The number one question I am asked over and over by readers, friends, and family, is Can I freeze that?
I know they come to me and ask, not just because I have a food-related blog, but because if you were to open up my freezer–it is full! And mostly full of little tidbits of this or that I refused to waste.
I truly DESPISE waste. It hurts my heart to throw away chicken broth that was forgotten in the back of the fridge or a moldy jalapeno that was buried under 6 cucumbers (this has happened!)
I truly view it at throwing money away. And I really HATE that!
So in keeping in mind saving money, time, and your sanity, I put together a list of how to make your freezer work to save you money and preserve your food. Bonus: Some of these tips will even save you time!
How Your Freezer Can Save You Money: 20 Unexpected Things to Freeze that will Save You Money
- Bananas: Overripe bananas? Peel them and chop into one inch chunks and freezer in a freezer safe gallon bag. Use them for smoothies, throw into oatmeal as it is cooking to sweeten it up naturally, blend with a bit of milk for banana “ice cream,” or thaw out to bake muffins, cookies, or bread.
- Vegetable Peels: Don’t Throw Away Your Scraps! The peels from onions, the ends of a bunch of parsley, carrot peels, ends of garlic, the trimmings from celery are the perfect base for homemade broth. I simply toss all the vegetable peels into a freezer safe bag and add to it as I go. When I have chicken bones (or need to make vegetable broth) I have a base that is flavorful and literally cost me nothing! I do toss my potato skins though!
- Fruit Skins: The skins and cores or apples or pears are perfect for making a brining liquid for poultry and pork. Again, I place them in a freezer safe bag and pull out what I need to make a brine that adds immense flavor to meat dishes.
- Citrus Zest/Juice: If I am about to eat the flesh of an orange, I typically save the peel and place it in my brining scrap bag. But for lemons and limes, I am always sure to zest the fruit and store in a freezer safe bag. I use the zest to brighten up a dish that will be cooked, just as soups or baked goods. If there is any juice leftover from my citrus fruit (or they are need used before I have plans to use them) I juice the fruit and pour into an ice cube tray. When the fruit juice is frozen solid, I pop them out and place them in a labeled freezer safe bag. Perfect again for baking, soups, or even adding to a dish like Fajitas.
- Ginger: Fresh Ginger is an incredible flavor enhancer, but it is pricey! I simply buy the ginger, peel it and place in small freezer bag in freezer. When needed, it grates perfectly with my microplane right from the freezer.
- Herbs: Hearty fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, I freeze whole. I add them to my stock or soups and they work perfectly. For more delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill, chop and place in ice cube trays. Fill the tray with water or oil and once frozen, pop into freezer bag. They can be added to soups or casseroles and if you use oil, they can be the base for sauteing veggies.
- Tomato Paste/Chipolte Peppers: There are many dishes that call for a tablespoon of tomato paste or chipolte peppers in adobe, what do you do with the remaining bit left in the can? Again, I use my ice cube tray (which is about 1 tablespoon), and once frozen, pop them into a labeled freezer bag.
- Bacon: If you only want to buy one package of bacon to use a slice or two for a recipe here and there, and have the will power not to fry the rest up and devour, layer the bacon slices in between wax paper and freeze. The wax paper prevents the bacon from sticking together and you can easily pull out a slice or two at a time.
- Ice Cream: Yes, I know you already store ice cream in the freezer, but to keep it from forming ice crystals if not being consumed within a few days, place a piece of wax paper over the top of the ice cream. It will help keep those crystals away!
- Dairy: I freeze milk, heavy cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, and half and half frequently. I just don’t use it it in fresh dishes, but it works great in baked goods and casseroles. Another tip is to freeze milk into ice cube trays for use in milk shakes. You can use half the amount of ice cream and still have a delicious creamy taste.
- Coconut Milk: I use coconut milk in my smoothies frequently, but rarely a full can. Therefore, I once again, pull out my ice cube tray, freeze the leftover milk, and once frozen pop into labeled bag. They can even be blended frozen right into my Pina Colada Smoothie. Coconut Milk also makes a great addition to Thai dishes.
- Coffee: Have leftover coffee? Pull out that freezer tray again and freeze it! Use for iced coffee without risk of watering down your beverage. It works for iced tea as well!
- Yogurt: Freeze individual portions of yogurt flavored with fruit and place in lunchbox in morning. By lunchtime, the yogurt will have defrosted and be perfect for little (or big) ones to enjoy!
- Rice: If you are making brown rice, it can take up to one hour to prepare. So why not make a huge batch and freeze the leftover in 2 cup portions? You will save money by not having to buy instant rice and save your sanity when you need a quick dinner on the table.
- Beans: The same that holds true for rice, holds true for dried beans–they take awhile to cook. I make a huge batch and freeze in 1 cup portions for later use.
- Salsa: Fresh or jarred salsa does not last forever in the fridge. Instead of tossing it, freeze it! Use it to flavor your taco meat or for Chicken Chili.
- Bread: Don’t throw the ends of your bread away or leftover bread! Whirl it in food processor or blender and store in freezer bag for fresh bread crumbs whenever you need them. Or freeze whole and once you have a decent amount, make stuffing or bread pudding with the mixture of bread.
- Leftovers: I always have a random leftover dish in my freezer. It is perfect for when I need a quick lunch for myself. I can usually find one portion of a dish that I have frozen in my freezer. It may not be enough for my family to have a full meal, but it is enough for me to grab a bite when needed. I freeze everything from side dishes to entrees to baked goods.
- Cheese: I will grate cheese and store in large freezer bags. It works great on pizza, in casseroles, on grilled cheese and because I am storing it in the freezer, I can buy the cheaper bulk blocks of cheese and not worry about using it before it goes bad.
- Sausage/Kielbasa: There are many a dishes (such as Jambalya, Beans & Rice, etc) that just taste better with a bit of smoked beef/chicken/turkey sausage or Kielbasa–but again, to buy quality sausage, it is pricey–and it can be quite high in fat and calories. So I use half a link or 1 link and freeze the remaining links for another dish. The smokey flavor that the dish craves, is fulfilled, but I can bulk it up with a lighter meat or beans.
A Few More Tips:
- Use high quality freezer storage bags/containers to prevent freezer burn on your food.
- Wrap things like a piece of meat or loaf of bread in wax paper before placing in freezer storage container to help retain freshness.
- When you are making casseroles or baked goods, make double the amount and wrap well to freeze for a busy weeknight dinner.