38 Things You Can Freeze To Save Time And Money
Posted on 30 Sep, 2015
The freezer is a gift! It is the simplest device for preserving food and can be your ally in keeping fresh things fresh and alleviating waste. And despite popular belief, freezing does not lead to a decrease in nutrients.
That said, freezing isn’t friendly to all comestibles - a fact that may have led to its reputation as a mangler of good food. But with a little know-how, you can use the freezer to your best advantage, even for foods that aren’t normally associated with taking to a deep chill kindly. Here are the top 40 things you can freeze to save time and money.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Frozen grapes won't defrost into tidy versions of their formers selves, but a handful of frozen grapes eaten frozen is a thing of wonder.
2. Citrus Fruits
While fruits with a high water content generally suffer for texture after being subjected to the freezer, you can still freeze them. We are often left with an abundance of citrus — thanks to a productive tree or a crate of holiday clementines.
When freezing fruit, it’s best to first spread them out on freezer or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and then place in bags. Individual frozen pieces let you pull out just how much you need.
You can also try keeping a “Smoothie Bag” in the freezer. Toss in extra apple wedges, peaches, pears, bananas, chunks of melon…any kind of fruit…and use in smoothies.
3. Tomato Paste
Most recipes using tomato paste only call for one tablespoon out of the whole can! Then you’re left with an almost full OPEN can. What to do!? Put the rest in a little sandwich bag, flatten it out in the freezer, and when you need a tablespoon, just break off a piece and throw it into whatever you are cooking!
It may not be that surprising that you can freeze bananas, but what you can do with frozen bananas is kind of astounding: Aside from being the perfect smoothie ingredient, you can make this one-ingredient soft serve "ice cream" that really, really tastes like ice cream. If you don’t like handling mushy bananas, just throw the bananas into the freezer with the skin on. Then when you need them for a recipe (banana bread anyone?), pull out what you need, microwave for a few seconds, then cut off the top and squeeze the insides into your mixing bowl!
Like milk, the only concern about freezing juice is leaving room for expansion. A good rule of thumb is to take out 8 ounces for every half gallon of juice. Stock up when it goes on sale or at a discount warehouse.
Another great thing to do is to squeeze lemons and limes into ice cube trays, then pop them out after they have frozen and store in freezer bags. Now you have “fresh” lemon and lime juice whenever you need it. Don’t forget to ZEST the lemons/limes first and keep that in the freezer as well!
6. Pureed Avocados
Storing slices of avocado in the freezer doesn’t work perfectly, but freezing pureed avocado does. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice per avocado before pureeing to ensure that the fruit doesn't discolor, then pack in an airtight container and freeze.
7. Corn On The Cob
Farm-fresh corn on the cob can be frozen as is, husk and all, in an airtight package. When you want to eat it, put it in the microwave as is and cook for 4 minutes. The silk insulates and protects the corn while it cooks.
8. Diced Veggies
Dice onions, chilis, or bell peppers, then freeze flat in gallon freezer bags. As they are freezing, press “score lines” into the bags so you can break off as much or as little as you wish for recipes.
9. Broth And Stock Ingredients
Keep a gallon bag in the freezer and add any leftover veggie pieces, including onion peels, celery stalks, potato peels, etc. When you have enough, make vegetable stock.
Keep another bag for pan drippings or sauces that are left after cooking chicken. This can be used to flavor soups.
10. Pastries And Baked Items
Although they may seem too fragile in texture, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, brownies and the rest of the baked goods family can be frozen without detriment. If you store them in resealable bags, you can sneak them out individually as needed.
11. Fruit Pie
Yes, fruit pie can be frozen; but it is best done before baking. When it comes time to bake, there is no need to defrost; put the frozen unbaked pie in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees for the rest of the recipe’s stated baking time, plus an additional 15 minutes. You can also freeze fruit pies after they are baked. When you have a hankering for pie, take out of the freezer, remove wrapping, and place in oven for 2 hours at 200 degrees.
When your favorite bread is on sale, stock up and freeze it. Or when you’re in a baking mood, make extras of your favorite baked goods and freeze them for later. When it comes out, it’s exactly as good as it was the minute it went in.
Tip for defrosting baked goods or breads:
Place them in your microwave overnight. It keeps them from drying out like they do on the counter. If you cut baguettes into slices or hunks prior to freezing, you can remove just as much as you need.
This is an awesome thing to know: Instead of being forced to eat an entire cake before it gets stale, you can slice it, freeze the individual slices and remove them as suits your sweet tooth. That said, cake with icing made of egg whites do not fare so well.
14. Cookie Dough
If your cookie recipe leaves too many cookies laying around for indiscriminate eating, you can always freeze part of the batch. Portion out the dough onto baking sheets and freeze. When they are frozen solid put them in freezer bags. When you NEED cookies, bake as few or as many as you NEED without lots of waste or guilt. Just add 1 to 2 minutes to the cook time.
15. Homemade and Store-Bought Dough
You can freeze all kinds of homemade dough – pizza dough, focaccia dough, pie crust – shaped in a ball and wrapped in saran wrap.
Or you can also freeze canned biscuits, crescent rolls, pizza dough, etc. right in the tube. Stock up when they are on sale!
16. Potato Chips, Crackers and Pretzels
Stock up on chips, crackers and pretzels when they are on sale and throw them in the freezer. FROZEN chips actually taste BETTER. Eat them straight from the freezer, they are crisper and the flavors pop.
You might have already known you can freeze butter. But if you never thought about it, go ahead and freeze your butter with reckless abandon. Freeze in blocks, sticks, or make pats for individual usage. This is good for when butter is on sale ... as well as for always having an emergency supply on hand.
You can freeze blocks of cheese without it becoming crumbly if you let it thaw completely before putting it in the fridge. If you prefer to shred your cheese first, add a tablespoon or so of cornstarch or flour to the bag and shake it to prevent clumping when it thaws.
Another great idea…buy a big piece of Parmigiano Reggiano (the good stuff!!), grate in the food processor and put in a freezer bag. It keeps for months and all you have to do is open the bag and scoop out a couple of tablespoons when you need it.
Ever wonder why plastic milk jugs have those circle indents on the side? They are there to allow milk to expand while freezing! To use frozen milk, let thaw, and then SHAKE WELL before opening, to make sure any solids are remixed.
You can freeze buttermilk! No more tossing out half a quart because you only needed a cup! While thawed buttermilk can separate like other dairy, it is still perfectly suitable for baking afterwards. If you freeze it in measured amounts, you can then just remove the amount the recipe calls for.
20. Heavy Cream
While thawed once-frozen dairy isn’t always pretty due to separation, you can successfully freeze heavy cream containing 40 percent or more butterfat. First heat it to 170 to 180 degrees for 15 minutes, cool it quickly and store in an airtight container. (To store it longer than two months, add 1/3 cup sugar per quart to aid in stabilization.)
21. Sour Cream
Freezing will cause separation which will be gross if you plan to use it on a baked potato after thawing; but like milk, it’s great for baking.
22. Whipped Cream
Freezing whipping cream to whip later won’t yield a very stiff topping, but you can freeze already-whipped cream in individual garnishes. Place dollops on a baking sheet and freeze, remove once frozen and store in a freezer container. These are perfect for plopping on top of a mug of hot cocoa.
Do not freeze eggs in their shells. Liquid expands when frozen and you will end up with a sticky mess in your freezer. Instead, crack the eggs in a freezer bag, and freeze. Thaw out in refrigerator and use as you normally would. Use within one year for best quality.
Garlic is exceedingly forgiving when it comes to being frozen. You can put a whole bulb in an airtight container and pull off what you want as needed. You can peel cloves and freeze them whole, or you can crush or slice them first. You can also put sliced garlic in olive oil and freeze that — because the oil doesn’t freeze you can then spoon out as much garlic-infused oil as you would like.
If you don’t go through fresh ginger quickly, don’t let it transform into a withered flavorless thing. A hunk of fresh ginger root can be put straight in the freezer as is (wrapped well) and grated, while still frozen, with much more ease than you would think.
Most fresh herbs won’t be vivid and garnish-worthy after freezing, but they won’t lose their flavor and can be used for cooking. Wash, drain and pat dry, then freeze in an airtight container. Another method is to freeze fresh herbs in ice-cube trays with a little water or leftover stock to use for soups, stews, and casseroles later in the year.
But one of the best-kept secrets for freezing herbs is to make a compound butter: Finely chop the herbs (in any combination, really, and add some garlic, citrus or sea salt if you like) and blend them with softened butter; then roll into a log, wrap and freeze. Slices of the frozen compound butter can brighten up just about anything. Put a pat to melt on top of cooked meats, vegetables or soup; or allow to soften for baguettes and so forth.
FOOD FOR REHEATING
27. Plain Pasta
Most of us know that baked pasta like lasagna freezes well, but you can also freeze plain cooked pasta if you have prepared too much, want to conserve on cooking energy, or to simply save time. So whenever you make pasta, go ahead and cook the whole package. Just remember to remove the pasta from the pot just before it's done to ensure it's not overcooked when reheating. For convenience, you can freeze individual size portions in a baggie, making sure to squeeze out the air and get the bag as flat as possible. Reheat by running hot water over the bag for a few minutes!
28. Rice And Other Grains
It's much easier to cook a huge pot of grains — everything from rice and quinoa to barley and bulger — in one fell swoop and then freeze smaller portions to reheat later. This is especially great for brown rice which takes so long to cook. To keep it from picking up freezer smells, make sure to double wrap.
29. Soups And Chili
Cool leftover soup completely and transfer to a freezer-friendly container, leaving about 1 cup of empty space for expansion during freezing. The night before eating, move the container to the fridge to thaw safely and then reheat and serve.
When you pack lunches for school or work, it’s a real timesaver to pull a sandwich straight from the freezer. Just throw it into your lunch box/bag in the morning and it’s thawed by lunch time. It also helps keep the meat cold. Peanut butter & jelly or honey, or deli meat and a slice of cheese work well. You can freeze butter or mustard but not the mayo, lettuce or tomato. Those can be packed separately or added in the morning.
You can also freeze breakfast sandwiches. Cook scrambled eggs and sausage/bacon in bulk, pile them onto biscuits or english muffins, wrap them individually and then freeze! In the morning grab one out of the freezer, microwave and enjoy.
31. Homemade Casseroles
When you are cooking a casseroles (lasagna, mac and cheese, enchiladas, etc), why not make TWO. Bake one and freeze the other for when unexpected company drops by or to use during a busy school/work week.
The way to do this is to line the base of the dish with freezer paper, adding the ingredients, then freezing it in the dish. When it’s frozen solid, remove from the dish (easy to do thanks to the freezer paper), rewrap the food and put back in the freezer. This allows you to continue using the dish. When you want the item for a meal, unwrap and place in the original dish to defrost and bake.
Alternatively, you can bake both casseroles, let cool, and then cut into individual servings and freeze. Reheat in microwave!
32.Homemade Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast
Make up a few batches over the weekend for quick “defrost and go” breakfasts during the week. Freeze on a cookie sheet, then toss them in a freezer bag. Reheat in the microwave, toaster, or toaster oven. WAY better then the frozen ones you buy in the store!
AHEAD OF TIME INGREDIENT PREPARATION
Forget those tasteless sticks in the blue box! Buy fresh fish in quantity, cut it crosswise into fish ‘fingers’, dip in egg, dredge in flour and bread crumbs, then freeze laid out on a tray before transferring to freezer bags – SO much better than anything you buy in the store!
Place meat in a freezer bag, pour in marinade and freeze. When you defrost it, it will be fully-marinated and ready to cook.
35. Shredded Chicken
Cook a big batch and shred or when you get a rotisserie from the grocery store, shred the leftovers and put it in a bag. (Be sure and use THIS TRICK to shred it!) Great timesaver when making enchiladas!
Using an ice cream scoop, put even portions of mashed potatoes onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until hard then transfer into a freezer bag. These will keep in the freezer for at least 2 months.
37.Tomatoes For Sauces
Roast roma tomatoes in the oven at a low temperature (225 degrees) with garlic, fresh herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil for 4 to 5 hours. When cooled, transfer to freezer bags. Use them in chili or in your own tomato-based sauces.
You can whip your herbs into pesto and freeze them in ice cube trays. Just leave out the cheese and add it in after thawing. Nice to have pesto whenever you want it.
While many foods turn out good as new when frozen and defrosted, it’s important to keep some things in mind. The quicker your freeze an item, the better the quality — a slow freeze allows larger ice crystal to form which can be detrimental to texture, therefore, put items to be frozen in the coldest part of the freezer and don’t stack them.
When it comes to normal defrosting, the USDA recommends three safe ways: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. The best option is overnight (or longer depending on the size of the item) in the fridge. For quicker thawing the item can be securely wrapped and placed in cold water; make sure the water stays cold. If using the microwave to defrost, plan to cook the thawed food right away since some areas may be begin to cook during the microwaving.
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