Reducing food waste with the freezer
My Story: The Freezer
contributed by Carolyn
Throwing away food is throwing away money! Making good use of my freezer helps with reducing food waste, and thus saves me money, and time, too. Of course, I like to buy meats on sale and the best price is often on the "family size" packages, which I re-wrap in meal-sized portions before freezing. Here is a short list of other things I freeze to keep from having to throw them out:
- Loaves of bread. With only two of us at home, we often wouldn't eat a loaf of bread fast enough to keep it from going stale, but it stays fresh in the freezer, and a slice thaws quickly. Crackers and cookies also usually freeze well and stay fresh instead of going stale in the box.
- Lunchmeat near the end of the "use by" date. I put wax paper or cut up cereal box liners between enough slices for one sandwich, put in a freezer bag, and freeze. A sandwich made with frozen bread and meat in the morning is thawed by lunchtime.
- Hard cheeses like cheddar. It is sometimes crumbly after freezing and thawing, but it's fine for cooking or adding to salads.
- Milk. If you find it on sale and have a large enough freezer, you can buy extra and freeze it. Just be sure to pour off a cup or two to leave room for expansion in the jug.
- Casseroles, soups, and stews. A big batch takes no more time to prepare than a small batch, so I will cook extra and freeze half for another meal on a busy night. This prevents wasting leftovers, and we don't have to resort to take-out when we need a quick meal.
- Keep flours and cornmeal in the freezer to prevent infestation with beetles, and prevent rancidity that can happen with some whole grain flours.
- Nuts won't get rancid or stale in the freezer, as they sometimes do in the cupboard. They stay fresh and crunchy.
- Do raisins get shriveled and gritty in the cupboard before you can use them up? Keep them in the freezer, and they will stay plump and thaw quickly.
- Overripe fresh fruits and firm veggies like broccoli, corn, and green beans can be frozen if you can't use them up right away. Blanch fresh veggies in a boiling water bath for a minute or two before freezing to preserve color and nutrients. Onions, celery, and green pepper are fine without blanching, but the flavor can change a bit, becoming stronger. When you use them, cook the vegetables as you would commercially frozen vegetables. Fruits can go right into the freezer, raw or cooked, and are best used in cooking or eaten only partially thawed so there are a few ice crystals left and they don't get too mushy. Leftover canned vegetables and fruits can also usually be frozen to save for another day, but they get quite soft. Use them in soups, stews, and baking.
- Some desserts freeze very well. With only two of us in the house, we don't eat an entire fruit pie quickly enough, so I freeze half of it for another time. I've also had success freezing cheesecake, brownies, and cupcakes. For cupcakes, I cut them in half and invert the top to put the frosting in the middle of the cupcake so it won't stick to the wrapper or fall off. However, there is one exception; custard pies don't freeze well.
- My favorite use for the freezer is "freezer soup." This is a container I keep in the freezer into which I throw all the odds and ends of leftovers that aren't enough to save on their own. I keep the liquid from a pot roast, a tablespoon or two of vegetables, that little bit of leftover pasta or rice, etc. When the container is full, I thaw it all out, and I have soup or stew for my work lunch. Sometimes it needs a bit of doctoring with a cup of bouillon, or some extra veggies or noodles, but it's different every time and it's usually pretty good! This is the only "free lunch," as it is made from leftovers that would have been thrown away.
Tips for Freezing
- Wrap food really well to keep out air and prevent freezer burn. I like good old-fashioned freezer paper sealed with packing tape for meats and cheeses; resealable freezer bags work well for other foods.
- Label and date packages, and use them within a reasonable amount of time. I try to use frozen foods up within six months.
- Some things don't freeze well, such as raw or cooked eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream, soft cheeses like cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta, fried foods (they get soggy), and egg custard.
You will soon learn by trial and error what works for you and what doesn't. Get in the habit of thinking about which foods are likely to get stale or spoiled before you use them up, and try freezing to eliminate waste!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@stretcher.com
Take the Next Step:
- Estimate how much food you waste each week
- Learn how to Avoid Freezer Burn.