How to Stock a Gluten-Free Freezer

How to Stock a Gluten-Free Freezer

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ipad-gluten-free_guide Welcome to my Gluten-Free Freezer Guide!  

After being asked so many times by clients and the general gluten-free public about how I stock my kitchen so I can successfully eat gluten-free, I began to see a trend as I repeated my love affair with my freezer to each person.

Though you might be surprised to hear me singing praise to my lovely freezer, it’s been a total Godsend since I finally figured out how to make it really work for me.  Here’s the thing, eating gluten-free only becomes a challenge when you:

1) Don’t plan anything.

2) Don’t cook extra servings.

3) Don’t know how to stock your kitchen so that you can ALWAYS throw something together.

The reason I know these points intimately?  Aside from working with clients to help them gain the insight that leads to REAL gluten-free results on the dinner table, if and when I don’t mind this points listed here, trouble ensues and I’m not a happy camper.

In a perfect world, I’d cook every meal from scratch.  I’d experiment with spices all the time and work on concocting all sorts of new dishes.  That would be lovely… for me at least… in a perfect world.

But not in this very real one with real commitments, appointments, deadlines, emergencies and, oh well… you know… life.

One of my best go-to gluten-free food moves was making friends with my freezer.  I never had any idea how valuable and helpful it could possibly be until I finally faced reality many times over that I just didn’t have enough time in the day to cook everything from scratch.

~   Happy gluten-free Freezing & Eating!   ~

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Tupperware (plastic or freezer-safe glass)
  • Freezer-safe Ziploc bags (varying sizes)
  • Masking Tape
  • Sharpee
  • Baking sheets
  • Wax or Parchment Paper
  • Butcher’s Paper
  • Freezer-safe Plastic Wrap (it’s thicker and more durable than the regular stuff)

Labeling

You really need to do this before you put anything in the freezer because after about a week, you’ll never remember how long it’s been in there.  So keep your masking tape and Sharpee readily on hand to tag your containers with the full date (yes – with the month, day, and year…) so you will know instantly if your frozen delight is ok to eat.

Packages (like nuts, seeds, bags of veggies, etc.) can all be directly written upon since you’ll end up discarding the bags anyway.

And remember to follow the chart below to know when something’s safe or when it’s better to send it to the trash.

Keeping it All Straight

Keep a lined notepad on the freezer that you can jot down what frozen items you have in stored.  That way, you’ll always have a current inventory of what’s in there.  For kids or spouses who tend to forget or ‘not see’ things that you’ve already got (like my husband), this totally solves the problem.

Avoiding Freezer Burn

Make sure that your freezer is sealing so that condensation isn’t entering through a gap somewhere around the door.  Generally if you’re using freezer bags or wrapping something (like meat) to stay in the freezer, excess air will produce freezer burn.  Thus keep your food well-sealed and press out as much of the remaining extra air as possible.

When it comes to things like meat, hard cheese and fresh fish, start by wrapping them in butcher’s paper with the waxy side facing the food and then finish off plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

If food looks to have really changed color and has lots of ice crystals all over it, then I’d suggest through it away.  Things don’t stay fresh for infinity within your freezer, so use the list above to “Keep it all Straight” and get into a cycle of eating and freezing that will keep things fresh and safe to eat.

Obviously the best way to store food is to have it vacuum-sealed, but not everyone has a vacuum sealer nor do you absolutely need one.  I personally do not use one.

Longevity of Frozen Gluten-Free Food

  1 year Meats, Berries, Tomato Sauce, Hard Cheese, Vegetables
  6 months Lean Fish (ie. Founder, Cod), Nuts, Seeds
  4 months Ground Meat
  3 months Stews, Soups, Chili, Stock, Fatty Fish (ie. Salmon), Cow’s Milk
  2 months Bananas, Cooked Grains & Beans
  1 month Nut & Seed Milk

Resources:

http://www.oprah.com/health/How-Long-to-Keep-Frozen-Food-Nutrition-Advice-from-Dr-Katz

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp

http://www.wholeliving.com/173306/freezer-fork

http://www.favoritefreezerfoods.com/

Veggies*

Flash-frozen veggies readily available in supermarkets all across America make getting more veggies very simple.  There’s just so many out there to choose from and they stay very well in the freezer that you can then add them to soups, stews, rice dishes, chilis or simply heat them up.

Though the consistency obviously does not exactly mirror what they would be like if they were freshly cooked, it’s better to get your veggies this way rather than avoid them completely.

If you want more info about what frozen veggies are perfect to stock up on, check out my Gluten-Free Frozen Veggie Guide here.

Fruit*

Believe it or not, your freezer is a great place to store extra fruit that’s getting too ripe.  Most fruit can be easily frozen (or you can buy it frozen already) by following my Fruit Freezing Guide (CLICK HERE).

Fruit will stay good in the freezer for months… I’ve found most are good to 3 if not 6 months.  Just make sure that they aren’t getting freezer burn.  Good bags made for these cold temperatures are ideal to use AND can be washed and reused once you go through your stash.

Extra Gluten-Free Servings

Do you tend to cook one meal at a time?  Or do you hate to cook for one?

Here’s where your freezer will come in!

Get some nifty freezer-ready tupperware containers and have them on-hand to tackle all those extra servings that you can’t eat (when you cook for one or two people).  There are definitely some companies producing re-usable glass containers should you be trying to avoid plastic.  Also freezer-safe Ziploc bags are a must and can be used to store sauces, berries, veggies, rice… you name it!

And for those who are cooking at each meal, please please PLEASE start cooking extra portions.  You’ve just got to cook smarter!

I cook for myself and my husband and so most recipes render many extra servings.  Before serving ourselves food, I put at least 1 or 2 servings into a container and pop it into the fridge for later.  That way whether I’m incredibly busy the following week or too lazy to cook, I’ve got something I can easily reheat that’s up to my standards for something tasty, healthy and gluten-free.

One tip I’ve learned is that I don’t make extras of foods that won’t hold up well to freezing, ie. grilled meats, sautéed greens, salads.

Dishes I’ve frozen include soups, stews, stewed meats, chilis, and stove-top cooked oatmeal.

Broth & Stock

If you make your own broth or bone stock, keep containers of this tasty stuff frozen to use when you make soup.  Also, freeze individual cubes in your ice tray and then move to a freezer bag to easily and instantly flavor dishes you’re cooking (like a sauté or even when cooking grains).

Beans*

Yes, you can freeze beans.  Should you ever feel inclined to cook beans yourself, make more than you’ll use in one sitting or so and freeze the rest before they go bad.  Leave any liquid out of the bag.

You can also purchase certain beans (edamame, black eye peas, etc.) from certain companies already frozen.  This is a great alternative to canned beans which can be very high in sodium and have other unhealthy additives along with BPA (a hormone-disrupter leached from all pre-coated cans).  Just beware of edamame that were grown in China.

Rice*

I always make extra rice (brown, basmati, jasmine, whatever you want) and freeze it in a bag.  It’s never going to be exactly as it was the moment it’s done cooking, but when you need something to eat, it defrosts easily.  That way you can take what you need and put the rest back in the freezer.  Some stores even carry bags of frozen rice, so either way you’re set!

Nuts & Seeds*

I cannot stress this any more firmly – Keep all raw nuts and seeds in the freezer if they are hulled (meaning they’ve been removed from their shell already).  If they’ve been roasted, then you don’t really need to worry about it as much as the nuts can get funny.  The shells are intended to preserve the freshness of what’s inside, but since most of us rarely buy nuts in their shells these days, remember to look for how your nut and seed choices are processed and that they are the ONLY ingredient on the list.

Fat, the primary macronutrient that makes up nuts and seeds, can and will go rancid with exposure to air and light.  Even if you keep them in a dark cabinet, it’s not enough.  I put the bags that I buy in the supermarket directly into the freezer as soon as I get home.

And if you’ve got any nuts which have been sitting out and are turning a darker shade… yeah, throw them away.

‘Milk’ Alternatives*

If you happen to make your own nut milks like I do (or you fail to use up whatever is left in the carton before the “Use By” date), you can freeze extra and use it at a later date.  To defrost, you’ll have to let it sit out until it’s liquid (or let it defrost in the fridge) since heating it wouldn’t be a good idea.  The milk may separate, but a good shake will re-incorporate everything.

Meat & Fish*

Stock up on flash-frozen filets of your favorite fish and seafood.  Most fish and seafood is frozen the moment it’s caught, especially if you don’t live in a place where the fishing actually happens.  So let go of the illusion that you’re somehow getting a superior product by buying it ‘fresh’… ‘cause it’s not as fresh as you think it is.

Having these on-hand is a big help!  I always suggest to clients to avoid the pre-seasoned options and those which have sauces added (they may not be gluten-free!) since it’s pretty easy to season fish yourself and make something quick like my Pecan-Encrusted Tilapia.

As for meats, if you catch a great sale at the market or have a favorite local farm which sells cuts of meat and poultry (sometimes it’s already frozen!), place the meat in a freezer bag (or use a vacuum sealer should you have one) and follow the chart above regarding how long you can safely keep something like this in the freezer.

* Be aware: Any food product (yes even frozen fruit, frozen veggies, meat, rice, etc.) which is naturally GF deserves a skeptical eye.  Manufacturing practices could cause contamination (Check out my Ultimate Labeling Guide here), so always read your labels before you purchase and when in doubt, call the manufacturer’s number and politely ask.

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Comments

  1. Britt says:

    Super helpful article Jen. Keep up the good work. Always love to hear what you are going to say!

  2. Dianna says:

    I also herd that we should keep our GF flour in the freezer. Is this true?

  3. Julia says:

    I am single, and freeze song of everything I cook usually. O save my meat stocks, freeze in containers, and remove when frozen to ziplock bags. Seems to use less space and my plastic has cracked on freezer. Can also see what it is. I love the list on door idea! I can simply refer to it instead of digging around!

  4. So glad to hear I can freeze the nut milks. I never seem to finish them. Good to know I can freeze them for later. Great list!!

  5. Christine Marrier says:

    Thanks for all this information! I see you freeze bananas, do you freeze them whole or chopped? Also, is there a way to freeze them without them turning brown? I don’t like them too ripened but it’s ok for baking cakes and muffins.

    • Jennifer says:

      Christine, I actually peel them first then freeze them whole. They are quite easy to break into smaller pieces. If you freeze them, they won’t turn brown.

  6. Sharon says:

    I cook all my gf from scratch but have to cook 2 diff meals each time bc my husband won’t eat gf. Any ideas for cooking gf that he might like so I can get by with one meal for 2 people

    • Sharon, can you be more specific about what you are cooking and what your husband normally likes to eat? Oftentimes cooking lots of processed GF food isn’t the best way to go and people can tell the difference.

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