By incorporating these freezer use techniques, you can minimize food waste. The tips below also include some safety tips about freezing, and thawing, leftover food items.
Be smart about your freezer use by posting an inventory of foods inside the freezer on the freezer door.
When you put the extra meal in the freezer, remember to put the new meal in the back of the freezer so the other meals come out first, in the order they were put into the freezer.
- Remember to label the dish with what it is and the date you put it in the freezer.
- I also list the shelf of the freezer the items are on to minimize the amount of time the freezer door remains open (I have a stand up freezer).
- Also remember to cross off the items when you remove them from the freezer.
Include frozen foods into your menu to remember to use the frozen items.
Excellent resources regarding how to freeze foods, what foods freeze well, and how long they should remain frozen before using them are:
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
- USDA: The Big Thaw – Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers
- USDA Freezing and Food Safety
- Make a note on your inventory that you have to build that item into your menu and check off that item as you enter it into your menu. On my menu, I use blue for frozen meals (because people turn blue when they are cold!).
- Make soup! Some of the best homemade soups I make are by pulling leftover veggies and stock from the freezer to use as a base for the soup. One thing my Mother used to do (post-Great Depression era) was to grind leftover veggies that were in the freezer when she made vegetable soup. She would then add some macaroni or other pastas to the veggie soup and we LOVED it.
- My aunt stashed ham bones in the freezer and she would make bean soup by using the ham bones from the freezer, stock left from thanksgiving turkey, and navy beans and/or butter beans.
- I love having homemade chicken noodle soup. I chop veggies just like my Mother and use stock that I have previously frozen and either make homemade noodles or buy homemade noodles from Amish country. I make chicken noodle soup when whole chickens go on sale at the supermarket. I cook the chicken all day long in my crock pot while I am at work. At night, the chicken falls off the bone, which is perfect for the soup.
- Another soup that I love to make is Canadian French Split Pea Soup just like my Grandmother used to make. That is another soup that I cook all day long in the crock pot so the juices and bacon flavors are thoroughly incorporated into all ingredients.
- Even my local farmers’ markets run sales on onions and green peppers. That is when I have my annual “chili bakeoff” when I make a HUGE stockpot of chili. Chili is one item that freezes wonderfully and there are many, many ways to serve it from the freezer: in a mini bread bowl, on top of a baked potato, on nachos, served with garlic toast, etc.