A bowl of food with broccoli

Money-Saving Tricks to Put Your Freezer To Work

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

A bowl of food with broccoli

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 making 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. Cook the onions and garlic in this infused oil.


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FREEZE FRESH HERBS IN OIL

  • Start with firm, fresh herbs 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 lid or 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.

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. Seal in a freezer bag. Freeze. While still frozen, whack the bag on the counter top 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 vegetable 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, 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 PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICHES

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 by blasting the sandwiches with cold air it 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.

GENERAL FREEZER GUIDELINES

1. Get a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. The closer to 0 degrees F. the better. Food kept at 0 degrees will last months longer than say 20 or 31 degrees.

2. 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.

3. It takes a lot more electricity to keep an empty freezer at 0 degrees than a full one. So pack it as tightly as you can. If you don’t have enough food to do that, fill empty milk cartons with water and freeze them. The square shape is better than round jugs because you can stack them like bricks. Bonus: You’ll have plenty of fresh water in the event of a power outage.

4. 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 in your favorite recipes. When thawed this will not be like a fresh tomato but great for making sauces, chili, etc.

5. 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.

6. Onions. Chop and spread into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Once frozen, pour them into zip-type bags or containers and replace in freezer.

7. 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, not stand there with the door open.

8. 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 freeze in smaller portions.

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. Wendy S says:

    Being single, it is hard to buy a pound of baking but a good friend showed me how to freeze it. I wrap 2 pieces in glad wrap and then fold over and do 2 more pieces till package used up. Then I place in a ziplock bag and it’s easy to pop 2 slices out at a time and microwave as needed.

    Reply
  2. Barb Johnson says:

    These are all great ideas except for the possible DANGER of your suggestion to “Now inhale on that straw to pull all the air out of the bag”…it poses a risk of aspirating food into your lungs. Maybe placing a section of a coffee filter over the straw opening and using it to prevent this would work?

    Reply
  3. Susan Heikes Baughman says:

    Inventory of the freezer really works. I had no idea what was in there and about a month ago and defrosted it. [By the way, our freezer was bought 2nd hand and we have had it over 30 years!] I listed everything and hung it on the door with a pencil on a string and have faithfully subtracted and added to the list. Saves time and money.

    Reply

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