When the weather gets cold, your stomach starts craving hearty, zesty meals. A run to the supermarket in sub-zero temperatures is no one’s idea of a good time, but thankfully, you never have to leave your house if you stock your freezer with the right ingredients to make your favorite dishes. There are plenty of foods that freeze well, saving you time and energy, not to mention helping you reduce your food waste. Here are the best foods to freeze for easy winter meals.
In the summertime, extra herbs go to waste, but they are actually some of the best foods to freeze. They’ll retain much of their taste and flavor and can be tossed into anything, from pasta and rice dishes to soups and more. To freeze herbs, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put the sheet in the freezer, and once the herbs have frozen, transfer them to an air-tight container. Alternately, you can freeze herbs in ice cube trays filled with oil. These can be added directly to soups and sauces for extra flavor in a flash, and they last for up to a year.
Preparing veggies is without a doubt one of the biggest time commitments in any meal. Get the prep work done well in advance by using your spiralizer to shape sweet potatoes, zucchini and butternut squash into noodles, then freezing them in an airtight glass container for up to a year. You can reheat them in the microwave or on the stove, and use them as a base for a noodle dish, or throw them into salads, soups or casseroles.
Kale, spinach, collards, chard and other leafy greens are easy to freeze by one of two methods: Chopping them into small pieces raw or blanching them. Both methods will interrupt the enzyme action that’s responsible for a loss in flavor and color. Be sure to wash leaves before preparing, and freeze them in an airtight container for about 8 months. Frozen greens work great in casseroles, soups and even omelettes.
Warm bowls of rice and other grains are especially soothing when it’s cold. Any grain can be cooked and frozen, including white and brown rice, quinoa and farro. When reheated, their texture remains the same, so cook your grains as usual, then let them cool to room temperature. Store them in the freezer for up to one year.
Sauces and Broth
During a season when soup and pasta cravings are going strong, keeping your freezer stocked with broths and sauces will make your life much easier. To freeze tomato sauce, pour it into a airtight glass container, leaving about half an inch at the top for the liquid to expand when frozen. It will keep in the freezer for up to six months. Freeze broth in the same way for bigger portions or use an ice-cube tray or muffin pan for individual quantities. Broth and stock will last up to a year in the freezer.
Chicken is an ideal make-ahead freezer meal. Use it in soup, a stir-fry or as part of a casserole. To prepare, cut cooked chicken into strips and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until hard, about 1 to 2 hours. Then place them in an airtight container in the freezer for for up to six months.
Ready for more fun ways to use frozen foods? Add veggies to pastry puffs and herbs to fresh dough in these family-friendly appetizers.