All but the most organized cooks have been there: the dreaded "I forgot something" rush back to the grocery store. Luckily, with a little strategizing, much of the frustration and panic can be circumvented. While we'll often hack an ingredient substitution in a pinch, some foods have no analogue. In those cases, the freezer aisle (or your home freezer) can be a real savior.
Foods to Buy Frozen:
- Fruit: Stock frozen berries, mango, and cranberries for morning smoothies, out-of-season pies, and fruit-studded pancakes. Just keep in mind that freezing fruit damages some of its structure, so employ these only in cooked or pureed applications.
- Shrimp: Due to its highly perishable nature, most commercially available shrimp is sold frozen or previously frozen. Not only is this briny nibble great to keep on hand for last-minute dinners, but also, it's often more economical to buy from the freezer case.
- Phyllo and puff pastry: Keep these fussy-to-prepare pastry bases stocked so that a rustic tart or spanakopita is quick to whip up.
- Vegetables: Peas, spinach, edamame, artichoke hearts, corn, broccoli, and black-eyed peas are all good bets for adding fresh flavor to vegetable sides and pasta dishes. Like fruit, vegetables' high-water content means that once frozen, they won't retain quite the same snap as their fresh counterparts, so save these for cooked dishes only.
- Rice: Sure, freshly steamed rice wins out on the texture front by a hair, but frozen rice is an excellent substitute in a pinch and a quick way to round out a meal.
Foods to Freeze Yourself:
- Pie and pizza dough: The next time you set out to make a pie or pizza, whip up a double batch of pie or pizza dough and freeze the extra so that the next time a craving hits, you're halfway to a flaky (or bubbly) crusted treat.
- Nuts and seeds: Due to their high fat content, nuts and seeds go rancid in a flash. This is particularly true with nuts that are already broken down into smaller pieces, or nut flours/meal. Thankfully, nuts' dense flesh and low water content make them an excellent candidate for freezing.
- Butter: Few things are more frustrating than running out of butter in the midst of a rainy-day baking project. Stock an extra pound or two of unsalted butter in the freezer to avoid this irksome situation.
- Leftover wine: While you could employ leftover wine to deglaze a pan or make homemade vinegar, wine is also easy to freeze into manageable portions (try pouring it into ice-cube trays) for later use. Just don't drink it; while the wine is perfectly suited for sauces and as a braising medium, some of its complexity of flavor will break down in the freezing process.
- Stock: Like pie crust, homemade stock is one of those basics that, while easy to make, can be a bit time-consuming. Instead of spending hours at the stove the next time soup's on, bust out your largest stock pot and make a double (even triple!) batch so that you're well-stocked (snicker) the next go-around.