Food waste is a serious problem, especially — perhaps contradictorily — among health-conscious consumers.
A 2018 study showed that between 2007 and 2014, the average American wasted nearly a pound of food each day, totaling nearly 150,000 tons total across the country. The researchers linked higher quality diets to higher levels of waste, with fruits and vegetables accounting for about 39 percent of total waste.
One of the best ways to save food is to freeze your leftover produce, ingredients and even cooked treats. Freezing is especially helpful if you regularly buy in bulk, and it also helps you to save money on groceries and cut down on meal prep time.
Be sure to store frozen food in freezer safe bags and containers, and remember to always date the items you put in your freezer so you do not keep them there for too long. If you are not cognizant about freezer safety, your food can accumulate unpleasant and dangerous bacteria.
Here are 14 things you might not have known you could freeze to reduce your food waste.
Milk and buttermilk
Milk cartons have circular indentations in their sides to allow for expansion when freezing. If your milk’s sell-by date is approaching, leave a little room in the container for expansion and then freeze for up to three months.
Buttermilk can also be frozen for about three months, which is especially useful given that many recipes only call for a cup of less of the tangy ingredient. You can freeze buttermilk in its original container if you leave enough space in the carton to allow it to expand, but it is more convenient to freeze buttermilk pre-measured portions. Do so by using ice cube trays and store the cubes in a freezer bag once they are frozen hard. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave on low when you are ready to use them. Freezing will cause the solids and the whey in the buttermilk to separate, so before using in your recipe, whisk the buttermilk or run it in a blender until the solids and whey reincorporate.
Chopping onions can be a tedious task when you are preparing dinner. You can prepare batches of diced onions in advance and freeze them for future meals. Peel, trim and dice onions into quarter-inch pieces. Pack dry into freezer bags and squeeze out the air, or keep them in freezer-safe containers with half an inch of space. Frozen diced onions are best used within a few months.
Another handy meal-prep hack. To avoid the risk of botulism, freeze garlic in a glass or plastic freezer container with a splash of olive oil. Just be sure to leave enough space for the liquid to expand so the container does not explode.
Because it is a hearty fat, butter is easy to freeze and use. Stock up on butter sticks when it goes on sale and store them in your freezer. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using. The National Center for Home Food Preservation says that butter will stay good frozen for six to nine months.
Raw eggs can be whisked and stored in the freezer for about a month if properly prepared. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends selecting fresh eggs and break each separately into a clean saucer, removing any shells before combining and mixing.
Add one and a half tablespoons of sugar, one and a half tablespoons corn syrup or half a teaspoon salt per cup whole eggs to prevent graininess and strain through a sieve or colander to improve uniformity. Seal in a freezer-safe container.
You can also measure three tablespoons of egg mixture into each compartment of an ice tray and freeze until solid. Package the egg cubes in moisture-vapor resistant containers. One cube is about equal to one egg in cooking.
Though soft cheeses, like cream cheese, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese, do not freeze well, hard or semi-hard cheese can be frozen if cut in pound-sized sizes and packaged in moisture-vapor resistant bags or containers. The cheese may become crumbly or mealy, but will retain its flavor.
You can also freeze shredded cheese. Just add a little cornstarch or flour to a freezer-safe bag of shredded cheese and shake it to make sure it the pieces do not clump.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, cheese can be kept in the freezer for six months.
Whereas hummus in the refrigerator will expire in six to 10 days, hummus will stay fresh in the freezer for six to eight months. Buy or make a big batch of homemade hummus then freeze it in half-cup portions in air-tight, freezer-safe containers. When you want to eat it, thaw it out in the fridge for a day and mix well.
Ginger can quickly dry out or grow mold in the refrigerator, especially if the recipe you are following only calls for a few teaspoons of the pungent, powerful root. Instead, peel the when fresh and toss it in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Frozen ginger is easy to grate when it is ready to use, and will keep for about six months in the freezer.
You can store whole cans of tomato paste in the freezer, but The Kitchn has a handy way of portioning out tomato paste to freeze for easy use. Make dollops of leftover tomato paste with a tablespoon on a cooking sheet lined with wax paper. Freeze overnight or until they are solid, then put them in a freezer-safe bag or container. Then, you can easily pull out two to three tablespoons for a dish.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that not even the most frugal home chef always uses the entirety of herb bunches from the supermarket. Moreover, if you are growing your own herbs, you may find yourself suddenly having more tasty leaves than you can reasonably use before they spoil. Wash, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer-safe paper or plastic food wrap and place them in a freezer bag. You can also chop herbs up and add them to ice cube trays with olive oil and water. There is also this handy herb freezer tray from Chef’n.
Pancakes and waffles
Eggos, no more! The next time you make pancakes or waffles for breakfast, make extra to freeze for later. Place a piece of wax paper between each pancake or waffle to prevent them from sticking together and then wrap them in aluminum foil and store them in a plastic freezer bag. They will stay fresh for up to two months and can easily be heated up in the microwave or toaster oven.
If you are trying to reduce the environmental impact of your holidays, considering freezing leftover mashed potatoes to eat throughout the next few weeks after a big feast. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to portion leftover mashed potatoes onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow them to freeze. Place the frozen dollops in a freezer bag, and freeze for up to two months for a quick lunch or dinner.
Corn on the cob
Ears of corn are not just for summer barbeques anymore. Pack fresh corn in freezer bags, complete with the silk and husk. Fresh-picked corn from the farmers market can last as long as a year and will taste almost as good as the day it was picked when defrosted. If you buy corn from a supermarket, you can still freeze it, but you will need to husk and blanch it first in order to prevent a loss of color and flavor. Blanch small ears of corn for seven minutes, medium-sized ears for nine minutes and large ears for 11 minutes before stashing in freezer bags for later use.
Pastry chefs will often freeze their flour, as cold ingredients results in flakier pastry crusts. Freezing flour not only slows down how quickly it spoils, but also protects it from pests. as Simply store your flours in airtight containers or large freezer bags. Flour will keep for about two years in the refrigerator, compared with six to eight months when properly stored in the pantry.
What other foods do you store in the freezer? Add them to the comments below.