Earlier this month, I found an awesome deal on shredded cheese. An 8 ounce bag was $.87, for a total price of $1.74 per pound! The catch was that the “sell by” date was just a few days away. Without a second thought, I loaded my cart with about 10 lbs of cheese. (And don’t worry, I left plenty for the next bargain shopper.)
When I got to the checkout, the lady behind me asked what in the world I was going to do with all that cheese. I told her I was going to freeze it and she said, “Can you freeze THAT?” Shredded cheese freezes and thaws like a dream, but no one had told this sweet lady!
As a college graduation present, my parents bought us a chest freezer. Definitely not your normal graduation gift, but way better than a fancy pen with your name on it or a giant teddy bear with a graduation cap. Our deep freeze has saved us so much money in the years that we’ve had it.
Here are some things that you can freeze. Some of them might be seem obvious, but for the sake of the sweet lady at the grocery store and others like her, I’m going to list them anyway.
- Milk-– Since liquids expand, you’ll want to take a little bit of milk out of each gallon. The milk looks yellowish when it’s frozen, but will return to normal when thawed. Wait until the entire gallon has thawed (and then shake) before drinking, otherwise the first half will be cream and the second half will be skim.
- Cheese— Shredded cheese freezes best. If you freeze and thaw block cheese, it will crumble when you try to slice it, though the taste is fine.
- Cream Cheese— The consistency changes a bit when cream cheese is thawed, but it works great for baking, cooking, and frosting.
- Eggs— Crack eggs before freezing them. You can crack them individually into silicon trays or freeze them in bulk in a glass jar.
- Butter or margarine— Freezes and thaws like a dream, with no changes in consistency or usefulness. If you find a good deal on butter, don’t be shy!
- Whipping Cream or Buttermilk— Dairy ingredients that you use only occasionally are great candidates for freezing. You can also often find them discounted when they are close to their expiration date. As long as they are frozen before they expire, they will be fine. Just be sure to use them quickly once they thaw.
- Yogurt— If you find individual yogurt cups on sale or close to the expiration date, buy them and freeze them. If you make homemade yogurt, you can freeze your yogurt start for next time. The indivdual yogurt cups go great in lunches (they’ll thaw just in time) or add a popcicle stick for a frozen treat!
- Bananas— Bananas will darken in color and be mushy, but they’re perfect for baking and smoothies. For use in smoothies, peel and cut ripe bananas into quarters, flash freeze on a tray, then store in freezer bags. For baking, you can pre-mash and pre-measure if you feel so inclined. Bananas can be frozen in their peels, but extracting the banana after it is partially thawed increases the “eeww” factor. It’s worth the small effort to take off the peels.
- Grapes— Wash before freezing. Frozen grapes make a fun summer treat for kids and adults alike. They’re like a stick-less popsicle. You’ll want to eat them frozen, as they will get mushy as they thaw. You could also add them into smoothies. When grapes go on sale, buy more than you can eat and stick them in the freezer (after washing them, of course).
- Melon— I cube and freeze watermelon and cantaloupe from the garden. Flash freeze it on a tray for a few hours, then store it in freezer bags, and it’s easy to access the portion that you want. Frozen melon is great to add to smoothies.
- Citrus— Cut up and freeze lemons, limes and grapefruit to use in smoothies. For lemons and limes, you can even leave the peel on. If you have access to a citrus tree, you probably know that you can juice your oranges and lemons and freeze the juice. Lemon juice freezes nicely in ice cube trays.
- Pumpkin Puree— We make our own pumpkin puree to use in place of canned pumpkin in pies, muffins, cakes, and soups. I freeze it in measured quantities in these storage containers, then once it’s frozen, I wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in freezer bags.
- Berries— I hope this one isn’t new to anyone. Wash or hull the berries before freezing. Frozen berries are great for pies, smoothies, sauces, jams, and more. When they thaw, they can be mushy (depending on the type). My kids love to stir berries or frozen fruit into bowls of oatmeal to help cool it down.
- Applesauce— If you decide not to can your homemade applesauce, you can freeze it! The taste and texture won’t change.
- Tomatoes— Yes, they’re technically fruits, but they are more veggie-ish in my opinion. Wash and core your ripe tomatoes before freezing. When thawed, tomatoes will be mushy. They are perfect for blending up for tomato soup or for canning as tomato puree (our favorite way to can tomatoes).
- Zucchini— Shredded zucchini freezes well. It’s perfect for breads and muffins. When it thaws, drain off some of the water that it sheds.
- Onions— I am an onion crybaby, so I have my husband cut our onions and freeze them for me so I always have chopped onions available without going through the teary trauma. Flash freeze chopped onion on trays, then transfer to freezer bags. Flash freezing makes it really easy to get the amount you need without requiring an ice pick or chisel.
- Leafy Greens— We freeze spinach, chard, and other leafy greens to use in green smoothies. We add them to the blender frozen. If you have greens that will go bad in the fridge before they are used, freezing them is a great way to prevent waste.
- Corn on the Cob— Don’t husk your farm fresh corn. Stick it in a freezer bag with the husk and all, until you’re ready to use it!
- Meat— I buy meat in bulk to freeze.
- Garlic— Garlic can be frozen whole or in individual cloves. It’s just as easy to work with frozen as it is beforehand.
- Broth— If you cook a whole turkey or chicken, don’t waste the broth! Freeze it to use in future soups!
- Herbs— Fresh herbs can be expensive, but often go bad before they can all be used. Fresh herbs can be frozen in an ice cube tray with broth or olive oil.
- Beans— I cook beans in bulk, then freeze them in portions to use in place of canned beans. Cooked dry beans are cheaper, yummier, and better for you than canned beans.
- Pasta— My mother-in-law helped with a huge dinner where pasta was served. The pasta was cooked weeks ahead of time, drained well, then frozen in freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze as much air out as possible.
- Waffles, Pancakes, French Toast— We have homemade pancakes pretty regularly around here. For an even quicker breakfast, you can make pancakes (waffles or french toast) in large batches for freezing. Just stick them in a freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as you can!
- Pie Crust— I make my pie crust in bulk each year. I freeze my pie crust dough in balls wrapped in plastic wrap, then I put 9 dough balls in a gallon freezer bag. It thaws quickly to make pies, quiches, and pot pies without making a mess of the kitchen each time.
- Cookie Dough— Cookies don’t last long around here, but if you have more self-control than we do (or fewer mouths to feed), frozen cookie dough may be the perfect way to have homemade treats at your fingertips. Cookie dough can be frozen in individual balls or in tubs.
- Breads— Both yeast bread (like sandwich bread) and quick breads (like zucchini bread) freeze well. Freezing staples like bread can prevent entire trips to the store which will save both time and money!
- Yeast Dough (pizza, bread, rolls, etc)– If you’re new to making bread, find a freezer-friendly recipe to start. Otherwise, you can convert just about any recipe to a freezable recipe by freezing it after the first rising and after forming the dough into a loaf or rolls. Pizza dough can be frozen in a ball and formed into a crust after thawing.
- Sandwiches— Discovering frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was a grand revelation! I will sit down and make a loaf or two of bread into PBJs. I put them into individual sandwich bags and straight into the freezer. It sure simplifies the lunch-making routine. Sandwiches with meat and cheese work too (just add lettuce and tomato later).
- Freezer Meals— This is where it can really get exciting! What if you could seriously cut down on your dinner prep time by having a freezer meal ready to go. Freezer meals save money, time, and sanity. They’re also wonderful to share with a friend who just had a baby. Not all recipes are created equally when it comes to freezer meals.
Want to try freezer cooking but don’t know where to start? Erin Chase, the $5 dinner mom, has the freezer meal thing all figured out. She recently put all her freezer meals together in the MyFreezEasy site where you can put together 10 freezer meals in under an hour! She even includes a video so you can do it along with her! There are all sorts of options for different food preferences. If you are interested in making great use of your freezer space and want to cut down your time in the kitchen, then definitely give these freezer meals a try!
MyFreezEasy even has a desktop app that allows you to drag and drop the freezer meals you want into your menu, then the app will come up with your shopping list, prep list, and assembly instructions. It really makes freezer cooking simple and do-able! Want to learn more about about making freezer meals? Check out this free freezer cooking workshop and sample meal plan!
How about you?
- Do you have any freezer secrets?
- What do you love to freeze?
- Have you had any freezer flops or foods that didn’t freeze well?
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