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Since I like my meals to be fresh, I don’t freeze prepared meals, instead once a month I make a frozen meal prep plan to make my daily cooking very easy.
How do I store different food
Some food freezes better than others, so I freeze only selected food items. As a general rule, most proteins usually freeze well, while vegetables tend to get soggy once defrosted.
So I have a general rule of thumb “storage system” in place based on the type of food:
- Egg ( not whole)
Cupboard or Pantry: Carbohydrate, spices, oil and vinegar
Fresh from the Market or Garden: fruits and vegetables
I use this storage system as a general guideline, but of course, there are exceptions. This chart refers to my first post: The Time-Saving Vegetables Rule where I explain:
- why I never plan a weekly menu
- how I can still eat healthy meals made from scratch while optimizing the time I spend in the kitchen
- and only go shopping once a week
How I organize my food shopping
Based on the general rule of my storing system I usually do:
- one big food shopping once per month to buy all the food I can store for a long time either in the freezer or in the pantry (meat, fish, pasta, rice, Parmesan and all I need for the frozen meal prep…),
- and a weekly food shopping to buy fresh vegetables, fresh cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, comte..) and anything else I am missing from my storage.
Saving time with frozen meal prep
I like to make all my food from scratch so I don’t buy prepared frozen meals. I rather have my meals freshly cooked but I use the freezer to store meal prep which I prepare myself. So I still cook fresh daily but I save time on my daily cooking by using frozen meal prep.
In using the freezer, what really helps me to save time with the daily meal-making are the Base Ingredients and the Stocks that I prepare and freeze over a boring and rainy weekend.
Just 1 hour spent every second month makes me save hours on a weekly basis. The frozen meal prep I usually make are:
- Mirepoix: Carrots, Onions and Celery
- Grated parmesan
- Homemade Chicken Stocks
- Homemade Br0wn stock
- Homemade Fish stock
Freezing uncooked meals or leftover
I also freeze leftover meals…if there’s any left! But I never re-freeze meal made with food that was previously frozen.
Freezing meat, fish and eggs
Whether cooked or uncooked, most proteins can be stored in the freezer: Meat, Fish, Cheeses, Eggs (not whole).
I always freeze meat and fish uncooked and into 4-person portions, so each time I will defrost only the quantity needed for our family meals.
You can also freeze prepared meat or fish but in general, I never freeze them if they have cooked vegetables. Here are some meat and fish recipes that freeze well uncooked:
You could freeze scrambled raw eggs, but mostly I freeze egg whites leftover from other recipes as for example custard or cream. Once defrosted and at room temperature, you can make fantastic Meringues for a special occasion.
Bread also stores well in the freezer. If you let it defrost overnight on the kitchen counter, it will be like fresh the next morning.
If you warm it up for 2 minutes in the oven once completely defrosted, it will also have the same fragrance as newly baked ones.
I always store fresh baguettes tradition (the best here in France) in the freezer already cut in sandwiches size. Every morning I put one in the oven for 10 minutes to make sandwiches for the boys’ school lunch.
You can also freeze pizza dough, but I never do as I can quickly make it when I need it in the pizza dough in the bread machine. I do always make it at least one day in advance.
I usually only freeze vegetables that will be cooked or baked afterwards, in stews or quiches for example. Most defrosted vegetables tend to be mushy, but that wouldn’t matter for those types of recipes.
I do buy frozen peas and spinach because they freeze well and they are handy “back-up” vegetables to have on hand when you run out of fresh ones.
The vegetable meals that freeze well are:
How to store food in the freezer
I try to keep my freezer well organized so that I can easily find what I am looking for and also to see if I which stocked food I need to replanish.
I either use well labelled plastic containers or freezing bags and in particular, for the fish, I use double bags as the smell of the seafood can easily take over the freezer.
Labels are very important, first of all, because once the food is frozen you may not recognize what food it is. Secondly, to keep track of the date you froze it. I never keep food in the freezer for longer than 6 months.
Normally I do a deep cleaning of my freezer every 3 months. I wait until most of the food has been used and whatever is left I put into a fridge container with plenty of ice packs. I always try not to have meat or fish. I throw away whatever is older than 6 months, I defrost the freezer completely and remove the ice that forms on the walls with time. I disinfect the freezer, put it back on and put the food back in once it is starting to get cold again.
Basic safety rules for freezing food
When freezing and defrosting food, I follow these basic safety rules:
- If I want to freeze the meat or fish I’ve just bought at the store, I do it immediately, i.e. without letting it sit in my fridge for days.
- It’s best not to thaw food on the kitchen counter at room temperature, but I do. However, I always make sure to put them in the fridge once they are completely defrosted.
- I never re-freeze thawed food.
- Food can be refrozen though if it has been gradually thawed in the refrigerator, I never do this.
For more safety food storage rules you can check: Food Safety Basics from the United States Department of Agriculture
This is an additional safety precaution I always use:
- We have a lot of lightning storms here in the region, especially during the end of the summer, and often the electricity gets cut off.
- So this is what I do to make sure the food in the freezer is safe, especially if we are not at home or we are travelling.
- I always leave a cup filled with ice cubes in the freezer.
If on our return I find a frozen cup of water instead of the ice cubes, then I know something happened. The temperature was not maintained at freezing level, and so the food is no longer safe to eat.
If you are making any of those Once a Month Frozen Meal Prep or if you have any other suggestions, leave your comment below I would like to hear from you. You can find more delicious ideas if you FOLLOW ME on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram or sign up to my newsletter.