Approximately three years ago, when I started making freezer meals, I started researching what can be frozen to save money. I still find more items to freeze all the time, but I have yet to find a comprehensive list that covers all the items I’ve started freezing. That meant it was time to make one! Plus, I have to share what has helped save us hundreds over the years.
There are a couple ways to save money by freezing food. The first is by stocking up on in-season or sale items while the cost is low. Example: When butter is on sale for your stock-up price (my stock-up price is $2.50 and under) or berries from our berry bushes. The second is by freezing left-over product. Example: Buying buttermilk for a recipe? Freeze the remainder in pre-portioned amounts to thaw for future recipes.
Here’s a list of what you can freeze and how to freeze it!
- Casseroles – Assemble in foil pans with lids and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before cooking according to the recipe. (Avoid casseroles containing cooked potatoes or rice.)
- Berries – Wash and dry berries. Spread out onto a cookie sheet so the berries aren’t touching and freeze overnight. Place frozen berries in a freezer bag.
- Milk, Buttermilk or Cream – If you’ve bought more than you’ll use either measure out in 1/2 cup or 1 cup portions or freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw when needed. Just be sure to leave some extra room in the container for expansion.
- Soups & Stews – Just avoid milk or cream based soups. If you do want to make-ahead, add everything except the dairy, freeze and add the dairy when reheating.
- Flours & Meals – Since I started baking from scratch on a regular basis, I buy flour in bulk. 25 lb sack of flour. I keep a large jar of flour in my kitchen, but the rest gets divided into freezer bags and kept until I need a refill. I also keep our corn meal from the farmers market in the freezer. Freezing flours and meals extends their shelf life and prevents any pests from taking up residence.
- Bananas – Bananas are different than fruit or berries in freezing directions. Freeze them once borderline over-ripe for banana bread or smoothies. Peel, cut into chunks, freeze on a lined cookie sheet overnight and package into freezer bags. Store towards the back of the freezer to avoid any thawing.
- Lemon Juice & Zest – Lemons just don’t last very long, but when I want to make my lemon cookies I don’t want to have to go to the store for lemons… Zest your lemon, spread the zest out on a cookie sheet and flash freeze. Package the zest in an airtight container. After zesting the lemon, juice your lemon and strain the pulp. Freeze in an ice cube tray; you could even freeze in tablespoon amounts!
- Nuts – Pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc. all store wonderfully in the freezer. Especially around Christmas I can find great deals on bulk amounts of walnuts and pecans at Costco. Just keep them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
- Almond milk – This was a recent discovery! I like to keep it around for protein smoothies, but I never seem to use it up before it expires. Freeze into ice cubes and add to smoothies in place of ice cubes to make them extra creamy. Yum!
- Meat (cooked or uncooked) – We buy most meat in bulk. When freezing meat, only freeze it once. Either freeze it uncooked then thaw it to cook but don’t refreeze, or cook the meat before freezing.
- Cookie Dough – Anytime I’m making cookies I go ahead and make a double-batch just so I’ll have some in the freezer. To freeze cookie dough either shape into balls, flash freeze & package in freezer bags or roll into a log you can cut off and wrap in plastic wrap & foil.
- Bread & Baked Goods – Baked breads, cookies, muffins and pies all keep very well in the freeze. Just let them cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and freezer paper.
- Dough – Pizza dough, pie crust, bread dough and puff pastry all seem to keep forever in the freezer. Two boxes of pie crust cost $5.75, but this bulk pie crust recipe makes the equivalent of 10 boxes for $5.23 (the ingredients I needed to buy). More directions on freezing dough below.
- Cheese – I like to buy shredded cheese when it’s on sale. Cheese will keep for about a year in the freezer.
Here are some important things to note:
- When meat or produce are frozen, some of the cells burst from the expansion of water. For this reason, it is imperative to only freeze these items once. For example, freeze before or after cooking, but don’t freeze, thaw, cook and refreeze – even though this is not a food contamination issue. Each time the food is frozen the taste will be affected. Repeated freezing causes the taste to suffer. *Once frozen, cooked food is thawed NEVER return it to the freezer as this increases your risk of food borne illnesses.*
- To decrease the risk of freezer burn, allow cooked food to cool at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. This will decrease steam and condensation within the container. Decrease moisture and decrease damaging ice crystals!
- Freezing yeast dough: To freeze yeast dough that only requires one proof, wrap in plastic wrap immediately after preparation and freeze. To freeze yeast dough requiring two proofs, let it rise the first time, shape into loaves/breadsticks/rolls, freeze as shaped (whether in a loaf pan or muffin tin) before wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing. Remove from freezer, place in or on baking dish, allow to thaw, rise and bake per recipe.
- Freezing dough that doesn’t need to rise is simple. After preparing the dough, shape into how you want it stored, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
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