Rochester, Minnesota - “Thinking about what is in the bottom of your freezer and what year it was frozen can be overwhelming,” says Amanda Leisenheimer, registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System. “While freezing foods helps prolong the shelf life, frozen food can still expire. It’s important to go through your freezer at least once a year and throw away any questionable food or items more than a year old.”
Freezer burn also can happen, which comprises the taste and integrity of food. If you have frozen foods that are still edible but getting close to their expiration date, Leisenheimer recommends moving them to the front of the freezer to grab first when meal planning.
Freezer cleaning also presents a good time to throw away any frozen foods that may be tempting and result in broken healthy eating habits. Some examples include:
- Ice cream
- Frozen pizza or pizza rolls
- Cookie dough
- Breaded and fried meats, such as chicken wings or fish sticks
- Frozen candy bars.
Once cleaned, filling the freezer with healthy items makes meal prep easy.
“Frozen vegetables are a great option for vegetables that aren’t in season. An added benefit is frozen produce often has less sodium than their canned counterparts,” says Leisenheimer. “They’re easy to make and can be frozen until ready to make. Fruit can also be frozen and made into smoothies, topped on frozen yogurt or simply enjoyed as a cool, refreshing snack.”
Lesienheimer explains a budget-friendly option is buying unfrozen, non-breaded meat from the store in larger quantities. Then, before freezing, place a serving size in freezer bags.
“A healthier option to pre-made frozen pizza is making pizza dough when you have time and freezing it,” adds Leisenheimer. “Homemade pizza dough tastes better, has no preservatives and you can add healthy toppings, such as low-fat cheese, vegetables, and olive oil- or pesto-based sauces.”
She instructs pulling out the frozen dough in the morning, letting it thaw in the refrigerator and rolling it out — determining the desired thickness as you do so — when you’re ready to eat. Add flavor to the dough by using basil, oregano, onion powder and garlic powder. In addition, sprinkling cornmeal on the crust adds texture.
Remember to label and date all freezer items to keep track of how long food has been frozen.