food was exposed to air and spoiled because of freezer burn during storage.
How To Make Foods Last Longer In The Freezer
The best way to properly freeze foods in containers and make them last longer is by using a vacuum sealer. This method completely eliminates air from the packaging of your food to ensure it will not be exposed to freezer burn.
When buying pre-made frozen meals, they are already vacuum sealed with the packaging they come in and have a shelf-life of over one year. If you buy things like meat in bulk, investing in a vacuum sealer is an excellent way to store all of the meat in the freezer for longer.
It is also recommended to avoid leaving your freezer open for too long to cause fluctuations or extreme drops in temperatures. This can cause freezer burn to happen quicker despite our food’s proper packaging.
Foods to NOT Freeze
Not all foods are perfectly made for freezer storage. When you freeze food, it changes the chemical balance and damages the integrity of some foods. Below is a list of things you should never keep in the freezer.
- Fruits with high citrus levels.
- Pre-made pasta
- Creamy sauce/soup
- Dairy like milk, yogurt, and softer cheeses.
- Fried foods
- Sour cream
Other Food Freezing Tips to Consider
Hopefully, you have learned a ton of tips so far to improve the way you use containers in your freezer. Here are a few more tips to remember to make your storage process even better.
- Always label your foods with the type of food in the container and the storage date.
- Allow your cooked foods to cool down before placing them in the freezer.
- Only freeze foods that are new and fresh.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker