The freezer is your best weapon to control unnecessary food waste, saving you money and time in the kitchen. Not to mention that food waste is a huge environmental issue. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste. That means we end up throwing out more than a third of the food we buy. But by learning to effectively utilize your freezer, you can vastly reduce this unnecessary waste.
Here’s How To Properly Use Your Freezer
If you know you’ve made way too much food, use your freezer to keep it from going bad. That leftover broccoli rice casserole will be just as delicious next month if it’s frozen properly. Make sure leftovers cool down completely before being put in the freezer because if you freeze foods while they’re warm, they end up warming up the entire freezer and wasting energy in the process. Take your time to properly wrap and label leftover foods. The label should include exactly what the food is and the date. Additionally, divide foods into realistic portions. If you have a family of four, don’t freeze a beef stew that feeds eight. Instead, divide it into two portions so that it doesn’t go to waste later on. Once foods are thawed out they should not be refrozen. Finally, try and keep your freezer as full as possible so the air doesn’t have to circulate to cool things down. A fuller freezer uses less energy.
How To Freeze the Garden Bounty
While canning foods is a super hipster way to preserve your summer garden, the easiest preservation tool is always your freezer. Garden vegetables do really well in the freezer, with the exception of fruits and vegetables with a high water content like cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, and bean sprouts. These guys end up getting brown and mushy. But for every other veggie, prep them by boiling for 30 seconds and then dropping them into ice to stop the cooking. Line a tray with paper towels and spread vegetables out on the tray. Freeze for an hour or two and then remove from the tray and store in a properly labeled plastic bag.
Foods That Should Never Be Frozen
Some foods never do well in the freezer. Mayonnaise-based salads like potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken salad, and tuna salad should never be frozen. The same goes for yogurt, cream, and cottage cheese as well as raw eggs or boiled eggs.
Freezing By Food Group
Freezing times really depend on the food group. For example, hot dogs and luncheon meats are fine for 1-2 months while bacon and sausage freezes for a month and ground meat freezes for 3-4 months. Beef, veal, lamb, and pork freezes for 4-12 months and chicken or turkey freezes for 9 months to 1 year. Lean fish can be stored for up to 6 months and fatty fish for 2-3 months, while raw egg whites freeze for up to a year. Leftovers vary in freezing times depending on the food item. Soups and stews freeze for 2-3 months. Cooked meat or poultry freezes well for 2-6 months and pizza for 1-2 months. Pies and quiches freeze for 1-2 months.
Using the tips above, you can change the way you do business in the kitchen. While some foods don’t freeze well, most do. The key is to be organized with your labeling and arrange foods so you can see what you have on hand when you open the freezer door. Not only can you save money by avoiding food waste, you can buy your more expensive freezer-worthy items when they’re on sale. Or if you grow your own food or are a member of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you can properly freeze produce so it doesn’t go to waste.
Additionally, on those nights when the last thing you want to do is slave away in the kitchen, you can pull out that leftover enchilada casserole and heat it up straight from the freezer. Or maybe you’re throwing a last minute brunch and you don’t have time to make a quiche from scratch. No worries, you can defrost and bake that frozen quiche you made last month. It’s for these reasons that your freezer should be your best friend in the kitchen.