One of the best tips I got from my mother-in-law was to save extra food by freezing it. Not only do you have a last-minute meal or dessert, you cut down on a lot of waste. After a party, I used to keep the leftover food in my refrigerator until it went bad. (How many mini quiches can a girl eat?) I loved leftovers for dinner…the first day. After a while though, you start to wonder if you’ll ever want to eat spaghetti again.
I was blown away when I discovered how many food items you actually could freeze. No longer did I have to figure out how to incorporate that leftover cheese from a cheese plate into every meal. I just wrapped it up and threw it in the freezer. Next time I had company, I pulled it out to thaw at room temp and no one knew the difference.
A couple notes for freezing food items: always follow instructions for wrapping and storing properly and don’t forget to mark the date. If you know how long a food item will keep, mark the “expiration date” on it to make it easier when hunting for something to eat.
**How to Freeze Almost Anything**
1. Nuts. Believe it or not, nuts can go rancid. Maybe you haven’t kept them around long enough to do so, but if you’re using them for baking, the freezer is a good place to store them. Freezer shelf life: 2 years.
2. Flour and Sugar. During the summer months, humidity can ruin your baking supplies. Now’s a good time to store them in the freezer. At least until the heat wave passes. Freezer shelf life: 1 year.
3. Cheese. I once bought too much cheese for a dinner party. Since I don’t generally snack on hunks of Frommage d’Affinois on a daily basis, I wrapped it tightly and put it in the freezer. A couple weeks later, I had a fancy cheese appetizer for an impromptu dinner. Note: Ricotta and Cream Cheese do not freeze well. Freezer shelf life: 6 months.
4. Fruit. You only have a small window of time to savor the juicy goodness of a fresh fruit. Once it’s overripe, it’s probably better off in a jam or smoothie. Before freezing, make sure it’s washed, dried and divided into small portions. Freezer shelf life: on average 6 months, check individual fruits.
5. Herbs. There always seems to be leftover herbs. If you’re not making pesto, you’ll probably only use a few tablespoons of chopped herbs for a recipe. Freeze summer herbs in ice cube trays then add them to soups and stews in the winter. Freezer shelf life: 1 year.
6. Leftovers. Not many recipes are conducive to single diners. If you’re cooking for one, follow the recipe as is then freeze the leftovers in single servings. You never know when you’ll need a quick meal. Freezer shelf life: 4-6 months (casseroles, soups and stews), 2-3 months (meat leftovers).
7. Egg Whites. Apparently their yellow counterparts do not freeze well, but egg whites are nice to have on hand when you want to whip up a meringue or macaron. Just stir the whites together, then separate them into ice cube trays and freeze. When they’re frozen, remove from trays and store in bag. Freezer shelf life: 1 year.
8. Baked Goods. Breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, pastries – even pancakes. I’ve done it all! Sometimes the cookies even taste better frozen. Freezer shelf life: 1-4 months.
Alexia Detweiler graduated from Penn State University. She is an advocate for organic produce, homegrown gardens and Paleo recipes.