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Spring Clean Your Freezer

posted Apr 17, 2015, 1:25 PM by   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 1:27 PM ]
Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to making a healthful lifestyle work.  However, the freezer is one of the most underutilized kitchen appliances!  Instead of filling our freezers with "the good stuff", we're too busy stocking it with high fat, high sodium junk food that may or may not be convenient to prepare.  When your freezer is cleared of all of that junk food nonsense, you will have an abundant amount of space for these nutritious items: 

  • Unsweetened fruits. For use smoothies, sauces, mixing in with yogurt, and even floating in seltzer water as nutrient-packed "ice cubes".  Have a few overripe bananas?  Instead of making muffins or bread, peel, slice and freeze for use in smoothies later.  Or, blend frozen bananas with peanut butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a powerful blender or food processor for a soft-serve-ice-cream-like treat! 
  • Vegetables without sauces or seasonings. Frozen vegetables are ready to cook!  No cleaning, peeling or chopping.  Just throw them into a steamer, on a roasting pan, or into a soup or sauce.  BONUS: they're very affordable. 
  • Leftover homemade foods for quick meals & snacks. Soups, lasagna/casseroles, pancakes/waffles, bread, muffins, sauces/broth, pre-cooked whole grains...the list goes on and on.  If you have extra, pack it up, label and date it, and put it in the freezer.  You'll be very happy that you did when those busy days roll around. Freeze cooked whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa in muffin tins.  Once hardened, pop them out and place in a storage bag or container for perfectly portioned whole grains that can be reheated in the microwave.  Freeze meals in individual servings for a homemade "TV dinner" that you can feel good about. Check out some of our favorite freezable dinner ideas from our meal planning 101 post and Dinner Made Easy handout
  • Portions of meat, poultry and fish without added sauces.  Purchase quality meats in bulk, separate into portions, wrap tightly, label, date, and freeze.  Remove from the freezer the day before you plan to prepare it and you'll have perfectly portioned proteins ready for the meal.  You can also pay a few more dollars and buy pre-portioned proteins, just check for added sauces and seasonings that can contribute additional sodium. 
  • Sprouted grain breads.  If your budget allows it, consider switching to sprouted grain bread products.  Found in the freezer section of the grocery store, these breads are void of preservatives and other additives that are in shelf-stable breads.  Choosing these breads is arguably more nutritious than making your own bread! 
  • Homemade stock.  Making your own stock can bring your cooking to the next level (without all the extra sodium), but it makes so much that you will have to freeze some of it.  Stock is a great way to utilize every bit of your proteins.  After roasting a whole protein such as turkey, chicken, or Cornish game hen, collect the bones and scraps and place in a large pot or slow cooker.  Add any vegetable scraps that you may have (that half onion and head of garlic you're not sure what to do with or those baby carrots and celery that you didn't eat at lunch this week) and add them to the pot.  Fill the pot with enough water to cover the bones and vegetables.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Put a lid on your pot and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Let it continue to simmer for at least 3 hours.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve into your storage containers and allow to cool.  Once cooled, store what you plan to use immediately in the refrigerator and what you don't plan to use in the next 1-2 weeks in the freezer.  If you are using your slow cooker, simmer on the low setting for at last 3 hours.  The longer it simmers, the better the flavor! Use this homemade stock anywhere that you would normally use store bought broth/stock. 
For more information on what foods to freeze and how long they can be stored in your freezer, check out this fact sheet from USDA. 

Next week is our final post on Spring Cleaning Your Eating and we will provide tips and tricks for setting up your eating environment for a mindful dining experience.