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Simple Steps to Freeze Food Right

A well-stocked freezer can save you time and money, making it easier to get great-tasting meals and snacks to the table. Make the most of your freezer. We’ll show you how!

Bonus! Watch the video Simple Steps to Freeze Food Right to see this information in action.

What are some time-saving tips for the freezer?

  • Cook and freeze extra food on weekends for the busy week ahead. Use cooked ground meat for tacos or bean-and-beef burritos, meat sauce and more.
  • To defrost food quickly, freeze it in batches of 4-6 portions or fewer.  Label with the date and how many portions are in each container.
  • Transfer meat from larger packages to freezer bags. Lay pieces apart so they freeze separately. That makes it easier to remove the number of pieces you need.  
  • Save time washing, peeling and chopping by using store bought frozen vegetables and fruit. Before returning the bag to the freezer, squeeze the air out of the bag and use an elastic band or twist tie to wrap it tightly.
  • For tasty meals, freeze meats with a marinade. The meat will marinate while thawing. 

What are some money-saving freezer tips?

  • When foods are on sale, buy extra amounts and freeze them. Lean meats on sale or whole-grain breads that are reduced in price can be a good buy. 
  • Make your own healthy “frozen dinners.” It costs less than store-bought versions or eating out. Do what’s called “batch cooking”. Cook up a large portion of a favourite meal like lasagna, curried chicken, corn chowder, beef stew, fish cakes or meatballs and portion into small or medium containers.   Then you can pull out a container for dinner when you need it.
  • Use what’s in your freezer before it spoils. Place new items at the back of the freezer and move older items to the front.  Label all items with a date before you freeze them so you’ll know what to use first. Check this chart to know how long food will keep in the freezer.
  • Save by buying seasonal vegetables and fruit and freezing the extras for up to 12 months. It’s a great way to eat local all year long!
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. Using frozen foods can save food waste if you are cooking for a small family or won’t be home to cook. 

What is freezer burn?

When frozen food has not been wrapped properly or has been frozen for too long, it can become freezer burnt.  This is because air has come into contact with the food. Freezer burn looks like white or greyish-brown spots on the food. It can make foods dry and less tasty. However, foods that are freezer burnt are still safe to eat. You can cut away the parts of the food that have freezer burn and then use the rest. 

How can freezer burn be prevented?

For foods to be frozen so they keep well, you want to stop air from coming in contact with the frozen food. Use heavy foil, freezer bags or containers designed for freezing food.  Make sure to squeeze all the air out of freezer bags before sealing.

How can food be safely frozen?

  • Very hot items can first be cooled at room temperature. Refrigerate once steaming stops. Within two hours, cooked foods should be refrigerated or frozen.
  • Cool food quickly in uncovered shallow dishes or in small amounts in the fridge.  
  • Use a thermometer to check the freezer temperature. It should be -18ºC (0ºF).
  • Leave some space between packages for cool air to move.
  • When freezing liquids, make sure to leave some space at the top of the jar. This is called “headroom” and allows the liquids to expand as they freeze.

What are some healthy foods that freeze well?

Try these healthy and convenient frozen foods below.

Foods you can freeze

How long to freeze them for best quality

Ways you can enjoy them…

Various whole grain breads (pita, wraps, roti, naan)

2-3 months

Pita pizzas, grilled cheese sandwiches, burritos, bread pudding, dipped into dahl.

Homemade bran muffins, pancakes, waffles, French toast

1-3 months

Spread pancakes with peanut butter and sliced banana, apple or strawberries for a quick breakfast or snack.

Top French toast or whole-grain waffles with applesauce or sliced cheese for dinner on the run.

Fish (trout, mackerel, salmon, etc.)

2 months

Soups, chowders, seafood pizza, fish burritos, salmon-salad spread or dip, fish cakes, grilled fish, or breaded and baked.

Frozen shrimp

10-12 months

Shrimp stir-fry, seafood pasta/pizza, soups/chowders.

Plain frozen vegetables

10-12 months

Soups, casseroles, muffins, lasagna, chili, stir-frys, samosas or served as a side dish.

Plain frozen fruit

12 months

Smoothies, muffins, muesli, fruit dips, mixed into yogurt or hot cereal, or eaten frozen.

Lean ground meats (beef, turkey, pork, chicken)

3-4 months

Meatballs, meat sauce, lasagna, cabbage rolls, burritos, shepherd’s pie, meat pies, tacos, pizza, burgers, chili or soup.

Leftovers

2-4 months

Snacks, side dishes, added to soups, lunches, quick dinners.

Please note: These storage times are recommendations for when frozen food will be of a high quality taste and texture. Frozen foods that are stored properly at the right temperature can be safe for a very long time. 

Bottom line:

Freezing food can save you time and money. If you have more questions about how long or how to freeze food, or would like help with thawing, contact an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian. Call 1-877-510-5102 or send an email.

Watch the video Simple Steps to Freeze Food Right to see this information in action.

You may also be interested in:

Safe Food Storage

Video: How to store fruit to keep them fresh

Video: How to store vegetables to keep them fresh

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.