A well-stocked freezer is key to staying organized. If you take one day to cut, chop or prepare food then freeze it, it not only saves time but tastes just as delicious as when you prepared it! When I tell you that you can freeze anything, trust me, you can freeze anything from fresh produce, pre-made meals, or leftovers. Not only does it help you when you need to whip out dishes for a last-minute meal, but it’s also a lot more sustainable and helps reduce waste. If you’re looking for my best-recommended containers to keep things air-tight and fresh, check out these storage containers. For now, here are my best kitchen hacks to keep your freezer foods (and body) in good shape while saving time and still loading up on nutrients!
I buy them fresh and when ripe, assuming the kids haven’t gobbled them up first, freeze them. They’re great for smoothies, homemade ice cream, pancakes and having them in the freezer means that this banana bread is only a quick whip away! Warning: be sure to peel them before you freeze them in a bag. Frozen unpeeled bananas won’t work in this case.
You’ll save a lot more money if you buy berries fresh and just freeze them yourself! Plus, you skip out on any preservatives, sodium or salt that may be added. Just grab them from the store, wash, take the stem off and freeze!
Spinach is one of those leafy greens that are great in smoothies, soup or stock, stir-fry, dips, quiche, and pasta dishes. If you bought it at the start of the week but find that it only has a couple of days left before it goes bad, freeze your spinach for later use.
Avocado seem to go from rock hard to overripe seemingly overnight. No more putting up with brown avocados because you missed the perfect ripe window! You can slice them, freeze in halves, or cut into quarters or chunks. Brushing your avocados with a little lemon juice can help prevent browning. When ready to eat, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
All types of meat, whether cooked ahead of time or fresh, freeze beautifully. I keep raw meat in my freezer for last minute dinners and just for the convenience of not running to the store. You can also freeze cooked meat, just make sure your meat has cooled before freezing and place in an airtight container.
Similar to meat, seafood can also be frozen ahead of time just be sure to wrap it tightly before tossing it in the freezer. Then gradually thaw in the fridge or under cool water when you are ready to eat it. I usually keep salmon fillets in the freezer and replenish them after we finish them so we always have a fish option for dinner!
If you have a recipe that only needs the egg yolk or the white, you can freeze the part that you didn’t use! Yes, really! Or if you have too many eggs, feel free to freeze the whole thing after cracking and store it in an air-tight container.
Bread was born to be frozen. We go through copious amounts of sliced gluten-free bread at our house and the only way to keep it fresh consistently is to keep it frozen and just thaw and toast a slice when hunger strikes.
Soup, Stews and Chili
Do you ever make a large batch of soup that your crew is unexcited about as leftovers the next day? Soups freeze really well and serve as a great last-minute meal. I love keeping chicken soup in the freezer for kids who get sick. Freezing soups in labeled ziplock bags and laying them flat in the freezer saves on space.
Homemade sauces such as pesto, Schug, curry paste and marinara sauce freeze just as well as soups do! Double up your sauce prep intentionally so you can freeze half for later and save time on prep. Keep your recipes low on sugar and sodium and save time by skipping a major step during pasta night!
If you have leftover herbs and can’t think of any immediate uses, did you know that you can freeze them? Yup! Simply chop them up and put them in some ice cube trays with some olive oil. If you have a hydrator at home, fresh herbs are great dehydrated too!
Butter and Cheese
Speaking of herbs, butter can also be frozen! In fact, I often buy extra butter and cheese just to stash some extra in the freezer. Bonus points if you infuse the butter with leftover herbs from above. You can freeze it in blocks and just slip it in the refrigerator to thaw out when it’s ready to use.
And, some other things worth freezing:
Anytime you have too much food left over after a big dinner or holiday events, store your leftovers in the freezer! Things like chicken and meat freeze better in a sauce and if you remember to label and date everything you’ll have a brand new meal whenever you defrost one! Cooked food lasts at least 3 months in the freezer, sealed and airtight.
Did you know that you can save time in the morning and still have a nutritious and filling meal for breakfast with dishes that you create a few days before then freeze them? Create healthy on-the-go meals like egg burritos and wrap them tightly with foil. Just roll them out, plop them on a plate and put them in the microwave. You can also do the same thing with frittatas, quick breads and muffins. Just reheat them for a few seconds and save precious time on weekday mornings.
Nealy is the founder and director of The Flexible Chef. She inspires people to eat and to live well, and ultimately to crave a healthy lifestyle. Nealy has been a leader in the wellness industry for two decades and has founded projects including luxury yoga retreats, cooking programs, and women’s empowerment courses around the world.