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.
In some cases, when I already have the ingredients to make a recipe, I purposely bake once to eat twice and freeze the second meal, especially when a recipe only calls for half of an onion or green pepper, etc. When my son was a teenager, I had everything I could do to keep up with his hunger. I never knew anyone could eat so much and never gain weight – and – he was ALWAYS hungry! I ended up buying a 16-foot cubic stand up freezer, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Even today, now that he has his own family and I’m by myself, that freezer still saves huge amounts of money. Now, I buy family size packages of chicken or other meats, divide the chicken, beef, or pork into individual serving sizes, and freeze them. Family size packages are always cheaper than individual size packages.
Post an inventory of foods in the freezer on the freezer door.
- Create an inventory to post on the outside of your freezer. Anytime you put new food items in the freezer, add those items, including the date you purchased them, on a menu so that you remember to use those items within the acceptable timeframe.
- 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. Also, remember to add that to your inventory.
- I also list the shelf of the freezer the items are on to minimize the amount of time the freezer door remains open.
- Cross off the items when you remove them from the freezer.
- NOTE: remember to include foods from your freezer into your menu.
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
- 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 and beef, chicken, or veggie stocks are by using leftovers from the freezer. One thing my Mother used to do (post-Great Depression era) was to grind leftover veggies from the freezer when she made vegetable soup. She would then add macaroni or other pastas to the veggie soup (to make the soup more filling) and serve it with homemade bread (she always made homemade bread). We LOVED it.
- My aunt stashed ham bones in the freezer and 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 or grind veggies, use stock that I made and is in the freezer, and make homemade noodles. 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. By evening, 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 bake-off” 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.