When it comes to lowering your grocery budget and reducing food waste, the freezer is your best friend. Frozen foods remain safe to eat indefinitely, according to Foodsafety.gov, and many foods maintain their quality and freshness for up to one year in the freezer. Stop throwing away good food, and use these freezer hacks to save you time and money.
Soups, Sauces, and Liquids
Homemade soups, stews, and sauces are healthy and full of flavor, but they also take a lot of time to prepare from scratch. That's why so many people love to make huge batches to freeze. Rather than placing them in bulky containers that you constantly have to juggle in the freezer, store them in plastic freezer bags. Allow the soup or sauce to cool completely. Label the bag with its contents and the date. Pour the soup inside, and then lay it flat in the freezer to store. You can stack several on top of each other, and they'll take up less of your precious freezer space.
Broth and Soup Stock
Large freezer bags are ideal for freezing an entire batch of broth or stock, but some recipes call for just a few tablespoons or less than a cup of vegetable broth. Split up your batch and freeze half in ice cube trays. Once they're solid, dump them all in a freezer bag. Now you have access to smaller portions, and you don't have to thaw the entire batch. Hint: This trick also works for the tomato paste left in the can after you've used the single tablespoon you need for a recipe.
Marinating meats and other proteins allows you to get the maximum flavor for your home-cooked meal. But who has time for marinating on a busy night after school, work, and other activities? It's easy if you freeze the meat in the marinade. Your chicken or pork chops will marinate when you put them in the refrigerator to thaw, and you'll have a quick and easy dinner ready to go.
Many of us have the intention of eating more fresh fruits per day, but that doesn't always happen. Fruit ripens before you've had a chance to consume it all. Don't toss your investment in the compost. Take those overripe bananas, strawberries, pears, or other fruits and cut them into bite-size chunks. Place them into a freezer bag, and add them to smoothies, pies, and other recipes.
Fresh herbs are wonderful to cook with, but they also tend to spoil before you've had a chance to use them all. Chop them up into small tablespoon-size portions and place them into an ice cube tray. Cover them with olive oil or butter before freezing. Now you're left with flavor-infused oil that's ready for your next recipe.
If you're cooking for one or two rather than an entire family, then single-serve portions are the way to go. Rather than freezing an entire batch of soup or oatmeal, freeze smaller servings in muffin tins. Now you can pop one serving in the microwave whenever you need it, and save the rest for later.