We have to talk about surprising foods you can freeze. The coronavirus has complicated food shopping, and you may find that items are sold out, foods are overpriced, or that you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time on checkout lines. (Which, by the way, if you do, please practice social distancing and make sure there’s six feet between you and anyone else. And of course be sure that after you hit the store you wash your hands properly.) There are also the aggressive shoppers who want to race you for the last carton of eggs (if this sounds really specific, it’s because it legit happened to me yesterday). Usually I make a supermarket run every week to grab essentials, but needless to say, I’ve been trying to limit those runs because the experience has become so unpleasant. Also, social distancing is a real thing that we all need to be practicing right now.
Freezing is an excellent way to preserve foods, and can be especially useful during these chaotic food-shopping times. Below are seven foods you can freeze now and use later. Some of these foods you may not have thought to freeze, so I get if you’re a bit skeptical. If it gives you any reassurance, I’ve tried all of these myself and they taste great when ready to be enjoyed!
By the way, if you’re freezing anything in glass containers, just make sure the glass is tempered or labeled “freezer safe,” and leave three quarters of an inch of room between the lid and the contents, as whatever is in container will expand during freezing. Oh, and all the timelines I reference below about how long foods can last in the freezer are from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ FoodKeeper app, which you use to find information on food safety and storage.
On to all the surprising foods you can freeze!
1. Shredded cheeses
This is one of the easiest foods to freeze. I usually buy a few bags for the month and keep one in the refrigerator at a time. The remaining bags I freeze in the sealed bags the cheese came in; there’s no need to repackage. Once you’re ready to re-up on cheese, just take the bag out and either leave it out at room temperature for two hours until it softens up or in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day. Hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan can last up to six months in the freezer or refrigerator if unopened, and up to four weeks if refrigerated after opening. Cheeses such as mozzarella can last up to four months in the freezer, and one month in the refrigerator. Aside from shredded cheese, slices of hard cheeses also freeze very well. The ones that come with the paper divisions are especially useful for grabbing however much you need and leaving the rest in the freezer!
Bread has to be one of the best foods known to humankind. However, depending on the bread you get, things can get pretty stale pretty quick. If you enjoy getting fresh baked bread (or you make your own), it may last as little as three days because these breads have little to no preservatives. Commercial bread products, including flat breads, rolls, and buns, may last a few weeks if refrigerated after opening. Whichever route you take, know that you can freeze all bread for two to five months! Yes, it’s a game changer. Whenever you’re ready to enjoy, you can take out what you’re going to eat, pop into the oven or toaster, and heat until soft. For years now, I’ve been tossing my bread in the freezer as soon as it gets home. I have found that the flavor and texture is preserved way better this way compared with bread that’s just a few days old. Just make sure you slice the loaf and wrap slices individually before you put them in the freezer.
Tofu transforms in texture when frozen, and aside from having more of a chew, I find that it’s able to soak up flavor better. The easiest way to freeze tofu is by putting the unopened container directly into the freezer. It’ll last up to five months, and once you’re ready to use, take it out of the freezer, put it in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day, or leave it out at room temperature for two hours until the ice melts. A lot of recipes call for pressing tofu to extract the water it holds, that way the flavors you cook it in can be better absorbed. I have found that frozen tofu holds really well during pressing, and I’ve even used my hands to press out the water.
4. Sauces and pastes
Tomato sauce and paste, pesto, broths and stocks, marinades, sofrito, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, curry paste…all of these can be frozen for up to three months! It’s important to note that the shelf life for most of these can be very long if stored unopened. For example, a jar of unopened tomato sauce can last up to 18 months. However, what oftentimes happens is that we open one of these items, don’t use up the entire amount, and then the rest goes to waste in as little as three days. Not anymore, amirite?
What you can do is use whatever you plan on cooking with for the week, and then package the rest in individual airtight containers that will then go in the freezer. For marinades, pesto, and sofrito, I love pouring them into an ice tray and then putting that ice tray into a ziplock bag before freezing. Then, when you’re ready to use it, all you have to do is pop a flavor-packed ice cube directly into what you’re cooking and you’re all set. For pastes and peppers, I like to scoop them by the tablespoon into small jars or onto Saran wrap, seal, and store in the freezer for single serving use. For tomato sauce, if it came in a tempered glass jar, you have the option of leaving what’s left in the jar and covering it tightly before you put it in the freezer. For all of these, you can simply leave at room temperature for a couple hours until defrosted, or in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Pizza dough
If you buy premade pizza dough or make your own, you probably know that dough goes bad pretty fast. Once again, that’s where freezing comes in to save the day. For premade dough, pack it in an airtight ziplock and pop it in the freezer. For the homemade alternative, once the dough is fully finished, add it to an airtight ziplock or container and put that in the freezer as well. Once you’re ready to use, you can leave it out at room temperature for a couple hours or leave it in the refrigerator overnight. In order for it to roll out well, you may have to leave the dough on top of a preheating stove or by someplace warm in the house so that it has a better stretch to it.
6. Cooked grains
Rice, quinoa, barley…they’re all great for freezing! I love to make batches of cooked grains and then freeze for use throughout the month. Cooked rice or quinoa can last up to a year in the freezer compared with just one week in the refrigerator. Just cook your grains as you normally would, allow to cool, and store in individual airtight containers for single-serve use. You can also buy cooked frozen grains too if you want to skip the cooking part! Once you’re ready to enjoy, let it thaw out at room temp for a couple hours or overnight in the refrigerator. You’re welcome.
7. Fresh fruit
Smoothie lovers, this one’s for you. You can pretty much store any fruit in the freezer to enjoy later. Wash your fruits well, peel, and chop as needed, and add to airtight containers. Now, the amount of time fruits can be kept frozen varies widely, from as short as one month, to as long as a year. Check out the FoodKeeper app’s database for guidelines on how long different kinds of fruit keep. Whenever you’re ready to enjoy, just take the fruit out of the freezer and enjoy! Some of my favorite fruits to freeze are bananas (peel and slice), berries (remove any stems first), pineapples (peel and chop), mango (peel and chop), and peaches (pit and slice). The options are endless though!
Hope this guide was helpful! What are your favorite foods to freeze? Let us know and remember to wash those hands and freeze those foods.