When I was a new mother, I remember an older, more experienced mom advising me to get a freezer. She assured me I would need one now that my husband and I had started our family. At the time, I had plenty of room in the freezer section of my kitchen refrigerator, so I wasn’t sure what she meant.
Today, I don’t know what I would do without the freezer we eventually purchased for our garage. It saves us time and money again and again. With a big family, I am accustomed to making “doubles” of certain meals – one for now and one for later — and to freezing leftovers. I also routinely freeze many fruits and veggies, but I am still learning other ways that a freezer can help us extend the life of our food and save on our food bill. With everyday items, such as aluminum foil, freezer bags and ice trays, you can freeze many more items than you may have thought. Here is a list of some foods you may not have thought you could freeze:
I used to carefully plan out how much milk to buy before my family went out of town so as not to waste any. Invariably, I would miscalculate, and we would run out. Did you know you can safely and easily freeze milk? Just pour out enough to allow for expansion and then place your milk container in the freezer for up to four to six weeks. When you return home, thaw the milk in the fridge for a day or so, give it a good shake to blend any separation that has occurred, and it is ready to drink.
You can take advantage of sales on butter by freezing it for later use. You can separate the sticks out and place them in airtight containers, but I have had success freezing it right in the original wrappings. Butter will stay fresh six months or more in the freezer.
3. Cookie dough
You can make your own homemade slice-and-bake cookie dough. The next time you make a batch of cookies, double the recipe and roll the dough into a tube. When you are ready to bake more cookies, just slice off portions onto your cookie sheet. Another option is to freeze small round portions.
Bread freezes and defrosts amazingly well. If you have an extra loaf or will not be using your bread before the expiration date, simply pop it in the freezer and then take it out when you need it. Bread should last about six months in the freezer. You also can freeze bread scraps and heels to make your own bread crumbs. Just let it defrost on the counter.
You can freeze your home-grown or farmer’s market corn in the freezer right in the husk. If your corn is from the grocery store, however, you’ll want to husk the corn and blanch it before freezing it in order to prevent enzymes from causing a loss of flavor, nutrition and color.
Avocados will change consistency when frozen and defrosted, so you may have steered clear of them as a freezer option. However, they still are great for dips or guacamole. Wash and cut the avocados in half before peeling them. You can freeze the halves or peel and puree the avocado along with lemon juice and then store the mixture in a freezer for up to six months.
Hummus also freezes well. Place it in a freezer container and drizzle the top of the hummus with olive oil before sealing the container. Thaw it in the refrigerator for a day; then mix well before eating.
You can go on an onion chopping spree and then freeze the chopped onion for use in soups, stews and casseroles. Also, if your eyes are sensitive to onions, keeping them in the freezer will lessen the irritation.
You can freeze ripe bananas peeled or unpeeled to use later in recipes and smoothies. The skin will darken, but the taste will not be affected.
Potatoes starting to sprout? Don’t throw them away just yet. Peel them and blanch them in boiling water for about five minutes. Let them cool in cold water before packing them in airtight containers for freezing.
Freeze mushrooms for pizza toppings or casseroles. They defrost quickly in the fridge.
You can freeze blocks of cheese or containers of shredded cheese for later use. To make sure shredded cheese doesn’t clump together in chunks, just add a little cornstarch or flour to the bag and shake to mix well.
13. Garlic and Ginger
Place crushed garlic in ice cube trays. If you add a bit of olive oil before freezing, the garlic will pop out easily. This technique also works well for ginger.
Guess what? Many chefs keep their flour in the freezer because it helps make flakier crusts. Try it! It cuts down on pesky insects in your pantry, too.
Crack your eggs and store them (without shells) for six to eight months in bags or in ice cube trays for use in recipes or for scrambled eggs. Just let them thaw in the fridge before using.
16. Cooked rice and pasta
Did you make too much rice or pasta? You can freeze it! It will defrost easily in the fridge and be ready to re-heat.
17. Chicken broth
Chicken broth can last four to six months in the freezer. Transfer to a freezer-safe air-tight container and keep handy for your soup and other recipes.
Finely chop fresh herbs and place them in ice cube trays, top with a bit of olive oil and freeze. You can then add them directly to your recipes without defrosting.
Tortillas can be frozen well for months at a time. As they may dry out a bit, place them in the microwave in a damp paper towel briefly to revive them before preparing for a meal.
20. Vegetable Scraps
Collect and freeze all those carrot ends, potato skins and onion layers until you have enough to make a flavorful homemade veggie broth.
Often you only need half a lemon for a recipe. What to do with the other half? Freeze it, of course, for the next time you need lemon zest or lemon juice. Ditto for oranges.
If you use wine in cooking, you will appreciate knowing that it freezes well. Simply pour leftover wine into an ice cube tray or into a zippered freezer bag to add flavor and depth to your sauces.
You can freeze nuts and seeds to keep them fresh for baking and other needs. Best part? You don’t even have to defrost them.
Hopefully you now have a few new ideas for better making use of your freezer. Here’s a final piece of advice: Label all your items carefully with the complete date, and periodically go through your freezer to get rid of items that are past their best-use date. Place smaller items on the door or in freezer bins so that they are easy to find.
What other items do you freeze? Share your tips in the section below: