Be that hero who freezes meals ahead of time for easy dinners

May 26, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: Becky Rosenthal

I confess, I harbor fantasies about being the kind of person with a well-organized freezer full of prepped meals. I still remember the two or three times I managed to freeze a soup or some chicken stock and was grateful to pull it out months later. Freezing food is kind of a gift you give yourself. It almost makes you feel like you're grocery shopping in your own home — for free!

More: 10 cheap and easy freezer meals that will save your family on busy days

Yes, I indulge in this kind of magical thinking. But you know what's not magic? All the times I've ruined perfectly good food because I didn't freeze it correctly.

Well, happy day to us all, because food writer and blogger Becky Rosenthal is out with a new book, Fast to the Table Freezer Cookbook. It's loaded with recipes along with valuable tips and advice on freezing food.

We got to ask Becky a few of our burning (heh) questions about freezing food.

More: How to freeze produce so you can enjoy the bounty all year round

SheKnows: What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when freezing food?

Becky Rosenthal: I think the biggest mistakes commonly made in freezing are not packaging and labeling the food correctly, not knowing when things expire and just simply forgetting to use what they've frozen.

SK: Suppose you freeze some meat because you realize you’re not going to have time to cook it that week. And then you pull it out another week and defrost it in the refrigerator. But then you realize that, yet again, you’re not going to have time to cook it soon enough.

BR: If it still has some ice crystals on it, then you can refreeze, but make a note to use that one before any other frozen meats in your freezer. If something has been partially defrosted, it definitely has a shorter life in the freezer. Better yet even, I like to cook a large portion of meat when it's at its freshest, then freeze the cooked meat in portions that make sense for my family meals. I find that we use cooked meat that's been frozen way more often than raw frozen meat.

SK: What do freezer bags do that’s different from just wrapping food up in aluminium foil?

BR: Different foods should be packaged differently. For soups, I like to use freezer-safe plastic bags and get as much air out as possible. For casseroles or pasta dishes, I use foil containers. Make sure to wrap the foil containers tightly in plastic wrap, then foil over that before freezing to prevent freezer burn. The less access the food has to air or moisture, the better quality food you'll have when you reheat or cook the dish.

SK: Could you tell us how long a handful of foods last in the freezer before quality suffers significantly?

Veggies: 1 year

Raw beef: 6 – 12 months

Raw chicken: 9 – 12 months

Raw pork: 4 – 6 months

Raw ground meat: 3 – 4 months

Cooked beef: 2 – 3 months

Cooked pork: 2 – 3 months

Cooked chicken: 4 months

Ice cream: 2 months

Cooked rice: 6 months

Broth: 6 months

Fruit: 1 year

Did you see that? Ice cream — two months! BRB, gotta go finish all the ice cream in my freezer. But first, keep reading for Thai noodles with veggies and peanut sauce, a quick dinner recipe that will take just minutes to cook if you use your handy frozen foods.

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