We’re all for enjoying a fresh bounty from the farmers market every week, but not if half of our haul spoils before we get to enjoy it. If you’re looking to live a low waste lifestyle, learning to make friends with your freezer is key. While all fresh food must go bad at some point, we can help prolong its eat-ability and reduce our food waste footprint overall. The goal is to waste less, and the path is to consume more of what we’re already buying. Here’s how your freezer can help…
Know What To Store. You can freeze pantry items like flour and nuts, cooked beans, wedges of hard cheese, proteins (like fish and meat), pre-chopped veggies, condiments, sauces and even soup. You can freeze most fully cooked foods and many fresh condiments (pesto, hummus, etc.) and defrost when you’re ready to use them. If you’re unsure, just think about the frozen food you get in a grocery store — it’s essentially the same as home cooked food that’s been frozen to re-heat later.
Freeze in Stages. Smaller fresh items like berries, beans or chopped veggies do best if you spread them out on a cooking tray before freezing. Once frozen, pour them into a container — this process keeps them from forming into a giant frozen mass.
Save Scraps For Stock. Keep veggie scraps and trimmings in a bag in the freezer when you cook. You can use this later as the base for a flavorful stock. Follow this simple recipe. You can incorporate the stock into various dishes — like grains and sauces — or you can sip it on its own. You can also save chicken and beef bones from dinner (or even resto leftovers) and use them to make bone broth.
Collect Your Coffee. If you make coffee every morning, save the brewed coffee grounds in the freezer and make into a homemade body scrub. This recipe only requires two ingredients.
Pack + Protect. Freezer burn is no fun — it ruins the flavor and texture of frozen food. Essentially it is just dehydration, which means better storage will keep food fresher for longer. We love these eco-friendly and dishwasher-safe resealable silicone storage bags. These glass storage containers are oven-safe so you can just pop them in there to warm up food in a flash. Mason or Ball jars are also very good for freezing, as long as you use the wide-mouth variety and do not fill to the very top. For large, dry items like bread or other baked goods, you could store them in a cloth bag — or even a pillowcase!
Un-Contain Yourself. Some fruits don’t need any packaging in the freezer, such as tomatoes, bananas, and peaches. Even better, their skins will slip off easily once thawed. Roots like turmeric and ginger don’t need to be packaged either. Throw them into the freezer then use a microplane grater and shave the root directly into your recipe.
Just Jar It. Liquids, such as beans, soup, and sauces, are best stored in glass jars. The container should be straight-sided or slant outward, which ensures the glass won’t crack when the liquid expands during freezing. If you have a straight jar, you should leave 1-2 inches at the top. If your jar has shoulders, you should fill 1-2 inches below the shoulders. Don’t seal the lid too tightly, and if possible, leave space between jars in your freezer.
Multi-purpose Tools. Use an ice cube tray for freezing liquids and also fresh herbs. To freeze herbs just add a little oil to the ice cube tray. You also freeze cubes of milk (dairy or non-dairy) and throw it into your coffee or freeze leftover wine to throw into sauces. You can even puree avocado with a little lemon (to prevent browning) and add it right into a smoothie or defrost for a bit in the fridge and blend into guac or avocado hummus. For the most eco-friendly option, we recommend a stainless steel ice cube tray like this one.
Measure it Out. When you meal prep, store part of those big-batch recipes in your freezer in single or double-serving portions. Defrost what you need and nothing more. If you make baked goods, store them individually wrapped in butcher paper (recyclable) or aluminum foil.
Know How to Defrost. This is something to master if you don’t want to risk wasting your frozen foods. However your items are stored, you can stick them in the refrigerator a day before you need them, leave them on the counter the morning of, or simply warm them slowly in a hot water bath when dinnertime approaches.
Get Organized. If you can’t find anything in your freezer so you don’t use what’s there then it doesn’t do much to reduce food waste. Put things where you can see them, move them if needed. If your freezer is starting to look too crowded, then get cooking! Or try canning instead of freezing to preserve produce. When you pop something into the freezer, be sure to stick a date on it and keep the oldest items in plain sight so you use them before it’s too late.