Freezing is quick and easy. It helps preserve the nutritive quality more closely to fresh food than any other food preservation method used today. When freezing foods, the goal is to keep ice crystals as small as possible. Large ice crystals can cause an undesirable soft, mushy texture.
Foods to be frozen must be packaged in a way that protects them from the dry freezer climate and excludes as much air as possible. Ideal containers for freezing must be
- expandable or sealed with sufficient headspace for expansion;
- moisture-vapor resistant;
- durable and leak proof;
- resistant to cracking and brittleness at low temperatures;
- resistant to oil, grease, and water;
- protective of foods from absorption of off flavors and odors; and
- easy to seal and label.
Avoid using waxed paper, paper or cardboard cartons, any rigid carton with cracks or poorly fitting lid, or re-used plastic dairy containers (e.g., cottage cheese or yogurt containers). These do not resist moisture enough to be suitable for long-term freezer storage.
To learn more about freezing and other food preservation methods, register for Preserve the Taste of Summer 101, https://bit.ly/34pVRjQ.
March is National Frozen Food Month! To celebrate, try these nutritious and delicious options from and helpful tips for the frozen food section:
- Frozen Produce–Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option when purchasing out of season produce. Frozen varieties are packed with nutrients, sometimes more than fresh items, because they are packaged at the peak of harvest season. Frozen produce is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.
- Frozen Meat, Poultry, Seafood–Fresh animal protein can be expensive behind the counter, but frozen options can be just as nutritious and delicious when carefully selected. Proteins not breaded or fried are the best options. The frozen section is also a terrific place to find several meat alternatives, such as plant-based burgers or tofu meatballs.
- Check the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content on the Nutrition Facts Label; try to purchase products with less than 10% of the Daily Value.
- Save frozen entrées and pizzas for busy nights; add other items to these meals and snacks, such as steamed vegetables, sliced apples with nut butter, or a side salad, to increase nutrient density.
To start stocking your freezer, here is a chart with recommended storage times for common frozen food items:
Food Storage: Time in Freezer (0° or below)
Ground Meats: 3–4 months
Fresh Meat (steaks, chops, roasts): 4–12 months
Fresh Poultry: 9 months (pieces), 1 year (whole)
Cooked Meat or Poultry: 2–6 months
Soups and Stews: 2–3 months
Breaded Poultry (chicken nuggets/patties): 1–3 months
Pizza: 1–2 months
Frozen Dinners or Entrées: 2–3 months
Leftovers (casseroles, pasta): 2–3 months
Sources: Frozen food: Convenient and nutritious. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; McDonald, L. (2012). Freezer foods. Supermarket savvy: Aisle-by-aisle teaching modules; Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer