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8 Foods to Store in the Freezer for Quick Meals

With these ingredients on hand, a delicious meal is never far off.

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1. Bread

Bread is better frozen than stored in the fridge (it goes dry and stale). If you slice it before freezing, you can remove individual slices that will thaw quickly or can be toasted from frozen. Pita bread can be toasted from frozen, and part-baked breads can be baked from frozen. Storage times for bread vary according to the type of bread. Commercially baked or homemade brown and white bread will keep up to 6 months; flat breads 4 months; milk, fruit and malt breads 3 months. Breads with a crispy crust will keep for 2 weeks; after this the crust tends to break off as they thaw.

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2. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are good for casserole toppings and can be used from frozen – the crumbs remain separate. Crumble day-old bread, or make large quantities in a blender, and freeze in plastic bags or plastic containers for up to 3 months. Croutons are another useful freezer item.

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3. Frozen fruit and vegetables

Frozen fruit and vegetables are nutritious and convenient – the vitamin content does not diminish during freezing. Fruit and vegetables thaw quickly or you can cook them from frozen. Excess vegetables and fruits can be frozen, although they may not be as nutritious as bought frozen produce, which is frozen within hours of picking. As a general rule, frozen vegetables can be stored for 10–12 months; fruit packed alone or as a purée will keep 6–8 months, packed in syrup or sugar 9–12 months.

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4. Raw shrimp and other shellfish

Raw shrimp and other shellfish can be cooked from frozen, as can fish fillets, to make a variety of quick meals. Store frozen fish according to the ‘use-by’ date. If freezing fresh raw fish, store white fish for up to 3 months, oil-rich fish for up to 2 months. Most shellfish that is sold as ‘fresh’ has been frozen and should not be frozen again.

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5. Herbs

Herbs can be frozen in stock or water in icetrays, or open-frozen and then packed into freezer containers or bags. Add the cubes to dishes as they are heating. Store for up to 6 months.

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6. Pasta

Pasta, plain or filled, can be cooked from frozen, needing only a simple sauce to transform it into a complete meal. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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7. Grated cheese

Grated cheese can be used from frozen in sauces or casserole and pizza toppings. Store for up to 6 months.

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8. Grated lemon, orange or lime zest

Grated lemon, orange or lime zest, added frozen, will give instant flavour to many quick dishes. Open-freeze the zest on a tray and then pack into containers or bags. Store for up to 12 months. You can also freeze the juice of the citrus fruit in icetrays to add to sauces.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest