Frozen food in the refrigerator. Vegetables on the freezer shelves.

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

Whether yours is a stand-alone unit or part of your refrigerator, your freezer costs a lot in wasted energy or saves you a bundle in food costs. Use these simple tips to make sure your freezer is working hard for you to stretch your food dollars.

Frozen food in the refrigerator. Vegetables on the freezer shelves.

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 at say 20 or 31 degrees. Even if your unit has a built in thermometer, it’s good to have a  manual model you keep in the refrigerator and another in the freezer. This way, if you have a power outage, you won’t have to guess what’s going on.

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.


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, and not stand there with the door open while you ponder, consider, and hunt for what you might need.

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, leeks, and celery, toss them into the bag. Once full, make vegetable stock.

Vegetables to use: Onions, carrots, and celery are the key ingredients in vegetable stock, but many other vegetables can add depth and flavor. Wash and save roots, stalks, leaves, ends, and peelings from vegetables such as leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus. Corn cobs, winter squash skins, beet greens, and herbs like parsley and cilantro are also good additions.

Vegetables to avoid: Scraps from the following vegetables are better off going into the compost bin, as their flavors can be too overpowering: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes. Beetroots and onion skins should also be avoided unless you don’t mind your stock turning red or brown.

Spoiled vegetables: Although the making stock is a great way to use veggies that are wilted or slightly past their prime, be sure not to use produce that is rotten or moldy.

Storing scraps: You will want to collect about 4 cups of vegetables to make 2 quarts of stock. Save scraps throughout the week, wash and chop them into similar sizes, and keep them in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator. If you are collecting scraps for longer than a week, store them in the freezer.

Make stock: The easiest no-fuss method, you have enough trimmings accumulated, throw them in the slow cooker with water and let them cook overnight, or longer, as necessary.

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.

Bread, baked goods

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!


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.

Fresh herbs

By preparing recipe-size portions to have on hand later for winter recipes that typically call for oil to start with like stews and soups 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 the infused oil.

freezing herbs in olive oil

Sturdy herbs

Start with firm, fresh herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano that you have washed, drained, and patted dry. Pack the wells of ice cube trays 2/3 full with one or a combination of herbs. Pour olive oil or melted, unsalted butter over the herbs. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to freeze overnight. Remove the frozen cubes and store in freezer containers or bags. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Freeze margarine or butter in the packaging and containers they come in, for up to six months. Thaw to return to their original texture and quality.

Cream, whipped

Once whipped and sweetened, cream freezes well for 1 to 2 months.

NOTE: Freezing cream in its liquid state is not recommended because it affects the quality of the product. In most cases, freezing causes changes to the fat, which can lead to poor texture.


Unopened eggnog may be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and shake well before serving, as there may be some ingredient separation during freezing.


You can freeze eggs provided you remove them from the shell first. Do not freeze whole eggs in the shell. Raw eggs can be frozen for up to one year. Thaw in the refrigerator.


Milk may be frozen for as long as 3 months provided the sealed container is frozen prior to the best before” date. Skim and low-fat milk freeze better than whole milk. Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator. The milk will still have the same nutrients, but it may separate. If it does, shake well and consume as soon as possible.


Hard cheese freezes well but changes texture making it nearly impossible to slice. Frozen cheese is great for cooking and to grate. Hint: Grate first, and then freeze.

Meat, fresh

Fresh beef roasts and steaks can be frozen for up to one year if wrapped well to retard freezer burn; pork and lamb up to six months.

Meats, processed

You can freeze bacon, hot dogs, cooked ham, luncheon means and sausage for up to 2 months before these items begin to lose quality and taste.

Poultry, fresh

Whole turkey, chicken, duck, and goose can be frozen for up to one year provided the wrapping remains intact. Poultry pieces, however, should be used within 9 months.


All-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and other baking staples including baking powder and baking soda stay fresh and bug-free indefinitely in the freezer. You will experience no change of texture or taste. Even better? You can ignore the expiration dates.

Coffee and tea

Storing coffee beans in the freezer has long been the method of choice to preserve freshness. But die-hard coffee lovers tell us to never freeze coffee beans or grinds because it changes the flavor from fresh to freezer stale.” No one argues, however, that freezing leftover brewed coffee in ice cube trays to make blended coffee drinks or iced coffee is a great idea. Freeze leftover tea in the same manner and youll have ice” for your iced tea that will not dilute the drink.


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.


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5 replies
  1. Lyn says:

    We use a good bit of shredded cheese in recipes. I buy blocks of cheddar, mozzarella, or (my fav) Coastal White Cheddar when they are on sale. Shred a bunch with the food processor and freeze 2 cups at a time in zip-type bags. So easy to pull one out to use!

  2. Nancy says:

    Can also grate zucchini, drain or squeeze out all the liquid and freeze in “recipe size” portions or silicone blocks to use in spaghetti sauce and soups.

  3. Red says:

    Feta cheese when frozen crumbles. We slice a block and freeze the slices, then when we need crumbled feta for salads or omelet. It’s cheaper than buying it crumbled, much cheaper, and it limits loss.

  4. Sherill says:

    Great article! About bananas, I dip them in lemon water before freezing so they don’t turn brown. My grandkids love to eat them whole, like popsicles. They have a lovely texture. (The bananas, I mean. Not the grandkids.)


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