Friday’s Hot Tip: Make Use of Your Freezer

I was just standing in the kitchen, trying to think of a hot tip to share, when it came to me:

The Freezer.

While I love the oxymoron of a hot tip having to do with the freezer, I’m completely serious. You don’t necessarily need a lot of freezer room in order to take full advantage of its long-term storage capabilities. And it’s a great way to keep certain staples on hand for cooking and baking without worrying if they’ve gone bad.

Here’s a few ideas, taken from my own freezer:

Chopped onions. You can either buy a bag in the frozen veggies section of the store, or buy a bag of fresh chopped onion in the produce section and throw it in the freezer. When you need some onions for any recipe, you just pour out what you need from the bag and stick it back in the freezer. If you don’t mind cutting your own onions, you can save a little money. Make sure you don’t chop the onions too finely, as you can wind up with an onion popsicle that stubbornly refuses to chip off into nice workable chunks for cooking.

Butter. I always try to keep several sticks of butter in the freezer for those moments when I feel inclined to bake. I’m not sure if margarine sticks would keep as well – if you’ve tried this, let me know.

Bread. Joe loves bread and will go through a loaf in about 4 days. I buy 3-4 loaves when they are on sale and stick all but one in the freezer. This does take up a bit more room, but if your freezer is well-organized and your family goes through bread quickly, the clutter doesn’t last for very long.

Nuts. Again, if you like to bake, keeping chopped nuts in the freezer prevents them from going rancid too quickly.

Covered container for ice. I hate how ice can take on the smells and flavors of the freezer. If you don’t have an automatic icemaker, keeping a small bin of fresh ice might not be something you’ve considered – but now you can! At the dollar store, I bought a small square plastic container with an attached snap lid. I washed it out and stuck it in the freezer to hold ice cubes. It doesn’t take up much room, the closed lid keeps the ice fresh, and holds 4 trays’ worth of ice. You can stack items on top of the box if necessary.

Pre-marinated/seasoned chicken breast. This does require some prep time, but means that you have less work when you actually cook it.
1. Buy the family/value pack of fresh chicken breasts.
2. At home, set aside several squares of aluminum foil and about 3-4 freezer bags in varying sizes.
3. Dice several of the chicken breasts into small pieces and put into a medium size freezer bag, then add seasonings. Possibilities include barbecue sauce, honey, lemon, ginger, garlic powder, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce. Seal the bag and mark it accordingly (e.g., “Stir Fry”, “BBQ”, “Spicy”).
4. Take one of the whole chicken breasts and place on a piece of foil. Make small slits on both sides of the breast using a sharp knife. Add herbs and spices as desired, rubbing them in to the meat. Good options include Italian seasoning, curry powder, chili powder, no-salt seasoning blends, pepper, and lemon or lime juice. Fold the foil around the breast to make a packet, then place into a large freezer bag. Label the bag accordingly – if you put several different types of packets into one bag, don’t forget to mark each packet.
5. When you’re ready to cook, grab a bag of chicken pieces or the foil packets. The foil packets can go right into the oven or on the grill, sealing in the juices and seasoning and eliminating extra fats. The pieces are ready for stir-frying, sauteeing, or stewing.

Got anything in your freezer that makes life a little easier? Share in the comments!