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Dos and Don'ts of Freezing Food

By Ms. Mary Michaela Parker, MSU Extension Service

There are some weeks when I don’t feel like cooking dinner or am short on time to prepare a meal from start to finish. On these nights, I like to have a few meals ready to pull out of the freezer instead of being tempted to visit a fast food drive through.

I like to have soups, casseroles, and taco meat frozen in small portions. They’re easy to heat up, require minimal effort, and I still have a good homemade meal.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when freezing foods:

  • Make sure your freezer is kept at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen food is safe to eat indefinitely when frozen properly. Eat food sooner rather than later because the food quality will deteriorate over time.

  • Portion out foods before freezing and write the amount on the bag or container.

  • If you have leftovers you don’t want to go to waste, freeze them at the earliest time to stop bacterial growth.

  • Consider freezing foods in flat containers or bags. This is a great space saving technique and helps the food thaw faster!

  • Don’t put hot food into the freezer. Let it get to refrigerator temperature before freezing.

  • Freezer burn can be a pain! Proper cooling, air removal, moisture-vapor-resistant packaging, a tight seal, and using frozen foods in a timely manner all help prevent freezer burn.

While there are many foods that freeze well, there are a handful that don’t, including:

  • Cooked eggs

  • Cooked chunks of potatoes (mashed potatoes freeze well)

  • Custards and cream puddings

  • Potato salad

  • Pasta

  • Raw, watery vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes. Tomatoes, celery, and cabbage are okay if frozen as an ingredient in a cooked dish.

  • Yogurt and sour cream

  • Mayonnaise

  • Sauces and gravies thickened with flour and cornstarch

  • Fried foods

  • Crumb toppings on casseroles

It’s often hard to remember how long you can refrigerate certain foods before they spoil.

Check out this chart for guidelines on how long you can keep food in your fridge. It also has info on when to eat frozen foods to ensure maximum food quality!

If you want info on how to freeze vegetables, check out Publication 0974, “Freezing Vegetables.”

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