Using Your Freezer to Make Food Last
Updated: Mar 26
No matter what the reason, it's a great idea maintain a lower food budget.
One way to do this is to freeze what you aren't going to be using in the next few days.
Usually my strategy goes something like this:
We eat a dinner/food and there's something left over.
I refrigerate the leftovers, usually separately (ex: meats or pastas from their sauces) and leave them in the fridge for a few days.
No one seems eager to eat it.
At this point I need to decide whether we will actually eat it or if there's enough to keep it around for at least one person's meal.
While I freeze my food in freezer-safe plastic storage bags, I recommend glassware whenever possible.
*For an easy reference, scroll to the bottom for the FDA's food storage chart to see how long foods can remain in the freezer!!**
A few tips for freezing food:
-A chest freezer, in addition to your regular freezer makes it convenient and easy to keep some extras on hand!
-For hot food, wait about an hour (no more than 2) so it cools close to room temperature before refrigerating. Then, refrigerate for at least a few hours before transferring it to the freezer. This limits the amount of moisture/ice you'll have on your food.
-Don't freeze anything you are sure you won't eat within a few months.
-Sometimes even a small amount is worth keeping for a quick lunch or snack. For example, I froze a chicken thigh and defrosted it for my lunch.
-Clearly label the food, the date you froze it, volume/weight (a good idea if you may use it for a future recipe), &/or use-by date if you know how long it will last in the freezer.
-When freezing a sauce or ground meat, flatten it in a freezer bag before freezing.
You can break off sections if that's all you require for a recipe and still have some for another day.
-Reheat more solid foods such as meat or breads, in a toaster oven, oven, or air fryer oven for a better result.
-Avoid using a microwave to reheat food. The stove and oven work well, even if they aren't as fast.
Raw meat is freezable, but what about cooked?
Turkey, bison, chicken, beef, pork are all great options to freeze whether fresh or cooked. Seafood and organ meats, however, are best frozen raw because it doesn’t tend to retain enough moisture when reheated.
Eggs can be frozen if previously cooked. Scrambled seems to freeze best. Egg muffin cups are a great way to preserve your eggs and have some breakfast later!
Not many dairy foods freeze well, in my opinion because it often changes their consistency and I'm not a fan. However, it IS possible. I’ve frozen the following successfully, but know that separation may occur and alter the composition of the food.
Some dairy foods that freeze well include:
Milk, cream, half and half
Ice cream (of course!)
Cooked veggies are not ideal to freeze unless they're part of a recipe like a soup, stew, quiche. However, most raw veggies freeze well, however, expect to cook them upon thawing, as they lose their crisp. Avoid freezing veggies with a very high water content, such as celery, unless they are already part of a soup, chili or stew. Lettuces are not very freezer-friendly. Some of my favorite fresh veggies to freeze are:
Brussels sprouts, sliced or chopped
Carrots, thickly chopped
Onions (red, yellow, and white—slice first)
Peppers (bell peppers, chipotles, jalapenos, etc. sliced with seeds removed)
Root vegetables such as turnips and parsnips
**This is NOT an exhaustive list!! I'm sure there are plenty more veggies you can freeze without worry. Feel free to email me others to add!**
Berries and most melons are ok, as are bananas (if using later for a smoothie or bread), and even sliced citrus fruits--again with the intent to add them to a recipe (or eat as-is in the case of berries)--because they are mushy after defrosting. Avoid freezing more fragile fruits such as kiwis, apples and grapes unless you have access to a flash freezer.
Soups, sauces, stews, chili
Most of these items freeze well. I like to freeze any leftovers I have because even something as simple as a cup of marinara can be used for a dip or a drizzle on a dish.
Some of the sauces I regularly freeze are:
pasta sauce, any kind
canned tomatoes, any texture/preparation
homemade soups, stews, chili (without toppings like cheese or onions)
pesto (freeze in ice cube trays unless you know you’ll use a lot in a dish later on)
Breads, even keto and low carb bread recipes, freeze well. I don’t recommend the microwave to reheat. When we make pancakes and waffles, I'm sure to make more than enough so I can freeze the extras for a future meal. Be sure to reheat bread-type items in the oven, toaster oven or air fryer oven if you don’t want them to be soggy.
Nuts and Nut Flours, including coconut flour
Absolutely freeze these while they are still fresh! Nuts can be, and should be refrigerated after opening and frozen prior to their expiration date. Flours may clump when frozen, so be sure to defrost in the fridge first before using in your favorite recipe.
Cooked rice, chopped and pre-cooked potatoes, pre-cooked pasta with sauce, quinoa, couscous can be successfully frozen. When reheating grains such as rice, add a small amount of liquid such as broth or water, to keep it from drying out. Chop &/or roast potatoes before freezing.
Fresh herbs can be dried before storing in the pantry. Some varieties like basil, can also be made into ice cubes for later use.
Now is the best time to consider how to best utilize the food you have for future meals. Please consider this list and email me if I forgot anything!!