Stretching Your Dollar: Freezing your leftovers

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)  - As the price of groceries goes up more and more people are looking for ways to make the most of their weekly grocery bill.

But how can you take those leftovers and make the most of them? We turned to Fran Scibelli from Fran's Filling Station restaurant for the low-down on leftovers.

"I'm know as the Queen of Leftovers," Scibelli told me.

To run a successful restaurant you have to make sure you're not waste food, and the same concept holds true for families.

Scibelli opened up her Myers Park home to WBTV and showed me insider her freezer.

"It is exceedingly tidy," she said as she opened the very well organized freezer, unlike mine that is almost impossible to shut and honestly, I'm not really sure everything I have inside!!

Scibelli says we've got to follow three simple steps in getting our food ready for the freezer.

The first is cooling your food.

"If you have something hot you can leave it on the counter and let it cool for say 30 minutes to an hour and then you want to pop it in the refrigerator uncovered," she told me.  "You don't want to cover something in the refrigerated until it's completely cool. It will make it spoil if you cover and refrigerate things in there is no air.  You get into that danger zone of temperature which is 60 -70 degrees."

It takes about three to four hours to get the food at refrigerator temperature, depending on the depth of your dish. Once it's cool it is time to pack it for the freezer.

"Air is the enemy of food frozen food, that's how freezer burn happens, and air can diminish the quality of the food you are freezing and the taste.  So make sure you get as much air out as possible.

Fran doesn't use a fancy expensive vacuum sealing machine, she uses, what she calls a primitive method.  She gets her leftovers in a freezer bag and, with a straw sucks out as much air as she can.

"You want to make sure it's a snug fit.  Get as much air out as possible."

Finally, Fran says do yourself a favor.  Make sure you label your food.  What it is and when you cooked it!

"I will use my frozen leftovers for up to three months, you can wait a little longer, depends on what you're comfortable with," Fran said.

Some other tips she shared with me, she likes the more expensive freezer bags, she finds them easier to work with.  And you can always reuse them, just wash and dry them well.

Also when you are putting leftovers in the freezer give them room to freeze evenly.  Don't stack several containers on top of each other until they are completely frozen.  This gives the food inside a chance to freeze throughout at the same rate.

"I save the little outer rims of my brownies. This way if someone comes over unexpected, I can thaw them out, serve them in a nice silver cup and I have something yummy to share," She told me.  "Some people will look at a small amount of food and say it's not enough to freeze, but it is, those small amounts of several delicious dishes make for a great meal on a cold rainy day when you don't want to go to the store."

To learn more about Fran and her restaurant Fran's Filling station, click here.

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