Freeze Your Food! Plus other Tips & Tricks to Make Your Food Last
Maybe you’ve heard stories of your grandparents and great-grandparents using up every part of food, leaving no waste behind. You may think you operate on the same level in your kitchen, but these tips for using every last bit may surprise you! Learn how to maximize your food and make things last longer with these tips.
*Disclaimer: Now more than ever, wash produce thoroughly and dry well before storing and using.
Perishable foods are what really need our focus: vegetables, fruits, meats/fish/poultry, and dairy products. Shelf-stable items like beans, gluten-free grains, and nuts have much longer (though not indefinite) shelf lives.
Both quality and safety are considerations when determining how long foods can be kept. We’re all trying to stretch things out these days, but keep in mind there is a limit on how long perishable foods will stay safe in the refrigerator, so either consume or freeze if not using within that time frame.
Here’s a link to a comprehensive website* where you can find out how long things last in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry. Fourteen categories cover everything from baby food to seafood to deli & prepared foods. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app
*(run by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services of the federal government)
Making the most of things before freezing
- Vegetables. Have small amounts of random veggies in the fridge (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, green beans, chard)? Use in: stir fries, curries, vegetable bowls, omelets, frittatas, soups
- If you haven’t done this before, now’s the time: Use the bones (and bits of meat) to make soup or stock. Stock can then be frozen in ice cube trays to add great flavor later to dishes like gluten-free grains (use some stock in place of some of the water) and stir fries.
- Doesn’t it seem like avocados are hard one minute, perfectly ripe the next, and then suddenly brown and overripe?! And what about that extra half? While there are numerous hacks across the internet to keep an avocado from browning, these are tried and true:
- When your avocados start to feel ripe—maybe even slightly under-ripe—pop them in the refrigerator! This slows the ripening process significantly, extending the peak-perfect window from a day or so to over a week. Now you can save money on that bag of avocados—no more pressure to eat them all at once!
- Only used half of an avocado, but aren’t sure how to save the other half? Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and when you want to use it, thinly slice off the top oxidized layer. The rest is perfectly fine peel the skin and see how beautiful and green it still is even a couple days later.
- Berries. Wash with one part vinegar and 10 parts water. Rinse with water, pat dry, and store in the fridge. This will prevent mold for longer than leaving them in their original packaging.
- Separate items into portion sizes you’ll want to thaw
- Wrap well
- Label & date
- Leave space for expansion when freezing liquids, or foods (like soups or sauces) that contain a significant amount of liquid.
- Before slicing, zest the entire lemon with a Microplane or zesting edge of a cheese grater. Freeze zest in a small freezer-safe container or freezer Ziplock bag. The next time a recipe calls for some zest, you’ll have it on hand!
- If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon juice and the lemon has more left in it, squeeze it all out and save it in a freezer-safe container. Now you have lemon juice on hand! (Bonus points if you can measure a certain amount and freeze into ice cube trays first so you don’t have to defrost too much at once)
- Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer. Once frozen, put them in a freezer-safe container or freezer Ziplock bag. With this method, they won’t get stuck in one frozen lump together!
- Can freeze to make it last, but texture is generally affected. Freeze in an airtight container and be sure to leave space at the top since it will expand as it freezes. Milk will generally separate some; to get some of the smoothness back, shake or blend after thawing.
- Hard cheeses freeze fairly well, but remember that they also last quite a long time in the fridge, so if you think you’ll be using them within that time frame, that’s the way to maintain best quality. Freezing softer cheeses generally does affect texture, lowering quality; but these are still perfectly edible too. When this does happen, a good way to use these thawed cheeses is in baked or cooked dishes like lasagna & risotto.
- For things like tomato paste, pesto, & sauces used in small amounts: fill ice cube trays; after frozen pop into Ziplock bag.
- Or, before freezing, spread into thin layer in a Ziplock bag and lay flat in the freezer until frozen. Pieces can be broken off while frozen (without having to thaw the whole thing) as needed.
Meats (ground beef, chicken breasts, pork chops, bacon, etc.)
- Separate into quantities you’ll want to thaw BEFORE freezing. Otherwise you’ll have a large frozen block of the full quantity.
Fruits & Vegetables
- Since fruits & vegetables have a high moisture content, texture will be affected after freezing, but quality is still good.
- Bananas. Much like avocados, a bunch of bananas usually all ripen at the same time. What to do? Peel, and freeze laid out flat in a Ziplock bag. Then, when you’re craving something smooth and creamy, you’ve got a frozen banana pop ready to go!
- Grapes. Also a delicious frozen treat. Lay out in a single layer until frozen, then transfer to a Ziploc freezer bag.
- Freeze leftover cooked gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, and sorghum in Ziplock bags or other freezer containers, in meal-size packages.