Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close up

Money-Saving Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to Put Your Freezer To Work

Whether yours is a stand-alone unit or it’s is part of your refrigerator, your freezer is either costing a lot in wasted energy or saving you a bundle in food costs.

Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close up

The day I discovered I could freeze certain fresh herbs in olive oil—sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano do best using this method—I fell in love with my freezer all over again.

By preparing recipe-size portions to have on hand later for winter stews, soups, stews (recipes that typically call for oil to start with) we can enjoy the taste of fresh summer herbs all year round.

Just grab a cube of frozen oil and herbs to use as a base for the dish. Sautè the onions and garlic in this infused oil.

 

Freeze Fresh Herbs in Oil

Sturdy herbs

Step 1

Start with firm, fresh herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano that you have washed, drained, and patted dry.

Step 2

Pack the wells of ice cube trays 2/3 full with one or a combination of herbs.

Step 3

Pour olive oil or melted, unsalted butter over the herbs.

Step 4

Cover with lid or plastic wrap and allow to freeze overnight.

Step 5

Remove the frozen cubes and store in freezer containers or bags.

Step 6

Label with the exact herb or combo and whether it’s oil, butter, or both.

Delicate herbs

My experience is that more delicate herbs like basil, parsley, and dill don’t do well using the freeze-in-oil method because they’re typically added at the end of the recipe.

For these herbs, wash, drain, and pat dry with a towel. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in wax paper and seal in a freezer bag. Freeze. While still frozen, whack the bag on the countertop and the herbs will shatter. Chopped herbs in an instant! Use as you would fresh.

Freeze Vegetable Scraps for Stock

Keep a large freezer bag handy in the freezer. Instead of tossing peelings, stalks, and leaves of onions, carrots, potatoes, celery etc., toss them into the bag. Once full, make vegetable stock. It takes about 4 cups of vegetables to make 2 quarts of stock.

Freeze Unbaked Pies

Frozen unbaked homemade pies are not only incredibly convenient, but they also bake up better than freshly-made pies. Freezing a pie before baking essentially eliminates the heartbreak of a soggy bottom crust because the bottom crust begins baking before the filling has thawed. It doesn’t have a chance to soak up the excess juices that would normally make it soggy.

Make the pie as you would normally, up to the point of putting it into the oven. Immediately (before anything soaks into the raw crust) wrap the prepared pie in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. Expect to bake the whole frozen pie for 20 to 45 minutes longer than the recipe calls for.

Freeze PB&J

Every Sunday night, as the story goes, my mother-in-law, Gwen would make a PB&J assembly line. She’d make enough individually wrapped sandwiches for the entire week (or month) and put them in the freezer. With four kids who loved them in their school lunches, we’re talking lots of sandwiches.

Why freeze them? To save herself time, mostly. But she discovered that blasting the sandwiches with cold air keeps the jelly from seeping into the bread. And each sandwich would perfectly thaw by the time the kids took them out of their lunch bags. Genius.

freezing herbs in olive oil

General Freezer Guidelines

Ambient temperature

Get a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. The closer to 0° F. (-18° C.) the better. Food kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will last months longer than say 20 or 31 degrees.

Trapped air

Trapped air causes freezer burn. Make sure you select a container small enough so the contents fill it. You can remove a great deal of the air from a freezer bag without a fancy vacuum sealing machine. Seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Now inhale on that straw to pull all the air out of the bag. Quickly zip the last bit. Pop it into the freezer.

Tomatoes

The simplest way to preserve fresh tomatoes is to freeze them whole. Just rinse, dry, and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Freeze overnight. Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag and return to the freezer. To use, remove from bag and thaw. When thawed, slip the skins off, and use them in your favorite recipes. When thawed this will not be like a fresh tomato that slices easily,  but rather for making sauces, chili, etc.

Berries

Rinse the berries in cool water and dry thoroughly, either by leaving them spread out in a single layer on a clean, dry kitchen towel until dry or carefully pat them thoroughly dry with paper towels. If you’re freezing strawberries, hull them (remove the green caps).

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or plastic wrap and add the berries in a single layer. Put them in the freezer until frozen solid, a few hours or overnight. Transfer the berries to resealable freezer bags, forcing as much air as possible. before sealing it. Store the frozen berries in the freezer until you’re ready to use them for up to 6 months (or a year if you have a stand-alone deep freezer). Frozen berries are perfect for making smoothies, pies, sauces, and pureés.

Bananas

Want to know how to freeze bananas? It’s so easy. This way, instead of watching bananas over-ripen in the kitchen and having to toss them out when they become black and mushy, freeze them at the point of perfect ripeness for future use. Peel the banana, place it in a freezer bag or container. If you’re using your frozen bananas in smoothies, add them to the blender frozen. If you’re using them to make bread, muffins, or other baked goods, allow them to thaw completely before you add them to the other ingredients in your recipe.

Zucchini

You can freeze fresh zucchini. Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Drop into boiling water for three minutes. Cool promptly, drain, and package in zip-type bags or containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

Onions

Spread chopped, fresh onions into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Once frozen, pour them into zip-type bags or containers and replace in the freezer.

Cheese

Cheese freezes well but changes consistency. Once frozen, you won’t be able to slice it. Instead of freezing a large block, grate the cheese before freezing and divide it into smaller portions for the freezer.

Inventory

The worst thing for your electricity bill is to keep opening the freezer. Post an Inventory List on the door. As you use something, mark it off the list. Now you can “shop” the list, remove what you need quickly, not stand there with the door open while you ponder, consider and hunt for what you might need.

Bonus

Before freezing bread and bakery items, slip a paper towel inside the bag to cover the item. Re-close pressing out as much air as possible. It will be fresh months from now. I haven’t a clue why this works, but it really does!


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6 replies
  1. Georgia says:

    Hi Mary,
    We have a chest freezer in the basement. It has been developing frost just inside the lid. I have covered the freezer contents with a heavy blanket and used a plastic snow scraper and hair dryer to remove the frost, but it’s back again! What should I do?

    Reply
  2. SHARON says:

    I peel and slice bananas into orange juice when I know we have too many to use up. Then I freeze in small plastic containers. When frozen I pop them out of the containers and store in plastic zip bag. To use put into a dish and thaw slightly. Eat like ice cream for a healthy cool treat.

    Reply
  3. Julie says:

    I make smoothies almost every morning and I love them with avocados. When avocados are on sale I buy a bunch of them. Like bananas, they ripen quickly. I cut them into chunks and lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I freeze them in a single layers. Once frozen, I put them in a freezer bag back into the freezer. They are then ready for my smoothie. They make the smoothies nice and cold. I also do this with my bananas and fresh spinach which I add to my smoothies as well. Yum!

    Reply
  4. Patti says:

    If you freeze onions, make sure once frozen, you put in 2 freezer bags – one inside another. I’ve had frozen whipped topping taste like onions.

    Reply
  5. Linda Pries says:

    I never use sliced zucchini but I do shred it and freeze the bags flat. When thawed for baking I just open a small corner and drain before using.
    For tomatoes I don’t like talking up so much freezer space by freezing them whole so I do take the time to blanch and slip the peels off before dicing and freezing the bags flat.

    Reply
  6. Teresa says:

    When I freeze my basil, I separate the leaves from the stems, and freeze them separately. The stems have an amazing amount of flavour which is great for my pasta sauce, soups etc, so much so that you need fewer stems than you might think! Just remove before eating.

    Reply

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