The best money-saving kitchen tool you already have

Published on June 10 2010 - 2:38 PM
The best money-saving kitchen tool you already have

I’m a sucker for a good deal. So whenever I see not-so-perfect organic tomatoes for $2 a pound or piles of corn at a rock-bottom price, I stock up. Find 20 quick summer dinners packed with fresh, in-season veggies here.

However, instead of subsisting on a diet of the-vegetable-deal-of-the-day until they’re all gone, I preserve them using a money-saving kitchen tool I already have. Since the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove processing canning jars for hours, I turn to the freezer. Full disclaimer: You will have to stand over the stove for a couple of minutes to blanch (quickly cooking in boiling water) vegetables before freezing. This step kills bacteria and stops the action of food-degrading enzymes, slows vitamin and mineral loss and brightens color.

One trick I use is to freeze the cut-up fruits and vegetables on a large baking sheet before packing them up in a freezer bag. That way, the individual pieces don’t congeal into a single, solid block. I can take whatever I need out of the bag and put the rest back in the freezer. I no longer have to commit to using the entire container. Added bonus: freezing locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state.

There are so many yummy recipes that use frozen fruits and vegetables (like the incredibly easy Instant Frozen Yogurt pictured here). When the produce section at the grocery store looks bleak, I stir my frozen vegetables into a soup, stew or make a quick vegetable side dish. I scoop out a few cups of berries, peaches or other fruit to make a pie or tart. Find a dozen simple summer fruit pies and tart recipes here. And nothing beats homemade tomato sauce with summer-ripe tomatoes: I can make it—even at the height of winter—with tomatoes I froze this summer. Find delicious homemade pasta sauce recipes here.

So don’t pass up a great deal—just freeze it.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Prepare produce.

2. Most vegetables should be blanched (briefly cooked in boiling water) before freezing. Fruit does not need to be blanched. To blanch: Bring 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables (about 2 cups) to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, cover, return to a boil and cook. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water. Drain well; pat dry. Click here to see step-by-step photos, blanching and reheating times and details on how to prepare 25 fruits and vegetables from asparagus to strawberries.

3. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and freeze until solid.

4. Pack the frozen vegetables or fruit in quart- or gallon-size freezer bags or pack them in bags that are made to use with a vacuum sealer and seal them airtight before storing in the freezer.

Carolyn Malcoun combines her love of food and writing as a recipe contributor for EatingWell. Carolyn has a culinary arts degree from New England Culinary Institute and a degree in journalism from University of Wisconsin—Madison. Carolyn lives in Burlington, Vermont, and enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking and running in her free time.