If you are trying to reduce food waste at home and make more sustainable changes in your life, one of the best things you can do is freeze them. From fresh fruits and vegetables to cooked leftovers, your freezer will lengthen its shelf life by multitudes. Of course, there are certain things you need to pay attention to before you start freezing everything in your kitchen.
A common misconception is that frozen foods are unhealthy, but it isn’t the case if you know how to do it properly. Freezing is generally the most effective way to preserve most of the vitamin and nutritional contents of fruits and vegetables. Of course, some loss is inevitable, as with any other processing we do.
You can check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines on how long it is safe to store every type of food. Without further ado, let’s see how you can freeze every food in your fridge and pantry, including plant-based milk and even eggs!
How to Freeze Produce
Fruits are probably the most accessible food to freeze, as you can store them raw. For both fruits and vegetables, make sure to wash them thoroughly before freezing, then chop up vegetables and larger fruits, so it’s easier to thaw and use them later.
First, freeze the prepared ingredients on a baking sheet in a single layer. It will prevent them from clumping together. You can move them to a container or ziplock bag once they are fully frozen. The container and load should be airtight to avoid freezer burn.
Fruits like berries and mangoes freeze well, which you can then use in smoothies or oatmeals. Meanwhile, you can also freeze entire bananas with peels. They will brown, but the inside will remain fresh and safe to eat.
For most vegetables, it’s essential to blanch or cook them first. The process can stop any enzyme in the veggies from working and prevent discoloration. You can freeze onions and peppers raw.
Certain greens like lettuce, cabbage, celery, kale, or tomatoes do not freeze well. They contain a lot of water and can turn soggy when you thaw them. However, it should not be a problem if you’re planning to turn the tomatoes into stew or sauce.
When it comes to freezing herbs, simply chop them up, combine them with some water, and pour them into ice cube trays. When you’re ready to cook, just quickly melt the cubed herbs on a skillet or pop them into soups!
How to Freeze Meat & Seafood
If you want to freeze meat, poultry, and seafood, you have to do it immediately. Do not store them in the refrigerator for several days before popping them in the freezer.
When you get home from the market, remove your meat from the styrofoam or plastic packaging, then divide them into individual portions. Wrap them in at least a layer of plastic wrap, although we recommend two layers for a longer shelf-life. It can also help minimize the risk of freezer burn. After that, simply pop them in a ziplock bag.
You can store most meats for up to three months—it helps to place them in the coldest section, which is usually the back of the freezer. When you want to use them, thaw them overnight by moving them to the fridge.
How to Freeze Dairy & Eggs
Did you know you can freeze eggs? Perhaps not whole raw eggs (they will burst in their shells) or hard-boiled eggs (they will become rubbery). But if you crack them open, lightly beat them, and freeze them in an airtight container, the eggs can last you months! It’s also possible to separate the yolks from the whites before freezing.
You can freeze whole milk, but it may not be the best for drinking as the milk will separate into layers. It’s OK to use in baking and cooking. Heavy cream and whipped cream also work well, but not half-and-half.
How to Freeze Bread
Finally, you can also freeze your bread and other baked goods from toast to cakes, brownies, and cupcakes. Make sure to cool them down beforehand and wrap them securely. Most can last up to three months in the freezer. You can simply thaw them at room temperature when you’re ready to eat!
It’s all about knowing which foods you can freeze and how. It may sound simple, but even the most superficial knowledge can help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Reducing your food waste also comes hand-in-hand with composting, which is always a great skill to learn.