The right way to prepare food for freezing

Next time you find a good deal on fresh fruit, veggies, meat or milk, it may make sense to stock up for later. That's where your freezer can come in handy.

But make sure you know which foods can and can't be frozen before spending a lot of money on items you won't be able to keep for long.

Here are some tips from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for choosing and preparing foods for the deep freeze.

  • Among the foods that don't freeze well are cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers and radishes, which tend to become really limp. Also, cooked macaroni, rice and spaghetti tend to become mushy when frozen alone.

  • Spices and seasonings used in food can become bitter or too strong when frozen. Depending upon the dish, you may need to add extra spices when reheating or serving dishes that were frozen.
  • Learn the proper techniques for preparing foods for the freezer. In many cases, vegetables will need to be blanched, or scalded in boiling water or steam for a short period to help retain flavor.
  • Choose the right containers or bags for freezing. Remove extra air from bags before placing in the freezer. Pack foods in smaller portions so you can thaw out only what you need.
  • When freezing liquids, pour off 1/2 inch to 1 inch to allow for expansion.
  • Eggs can be cracked and frozen individually in ice cube trays.
  • Label everything so you'll be able to identify it later.
  • Generally you can store fruits and vegetables for eight to 12 months, poultry for six to nine months, fish for three to six months, and cured or processed meat for one to two months. If you store foods longer than the suggested period of time the quality will begin to decline.

I've had good results with freezing corn on the cob, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. I also buy extra shredded cheese, tofu, milk and juice when it's on sale and put it in the deep freeze.

If you enjoy cooking, whip up an extra batch of soup, casserole or whatever your favorite dish is to keep in the freezer. You'll be happy you have it on those nights when you don't want to cook or pay for takeout.

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