The freezer can be a sad, sad place. Especially for those of us who do not rely on cheap vodka and Lean Cuisines as our lifelines.
Too many times, I have looked into my friends’ freezers and seen that lone bottle of alcohol, that boxed frozen dinner, and maybe a freezer-burned quart of ice cream.
You, and your freezer, have so much more potential.
When used properly, your freezer can become your pantry, your storage, your best friend. You will reduce waste, you will save money, and you will eat better than you ever thought you could on a harried weeknight.
Have I converted you yet?
Before you get goosebumps, you will need a few indispensable items: thick Ziploc bags, a Sharpie, and some masking tape. Labeling your items is key; the freezer delays decay but doesn’t stop it: you should plan on using items within a few weeks. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue.
**Tips and Tricks**
Stock Up. There are countless ways to use stock: in soups, in sauces, in stews, with grains. Make a big batch one afternoon, and freeze the extra in Ziploc bags, stacked flat, or in ice cube trays. To save space, you can make your stock extra concentrated, and then dilute later with water.
Sauces. Next time you make any kind of sauce – tomato sauce, curry, pesto, anything – freeze the extra in ice cube trays. You now have dozens of easy weeknight dinners ahead of you: prep a protein, defrost the sauce, and you’ve got yourself a gourmet dinner in minutes.
Prepped Vegetables. Something feels weird about sticking raw vegetables in the freezer. Get over it. Throw that extra diced onion in a Ziploc, press all the air out of it, and stick it in the freezer for later use. You can do the same thing with leeks, ginger, peppers, and even tomatoes. Prepping dinner just got a less wasteful – and a whole lot easier.
Cooked beans and grains. Basically any cooked bean or grain can be frozen in sealed Ziploc bags, stacked, and defrosted later. Because beans and grains can take ages to cook, you will be very grateful for your frozen supply on a harried evening.
Breakfast. I know, I know: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your options for it just got a whole lot better. Freeze slices of quick breads, individually wrapped and stacked, for a quick defrost later in the oven or toaster. You can store pancakes, waffles, and even sausage patties in a similar manner. Goodbye, Eggo.
Cookie dough: Ever crave a freshly baked cookie, but don’t feel like making an entire batch? Yep, me too. Luckily, you can freeze individual balls of cookie dough on a baking sheet, and then, once frozen, store them in Ziploc bags. When you’re craving that warm cookie, you can just take one (or two, or three) out of the freezer, and put it right in the oven to bake.
Fresh herbs: Most of the time, a big bunch of herbs from the store is just too much for a small college kitchen. Instead of throwing out the extra, spread the leaves on baking sheets and freeze. Once frozen, store in Ziploc bags and use as needed. Alternatively, if you have a food processor, puree the fresh herbs with a bit of water, and store in ice cube trays.
Fresh fruit: As summer winds down, you may be mourning the loss of perfect stone fruits, berries, and other warm-weather delights. Mourn no more. You can freeze these beauties (cut the stone fruits in half so that they lie flat) in Ziploc bags for when apples and pears just won’t do. Throw them into a smoothie, tart, or just eat as is.
Wine: The drain is a sad fate for that leftover bit of wine. Instead, freeze the rest of the bottle in ice cube trays or in Ziploc bags, and use it in your cooking. You just saved yourself some money and a trip to the liquor store.
Brette Warshaw is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a student of European history, creative writing, and jazz studies. She will be eating her way through Rome during the fall semester, leaving a wake of empty plates, flabbergasted waiters, and ripped skinny jeans behind her. Read more…