So I realize I’m about two weeks late for the whole “Best of 2010” blog post. But as I enjoyed my lunch today, I realized that there is one thing I learned in 2010 that has changed my life, and it is something worth sharing:
I learned to freeze my food.
As a law student, I’m ashamed to admit that in my first semester of law school I did end up munching on my fair share of Lean Cuisines. But I found them way too salty, so gave up and took to eating takeout more often than trying to make something more than a smoothie at home. Which was too bad, I thought, because I really enjoy cooking, but there was just no time.
Around the same time, I started following Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” RSS feed. Love it. He does cook with meat and alcohol from time to time, neither of which I consume. But his commitment to reducing the amount of meat Americans eat means that he produces plenty of vegetarian or vegetarian-adaptable recipes.
One day, Mark Bittman wrote an article on freezing food. It sounded like a great idea, a definite improvement over store-bought frozen food, but I never really got around to trying to make it a part of my lifestyle.
Law school continued, and my cooking (and thus eating) habits took a further downturn. The result was that I ended up with some minor health issues in the middle of 2010. So I decided to take my health back into my hands and resume cooking at more regular intervals.
The only problem is this: food companies don’t make (and grocers don’t sell) food for single people. Food comes prepackaged, perfect for a family of 4.3 individuals. And it seems God didn’t create vegetables for single people either (have you ever tried eating a whole head of broccoli by yourself in one sitting? Or even in the couple of days before it turns yellow?).
As I pondered how I was going to eat all my food, and not use up all my time preparing said food, I remembered the Bittman article on freezing. In a different article (which I can’t seem to find), he mentioned zippered bags are superior to plastic containers because they conform the food (especially soups) to whatever shape you need in the freezer.
During my next grocery trip, I purchased a bunch of zippered bags. And it changed my life! I could make a twelve serving casserole on Sunday, eat one of the servings, and then cut up and place the rest in individual freezer bags. Voilà, eleven meals that I don’t have to worry about preparing from scratch, just warming it up.
And that is how freezing has changed my life. I only cook two, three, at most four times a week, but I eat two home cooked meals almost every day. I feel so much better, too. I don’t dread leftovers if I invite company over. In fact, I actually am disappointed when every last bit is consumed, because that means I don’t get to re-experience the delicious dish later. The best part is, the food is made and seasoned exactly the way I liked it, not like some nasty pre-packaged frozen TV dinner.
Though Bittman’s article will give you good pointers, here’s my personal suggestions for freezing food for one:
- Make extra of whatever: soup, beans, casseroles, you name it.
- Buy 1 quart zippered freezer bags. A box of gallon bags doesn’t hurt either.
- Place the equivalent of one serving size in one freezer bag, squeezing all the air out before sealing.
- Place bags in freezer.
To heat up, place one bag in the fridge the night before you want to eat the dish to let it thaw, then microwave or heat on the stove or in the oven (depending on the food and your personal preferences, of course). Or if you don’t have time to wait overnight (or you forgot, like I do all the time), run hot water over the bag in your kitchen sink until the food inside loosens. Then place in a bowl and reheat in the microwave.
As I said, I realized how profound this was as I ate lunch today. My mom made black beans while visiting in December. Then I had to go away for a couple of weeks for GYC and for vacation. I froze the leftovers, thawed them out yesterday, and enjoyed my Mami’s cooking today as if she were still here.
I’ll say it again: freezing food is probably the most important practical skill I learned in 2010.