Last week I was drinking my morning coffee and planning my blog posts. I use my emotions, the seasons, and my life at home for inspiration, and that’s when it hit me…my freezer tips! Having a fully stocked freezer with the ingredients I commonly need is such a good feeling for me! Especially when I know busy stressful days are coming up, it calms me to feel freezer ready. Sometimes I feel like Mama squirrel burying nuts in the yard, except I’m using my freezer.
I have 10 of my favorite tips to share, ones that I’ve been doing for years. Not only do they help save time, they help save MONEY. Some of these you may already know about and some you may not, but I find all of them so incredibly useful!
1. KEEP A VEGGIE SCRAP BAG
Saving vegetable scraps is one of my favorite tips! I’ve been doing this so long that I can’t remember how it all started. I keep a large freezer bag in the freezer, and any time I have leftover onions or celery they go into my veggie bag. I save anything that could be used for making vegetable or chicken stock. Whenever I dice up an onion I save the peel, the ends, and any leftovers for the veggie bag. Limp celery and leaves all get thrown in the bag too. Sometimes I’ll save a piece of garlic or fresh thyme, basically anything that works well to make a savory broth. As I collect scraps I’ll throw them into the bag with the existing frozen ones. Then when I’m ready to make stock I dump the frozen ingredients into a pot with water. It’s free and tastes delicious! I reuse my veggie freezer bag many times until I start a new one, so once it’s empty it waits in the freezer for new scraps.
2. KEEP YOUR CHICKEN BONES
Every week I roast a few chickens for dinner soups or sandwiches, and we make sure to always save all the chicken bones. After every bit of meat has been picked off the bones I either immediately start making chicken stock or we freeze the bones in a freezer bag. I save all the bones, even the little ones. Be sure to save the spine and cartilage, those are the essential parts – sorry to all the vegetarians reading this!! Then when you’re ready to make a batch of stock, grab your veggie bag with leftover onion and celery and you’re good to go. You have free chicken stock! Sometimes I’ll save up several batches of chicken bones and make a huge batch of stock. One of these days I’ll get around to posting how I make chicken stock I promise! We can’t live without homemade chicken stock, we use it in everything.
3. FREEZE RIPE BANANAS
Please don’t ever throw away over ripe black bananas… you’ll make me cry. As scary as they look on the outside the flavor inside is amazing! You’ve never had truly amazing banana cake or bread unless it’s been made with black bananas. As long as your bananas aren’t moldy keep them and put them into the freezer until you’re ready to use them. They usually thaw within 3-4 hours and the watery liquid you can just mash up with the bananas.
4. FREEZE MEALS FLAT
I can’t believe back in the old days I would throw a frozen meal upright in the freezer. Geez what a freezer space killer! It was one day I saw this tip in a magazine and I had this “why didn’t I think of that” moment. When you freeze meals flat your freezer storage space quadruples, and it’s so much easier to find what you need.
5. FREEZE MEAL BUILDERS
Freezing entire meals is great, but don’t forget about freezing individual meal building ingredients. Sometimes I like to cook a fresh meal in the kitchen, but I also want some time-saving meal builders. Meal builders should be versatile ones that could be used in a variety of meals. Some of our favorite meal builders to freeze are cooked shredded pulled pork and chicken, cooked ground beef, rice, and my marinara sauce. Any food that you use often that freezes well should work. We hate the way pre-shredded cheese tastes, so sometimes I’ll even shred a block of cheese and freeze it. The texture gets a little crumbly but it cooks great and works excellent in casseroles. Cauliflower and regular pizza crust is especially helpful to us. I’ll line the pan with parchment paper, freeze the crust into the pan, and once frozen wrap it in foil. This works great for last minute pizza.
6. FREEZE TOMATO PASTE
Most of my recipes never call for a full can of tomato paste. Seriously, so many recipes call for a few tablespoons of tomato paste! In the past I would save leftovers in the refrigerator, and usually when I needed more tomato paste my leftovers would be old and moldy. The solution is to freeze tablespoon sized portions on wax paper, and once solid store them in a freezer bag. When I’m cooking on the stove I’ll add my tomato paste blobs to the pan frozen and they thaw out really fast.
7. FREEZE BROTH INTO ICE CUBES
We all need some frozen broth ice cubes on hand. This is such a handy way to quickly thaw out broth or stock. I do freeze larger quantities for soups and things, but so many recipes call for small amounts of broth. Measure out your ice cube trays, I found mine to be about an ounce each, so if I need 1/2 cup of broth I just grab 4 ice cubes and thaw. This is a great money and time saver whether you use homemade or store bought broth. It can be frustrating when you open a can of broth for a small portion, you refrigerate the leftovers, and they expire before you can use them. Instead try the ice cube trick.
8. FLASH FREEZING
Flash freezing is where you take individual items and freeze them solid on a baking sheet, then simply store them in a freezer bag. This prevents foods from sticking together and lets you use amounts as needed. Some of our favorite items to flash freeze are my homemade sausage balls, our own healthy chicken nuggets, and cookie dough rolled out into balls. This is a great trick for kid snacks or last minute house guests. We cook our items frozen and just increase the baking time by a few minutes.
9. FREEZE SLOW COOKER MEALS
Everyone needs a few frozen slow cooker meals on hand for hectic days! You can find tons of recipes online with just a simple search. The concept is to freeze the mixed ingredients in a bag. Then when you’re ready for an easy meal you just thaw overnight and throw them into a slow cooker. Sometimes the meals are still partially frozen, but as long as you can break up the chunks and fit them into a slow cooker you’re good to go. Soups are some of my favorite slow cooker freezer meals, my Grilled Rosemary Balsamic Chicken can also be thrown in the slow cooker on low 6-7 hours and served with rice.
10. FREEZE CLOTHING
Not food related but this is also an amazing tip! I recently blogged about how to properly store your fall & winter scarves but this works for so many clothing items. Freezing fabrics such as silk, wool, and cashmere is great for killing moth eggs and larvae keeping your clothes in tip top shape. The freezer trick also works to eliminate bacteria and odors from smelly clothing or shoes. It also prevents sweaters and scarves from shedding and works great for dark denim. Washing dark denim too often can cause fading quickly so a great trick is place your jeans in the freezer to freshen them up. I recommending wrapping clothing in a bag for protection and freezing for 24-48 hours.
I hope you find these tips helpful, I know I do! Friday on the blog I’ll be sharing some of my favorite budget decorating tips.