21 Foods You Can Freeze to Save Money and Minimise Food Waste
My freezer is always stashed with big and small packets of all sorts – there are the regular culprits like fruit, veg and meat but also a few others you may not have known you could freeze. Make your kitchen more budget-friendly and less wasteful with these simple tips. Have I forgotten anything? Feel free to share!
Australians waste an estimated 4 million tonnes of food each year. That’s one out of every 5 grocery bags going straight for the bin. The most wasted foods are fresh produce and leftovers, because we tend to buy too much, cook too much and often don’t know what to do with the leftovers or throw things out before their use-by date.
Limiting food waste in the kitchen can be easier than you think. I’m actually a BIG fan of buying produce that’s reduced because of its use-by or best before dates. This goes for meat, dairy, fruit and veg. Most of the meat in my freezer is in fact organic, grass-fed and has been bought for less than the standard factory-produced meat. Most of it has been reduced by 30%-50% because its use-by date was a day or two away and there’s nothing wrong with it! The same goes for bread, dairy – most of the time, fruit and veg.
You can safely freeze many foods even on or a day after their use-by date and only thaw out what you require later on.
Cheese, Milk, Butter and Yoghurt
Milk, butter and yoghurt also freeze well (good tip if you’re going away). Freeze milk, butter or yoghurt in the container it came in, or in an ice cube tray if you prefer to be able to portion control later. Yoghurt and milk ice cubes are great for adding to smoothies, or making instant soft serve by blending with banana, mango or strawberries. Note that the milk may look “split” when defrosted but it’s ok to use.
Favourite tip: Grated cheese can be expensive and comes with added anti-caking agents. Instead buy a big block of cheddar and grate it yourself. Store in a zip lock bag in the freezer.
Cottage cheese, farm cheese and quark also freeze well.
Berries, peeled citrus and bananas, stone fruits, apples, pears and grapes all freeze well. Buy when in season and at rock bottom prices. I am known to buy mine in bulk from the grocer’s bargain corner when they are perfectly ripe but overstocked and reduced for a rapid sale.
Wash thoroughly, for berries drip dry in a sieve then pat dry with paper towels. With other fruit do what you would do normally; i.e. peel and slice then freeze in zip lock bags. Great for making quick whole fruit sorbets, slushies and smoothies.
Meat, Fish and Seafood
Favourite tip: Buy meat in bulk when on sale at your local butcher’s or order from a sustainable wholesaler. You may spend half an hour prepping the meat for freezing, but it will save you a bunch of time in the long run, and a bunch of money. And since you’re buying in bulk you may be able to afford organic meat for the price of regular. The same goes for buying meat reduced because of a looming use-by or best before date.
Steaks, burger patties, mince, chicken thighs and breasts are all great for this. Portion the meat out. Add a little waxed paper in-between the serves if you like and freeze flat in zip lock bags. Marinade if you like before freezing, too.
Favourite tip: BBQ (rotisserie) chicken, skin and bones are also a wonderful time saver when frozen. Pick meat off a BBQ chicken – I like to keep breast and thigh meat separate, and place in zip lock bags. Reserve the juices, skin and bones, freeze in a zip lock and add to stock for extra flavour.
Fish and seafood freeze well, too – but make sure to ask for seafood that’s sold fresh, not frozen. Freeze seafood on a cookie sheet so that pieces don’t stick together and are easier to portion out and defrost later, transfer to a ziplock bag once frozen.
You can freeze meat, so why not freeze bacon, smoked sausages and cold cuts – think Christmas ham! Divide bacon into single serve portions, place a piece of baking paper in between portions for easier separation.
Allow cold cuts to defrost in the fridge for a few hours before consuming or simply chop frozen if adding to things like soups, stews and scrambles or omelettes. Smoked sausages such as chorizo can be frozen whole or sliced.
This is a fantastic way to save some of your fresh herb purchases. Most herbs come in pretty big bunches, and that’s a great thing. Leave a couple of sprigs in the fridge – store wrapped in a moistened piece of cheesecloth or kitchen towel – then wash the rest, pat dry and chop finely. Parsley and dill can be stored in zip lock bags (you can wash and re-use your ziplock bags too!).
Things like coriander, basil, sage, marjoram and chives fare better frozen into water or oil ice cubes. Just add them to sauces and soups as is, or defrost in a sieve and add to omelettes, stir-through rice or pasta.
Veggies and Mushrooms
All manner of vegies – fresh, cooked and pureed can be frozen. Frozen kale goes well in soups and smoothies. Frozen fennel fronds and leafy celery stalks go well in soups and stocks as well. Freeze pureed veggies such as pumpkin or sweet potato into ice cube trays – they are great as snacks for infants and can be added to work lunchbox salads as they melt into the “dressing”.
Mushrooms freeze well once cooked – saute some in butter or make a delicious sauce and freeze in portions.
Oh yes, you can freeze wine into ice cubes. If you know you’re not going to finish that bottle you’ve just opened, freeze some of the wine straight away. Or, if you have some leftover, freeze it within 1-2 days of opening your plonk. Add to sauces and soups as required.
Favourite tip: white wine ice cubes are especially handy for chilling a glass of room temperature wine without diluting it too much.
Eggs and Egg Whites
Eggs and whites freeze really well and can be used for extra protein in scrambled eggs, stir-fries or mix and bake cakes and muffins once defrosted. Whole eggs should be removed from the shell and can be frozen whisked or frozen in a muffin tray, portioned out into single eggs.
Cooked Rice and Legumes
Cook up a big batch and freeze portions sized for your or your family’s needs flat zip lock bags. Defrost by dunking the whole bag and contents in a pot of boiled water.
Breads, Cakes and Pastries
We are definitely not the biggest bread eaters, so when I buy a loaf I slice it straight away and keep it in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Defrosting is as easy as leaving a couple of slices or wraps out on a cutting board while getting ready in the morning, or zapping them in the microwave for 10-20 seconds if in a rush – not my favourite but it does the trick.
When freezing wraps, place a sheet of baking paper in between wraps for easy access. Bread rolls can also be defrosted in the oven, at 120C for 10-15 minutes for that freshly baked finish.
Favourite tip: Many stores reduce bread and fresh bakery item prices at the end of the day so if you eat plenty of bread and want to save a few dollars, make bread shopping plans for late evening once a week. You will be able to buy better quality bread for less.
Most cakes and pastries such as danishes and croissants can be frozen as well.