Help! Off to paradise but my fridge is full of groceries: what foods can I freeze?

Here it is. On the cusp of a magnificent Caribbean vacation, for which you have spent endless hours packing each perfect outfit and essentials for the entire family and planned out the exciting details of your itinerary. You suddenly realize: The fridge is full of groceries that will inevitably have to be thrown away before your departure! Has that happened to you? The magnificent Caribbean vacation? Not to me. But I can’t tell you how many times in the past I have been so focused on all the little last minute things that needed to be done before leaving on our favorite family vacation to the lake. Meticulously packing and planning for what happens when we get there, I have completely forgotten that fresh foods just can’t sit in the fridge for an entire week or two without spoiling! [Well, they can, but they shouldn’t] One year, I was so proud of myself because I remembered the spoiled food episode of vacations past and tried to be preemptive this time around with a great new plan! But my husband was vehemently opposed to just feeding the kids boxed cereal with milk the week before leaving for vacation to avoid buying fresh groceries we couldn’t take with us. He really doesn’t give me enough credit for my ingenious ideas sometimes. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in this last minute predicament, the best thing to do is know what items in your fridge can be safely and effectively frozen to use at a later time! There are some things I always thought for sure would not freeze well. I was shocked to find out that they did! And they could actually become both great money-saving bulk purchases as well as convenience items you can pull out last minute to add to your cooking. So as a rule of thumb, foods that should NOT be frozen are generally the ones that contain large amounts of liquid. These include: whole eggs in their shells (freezing makes the egg expand and crack exposing the insides to bacteria), high water content veggies like celery, cucumbers, lettuce (they become limp and soggy when thawed) and most dairy or cream based sauces (they separate and curdle). You get the idea. First, check your fridge and decide whether you want to toss a big last minute salad with what’s in the produce drawer (I tried, no one ate it, but you may have better luck) then move on to inventorying the items that DO freeze well until your return home. Keep in mind the safe method of defrosting these items is to place them back into the fridge, unless you’re going to toss them directly into a pan for cooking. Eggs: As mentioned, these should never be frozen whole, but you can crack and mix yolks and whites together then place in ice cube trays, cover with wrap and freeze. Once frozen, take out of trays and store in freezer safe containers. They keep 3-4 months. Milk: It’s best to freeze milk in smaller portions, not an entire gallon size. Use freezer safe containers and leave some room to allow for expansion. Use it within a month. Butter: I love that butter can be frozen in its original wrapper and the awesome handy trick of grating the stick of butter right into your pan for cooking! You can also grate it onto a sheet of wax paper and it will come to room temperature within minutes. You have 6-9 months to use frozen butter. Citrus fruits: You can freeze both the juice and the zest of oranges, lemons and limes! Place juice in ice cube trays so you have small convenient portions to use OR you can add the cubes directly to your ice teas or lemonades! The zest can be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in freezer safe container. I have kept these for long periods of time and the official word is that they keep frozen indefinitely. Fresh fruits and vegetables: The best trick to freeze most of these is to cut or slice into smaller pieces and place in lined baking sheets. Freeze until solid then transfer to freezer bags. Some vegetables should be cooked or par-boiled first and then frozen in this same manner. These will keep anywhere from 5-9 months. Sauces & Soups: Again, per my do-not-freeze comment, dairy based sauces and soups may not be good candidates, but all others do! Place in freezer-safe container and store up to 6 months for best flavor. Nuts: To keep these from going stale I decided to freeze them in an air tight container and they kept perfectly! Freezing keeps their oil from going rancid. You can even add them frozen directly to recipe for baking, just adjust for a bit of extra time in the oven. They will freeze nicely for up to 6 months. Fresh herbs: There are different ways to freeze fresh herbs. Once washed and thoroughly dried , you can wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and place in air tight container or freezer bag. You can also chop it all up and place in ice cube trays with a tablespoon or so of water. Or my favorite method is to freeze it chopped in ice cube trays with a little bit of olive oil, just enough to cover the herbs. I can pop those straight into my sauté pan for cooking. They will freeze up to 3 months. Breads: Fresh bread freezes best. Bagels, loaves and other baked items should be wrapped in aluminum foil then placed in a freezer bag. to reheat remove from plastic bag, but keep it in foil, place directly on rack and bake for 10-15 min at 300°F. Use within 6 months. Meats (including uncooked bacon and sausages): These freeze great in well sealed bags. Be sure to always defrost in the fridge to avoid temperature drops and avoid re-freezing once it has been defrosted. Meats can be kept for up to 1 year. Bacon and sausage can last 1-2 months. According to the USDA {read here}, freezer burn does not make food unsafe, merely dry in spots. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air coming in contact with the surface of the food. Cut freezer-burned portions away either before or after cooking the food. Heavily freezer-burned foods may have to be discarded for quality reasons. Rice, beans, grains (cooked): These typically freeze well and can keep for 9-12 months. Freeze them in plastic bags. However, pastas are more delicate and tend to become mushy and soft when defrosted. Hopefully, these tips will help to avoid spoiling and wasting of good fresh foods in your fridge. Now get back to the packing so you can glam it up beach-side without worries as the kids play in the sand! HA. Order up an extra lemonade for me! Do you have more tips for freezing foods to share with us? Or wanna share a vacation story (we love those)? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you! This post may contain affiliate links. See our Disclosure policy. #food #freezer #freezerburn #freezewell #donotfreeze

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