We’ve learned to freeze food, both for saving money and for getting things done ahead of time. Our family purchased a “scratch and dent” freezer and put it in the garage – I can’t tell you how handy it’s been!
Before we talk about what foods freeze well, let’s jump right in and look at the foods you shouldn’t freeze, so we can get that out of the way.
Here’s a list of “What Not to Freeze:”
Don’t Freeze – Eggs in the shell.
Don’t Freeze – Any water-rich vegetables like celery, lettuce, cucumbers or tomatoes. When thawed, they’ll be a watery mess, so it’s best to eat them fresh.
Don’t Freeze – Soft cheeses like ricotta, cottage cheese and cream cheese.
Don’t Freeze – Emulsions like mayonnaise, salad dressings and yogurt.
Don’t Freeze – Water-rich fruits like citrus, apples and watermelon.
OK. Now let’s look at what you can freeze. I’m happy to say the doors are open pretty wide. When it comes to making meals ahead of time or storing leftovers, there are so many options!
Here are my top 20 tips on freezing food:
1. Casseroles – Casseroles freeze very well. Wrapped tightly, they’ll last about 3 months in the freezer. Let them thaw completely before reheating in the oven.
3. Cooked Meats – Grilled and cooked meats can be put in an airtight container and frozen for about 6 months. You can pull the out individual pieces of meat for portion control.
4. Soup – I haven’t met a soup, stew or chili that doesn’t freeze well. Place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw completely and then reheat on the stove in a large pot. Alternatively, freeze in individual serving portions for future flexibility.
5. Berries – I love to freeze berries when they’re at their prime. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and scatter the berries in an even layer. Freeze for about 1 hour then transfer the berries to an airtight container. They will keep for about 6 months.
6. Baked Goods – Muffins, cakes, pancakes, brownies, waffles and breads can be placed in an airtight container and frozen for 6-9 months. I like to pull out individual portions on busy mornings, place them frozen in the oven and bake at 300ºF for about 15 minutes. They’ll taste like you just made them!
7. Butter – Buy butter on sale and freeze it! Finding good, grass-fed butter on sale is like winning the lottery, so I always stock up. Keep the butter in its original packaging while in the freezer to keep it from taking on any odors from the other foods.
8. Bananas – Ripe bananas can be frozen and then added to smoothies, breads or muffins. I place them directly in the freezer. To thaw – fill up a large measuring cup with hot water. Place the frozen banana in the hot water and let sit for about 2 minutes. Remove from the hot water and the skins should easily come off.
9. Flours – Baking flours can be frozen in an airtight container for about one year. I often purchase in bulk, so this keeps the flours from going rancid before I use the whole quantity.
10. Milk – Freeze milk in plastic jugs and thaw when you’re ready to use. It keeps in the freezer for about 6 months. Our family drinks raw milk and sometimes the cream separates a little, but not enough for my kids to mind.
11. Cookie Dough – You can freeze cookie dough! I learned this one from my mom years ago when working at her company, The Festive Kitchen. Here’s how you do it: Scoop the cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze the dough for about 3 hours and then transfer the dough balls to an airtight container. The best part is, you can bake the cookies straight from the freezer! Just add about 3-4 minutes to the baking time.
12. Liquids – Freeze leftover coffee, wine, buttermilk, and coconut milk in ice cube trays and then transfer to an airtight container. This way nothing goes to waste and you’ll have smaller portions to use with smoothies, iced coffee, soups, stews, etc.
13. Cheesecake – Cheesecake freezes incredibly well. During the holidays I make several of my honey-sweetened cheesecakes, store them in the freezer, and then pull out a decadent dessert when guests come over. To defrost – Place in the fridge overnight and then let sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.
14. Eggs (without shells) – Eggs free of their shells can be whisked together, placed in an airtight container, and frozen for up to 6 months. This is great if you’re going out of town and forgot to eat all the eggs.
15. Grapes – Frozen grapes are my kids’ favorite snack in the summertime. Place the grapes in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for about 1 hour and then transfer to an airtight container for about 3 months. We eat them straight from the freezer!
16. Pie Crust Dough – Pie crust dough can be tightly wrapped, placed in an airtight container, and frozen for about 6 months. I’ve tested this with my grain-free pie dough recipes (from this site and my dairy-free recipe from my latest cookbook) and it works beautifully! When you’re ready to use it, thaw the dough in the fridge overnight and roll out the next day.
17. Pesto – I always have some pesto in the freezer. You can freeze it in ice cube trays or in a large container. It keeps for up to 6 months and is fantastic served with grilled vegetables, stirred into soups or mashed potatoes, or whisked with some olive oil for a delicious salad dressing.
18. Mashed Potatoes – Mashed potatoes stay in an airtight container and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw, heat on the stove and add just a few tablespoons of milk to help them become creamy again.
19. Tomato Paste – Most recipes that call for tomato paste only use a few tablespoons, so I always freeze the paste. It will keep in the freezer for about a year.
Here are some of my favorite containers for freezing:
Wide-Mouth Mason Jars
Glass Pyrex dishes with Lids (The lids are plastic, but as long as the food isn’t touching the plastic while it’s being reheated, then I feel good using these dishes.)
13 x 9-inch dishes